Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Attempt to Repress Occupy Movement and Questions about Spirituality

When I read the news that the police were shutting down the Occupy camp in Salt Lake City this past Saturday, I immediately thought, "This is the beginning of the crackdown.  Look for this to happen in a wave now."

And so it has transpired.  And we now know from a statement Oakland mayor Jean Quan has made to the media that the sudden shut-downs of Occupy camps across the U.S. early this week were coordinated actions.  From the moment I read the Salt Lake City news, with its claim that the Occupy camp needed to be shut down because someone had died in the camp, I felt certain we'd very quickly see similar claims of bogus threats to public safety in cities across the nation, warranting police action in shutting down the Occupy camps.

I now find myself asking the questions Lynn Parramore is asking today at Alternet about this coordinated police sweep across the U.S.:

1. Who organized the conference calls of mayors that Jean Quan admits took place before the crackdown? 
2. When the crackdowns happened, was press coverage managed? 
3. Did the White House play any role in this organized crackdown and nationwide police action? 
4. Was the Department of Homeland Security involved? 
5. Did the FBI have a role? 
6. And why the conspicuous silence of the libertarian community about what has just taken place?

Along with many commentators, I certainly don't think police suppression of people's rights to free speech and free assembly is going to serve the best interests of the super-rich ruling elite, whose reflex reaction to challenges to its supremacy is always to attack and repress.  I agree with Chris Hedges when he observes that such repression of revolutionary aspirations with a wide base of support--because the oppression set in motion by a tiny elite is felt throughout entire societies--inevitably backfires.  It inevitably feeds the resolution and determination of more and more people to resist and to demand social and economic change to offset social and economic injustice.

I'm also very moved by theologian Tom Beaudoin's on-the-spot report about the shut-down of Zuccotti Park.  As he's done all along in reporting on the Zuccotti Park movement, Beaudoin stresses the spiritual underpinnings of the Occupy movement.  He notes that as soon as the police eviction took place in New York City, OccupyFaithNYC announced that it was sponsoring a rally to reorganize the movement.  Judson Memorial church announced that it was opening its doors to shelter those evicted from the park, and other churches in New York immediately began considering whether they, too, would provide "sanctuary" to the displaced protesters.

Tom Beaudoin finds hope (and spiritual underpinnings for the Occupy movement) in the theology of Indonesian theologian Johannes Banawiratma, who calls for the collaboration of people of various religious traditions or no faith commitment at all, who share a commitment to a transformed world, and want to work together to build spaces that generate local "human communities" grounded in a "spirituality of openness" that includes space for prayer, social analysis, and immersion in local culture.  (I'm quoting more or less directly here from Beaudoin's posting about the shut-down of Zuccotti Park.)  It was precisely that kind of spiritual space that the Occupy Wall Street movement had created with its Sacred Space Altar which, as Beaudoin notes, was likely dismantled during the recent police crackdown in the park.

And so Beaudoin concludes that the Occupy movement will certainly not be repressed by police assault or police shut-downs organized by a state whose political machinery is controlled by a super-rich elite, because the spiritual aspiration that feeds the Occupy movement--the aspiration to collaborate with others in building a transformed world in which human communities thrive--is widely shared by people of many religious traditions or no specific faith commitment.  And that spiritual thrust will carry the movement along and assure its reincarnation in new forms, no matter how overt the repression may become:

Despite the dizzying array of mischaracterizations of the Occupy participants, it appears to me that people of many religions and none at all are working together, talking with each other, and discovering — amidst natural and predictable tensions and also conflict — that their religious traditions free them to commit themselves to a movement with no clear "message" other than the elevation of all people, especially those who have been on the losing end of our economic policies and structures.

And as these state-organized police actions spurred by a wealthy elite intent on maintaining its power and privilege at all cost were occurring across the U.S., the bishops my church were meeting in Baltimore to do what?  And to say what?

As Judson Memorial church was opening its doors to the displaced protesters, my bishops were doing what and saying what?

Eternal shame be on their heads.

The graphic is a photograph of the Sacred Space altar in Zuccotti Park (prior to its recent demolition by police action) from Tom Beaudoin's Rock and Theology blog.

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