The following is a response from Pax Christi USA Executive Director Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, regarding the forced removal of protesters at Zuccotti Park and elsewhere.
Statement from the Executive Director of Pax Christi USA on the forced removal of Occupy protesters
Pax Christi USA is dismayed over the forced removal of Occupy Wall Street protesters at Zuccotti Park and elsewhere. The right to assemble is integral to the freedom which the Constitution guarantees each and every citizen of our nation. The very act of peaceful assembly at the heart of the Occupy movement is testament to a growing awakening within our nation regarding responsible and active citizenship. To forcibly remove citizens who are exercising their rights peaceably is contrary to what our nation stands for.
Pax Christi USA asserts that the role of law enforcement is to protect the rights of those who have chosen to peaceably assemble and air their grievances regarding the injustice that touches virtually all of us—the 99%—across our nation. Whether it is the burden of unemployment, exorbitant student loans, the threat of foreclosure, or the inability to access affordable healthcare, a majority of our brothers and sisters struggle while a small minority benefit. The protesters who have occupied parks and other public spaces over the past two months have given voice to a rising dissatisfaction that many are experiencing in our country. Participation in Occupy encampments is not only an exercise of our rights but an exercise in empowerment, the recognition that together we form a majority which can advocate for the justice that all our citizens deserve, not simply those who can afford to buy it.
Pax Christi USA takes encouragement from the fact that in most cities and towns where Occupy encampments have sprung up, government officials and local law enforcement personnel continue to work in concert with protesters to assure the safety of those gathered and an atmosphere of constructive action. Where this is not the case, Pax Christi USA asks that local government officials recognize and support the right of protesters to peaceably assemble, and that local law enforcement personnel be instructed to enable and protect that right. It is important to note that this is the rightful role that law enforcement is called to play—the protection of our citizens as they exercise their Constitutional rights—not obstructing or impeding their ability to take action as concerned, empowered citizens.
Click here for more information on Occupy Wall Street on our resource page.
12 thoughts on “OCCUPY: PCUSA Executive Director responds to the forced removal of Occupy protesters”
First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law ……abridging ……the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” …..So let us prepare to gather in Washington – to cause our elected officials to Tax the Rich at the same rate as they Tax the Plumber ! And to Tax the Inheritances of Spoiled Children at 50% – a fair Tax on money unearned by these Blood-Suckers ! Frank A. Novello – Paz Intercesor !
I am a supporter of Pax Christi and its mission of peace. I support the right of citizens to peacefully assemble and exercise our constitutional rights. However, not all the “Occupy” situations have been peaceful or empowering. “Occupy Oakland” has been the occasion of the murder of one young man, the scene of graffiti, broken windows in downtown buildings and destruction of public and private property. Sanitation and health issues, as well as illegal drugs, abound and have created a setting of squalor in Frank Ogawa Plaza. According to news reports it has cost the city of Oakland $500,000 in hiring officers from outside agencies to assist Oakland police, $16,000 per day in hiring Public Works employees to clean up debris and graffiti and assess damage, and $30,000 to replace the destroyed lawn in the Plaza. I don’t know if this constitutes “peaceful assembly,” at least in this instance.
From the news coverage and statements, it is clear that one aspect of the removal of protesters is the presence of homeless people among them. The police actions further marginalize homeless people. I am glad Pax Christi USA has responded with a strong public statement.
HAD THE POLICE AND THOSE IN AUTHORTY BEEN AS DILIGENT WITH THE ACTIVITES OFTHE BANKS AND THE 1%, AS THEY ARE WITH THE 99%, iT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY FOR THE 99% TO OCCUPY FOR VIABILITY……tHE POLICE IN RIOT GEAR SHOULD HAVE SHOWN UP ON WALL STREET AND THE BANKS WHEN THEY WERE DOING THEIR DIRTY DEEDS..
The problem is the destruction of property and growing violence. The public parks are being destroyed, there is a problem with garbage, sanitation, the natural well cared for nature of the parks are being destroyed, and the cost in extra police and public worker manpower is eating up the 99%. There has to be a better way, one that works for everyone. The negative effects are overwhelming the message. It’s time to move on. This cannot continue indefinately, without a bad outcome for all involved. Are the “occupiers” willing to pay for damages and help put the parks back to their previous condition? If not, it is hard to respect them, or take them seriously. Time to put their money and labor into action and walk their talk, otherwise their words and actions are empty and void.
I disagree that the occupiers in NYC were ‘peaceful’. With filth abounding in the area, 24-hour noisy presence, and drum rolls (which were reduced in duration by NYC intervention), they werre certainly inconsiderate of local residents’ rights of peaceable domicile conditions. The first amendment does not trump all other reasonable claims by those affected by these actions. Some virtuous insight is needed. Perhaps some extension of their efforts to dialog with accessible politicians would be helpful. As a member of PAX Christi, I am disappointed in your assessment. Bob Zillich
With hundreds of thousands of humans dying in Afghanistan, and, to a lesser extent, Iraq, Pax Christi USA is issuing a statement on a movement of sorts, one which has nothing to do with Christianity, and no articulated purpose? Americans have the Constitutional right to “peaceable assembly,” but that doesn’t mean I and thousands of a loose confederation of young people can legally occupy, say, Pax Christi headquarters. These kinds of messages are very discouraging for the future of PC USA.
Please, in the future, I beseech you: before publishing anything again, ask yourself a basic question: what has this got to do with the mission of PC USA? Stop the wars! Stop the killings! Preach non-violence!
Peace is the result of justice. Pax Christi recognizes that the Occupy movement is addressing economic injustice. Better to advocate for justice than to continue allowing people to suffer joblessness, homelessness and hunger at the hands of Wall Street.
I guess I’m just not getting it. How is the Occupy movement addressing economic injustice, by hanging out, protesting day after day, and soaking up public resources and funds cleaning up their mess and keeping the “movement” safe? I don’t see Pax Christi, or any other movement to address economic, environmental, or human rights injustices creating this much havoc and destruction. How about this….get the Occupy movement off the streets and onto other ways of communication….Pax Christi is a stellar example. I’m proving that right now. Communication is happening very effectively.
First about Oakland. Oakland is a very dangerous city to live in because of the high crime rate. To the person who said “someone was shot”..you have not done your homework. That was just Oakland being Oakland. An Oakland citizen wrote one paper and said “Can we please have the same police attention in our neighborhood as you are handing to a few peaceful tent occupiers? People are mugged and shot daily! Now about Occupy–those first few simple tents have been inspiring more and more people to move bank accounts to credit unions, to finally get out and vote, to wake up and become more politically and socially engaged. It has inspired a lot of facebook posting about the true nature of how the country is being mis-run; banks and corps breaking the law and getting away with it, politicians turning a blind eye, the police acting like anyone who doesn’t appreciate the status quo is their enemy,,, hello? To be clear, not all police, however. We made an Occupy vid which was lead by the wife of a retired police chief’s wife. Occupy is a giant imperfect squeaky wheel. It was not the peaceful tent occupying campers in Oakland that caused the havoc. It was a few odd radical people who showed up with their own agenda. Most Occupy people are peaceful–they just want to make enough noise to wake up Walmart shoppers out of their deep oblivious sleep before it is too late. Ben and Jerry are touring Occupy camps around the country giving out free ice cream to show their support although they’re the one percent–to set their company up as an example of how things can be run. Occupy has heart. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbP-5zUsom8
I applaud PAX Christi response to OWS! Protest movements are not always “convenient” for the status quo. OWS is making a statement and it has been acknowledge world wide. In any protest movement there is always an element out on destruction (unfortunately). Those are the ones that get the mentioned in the news, while ignoring what the protest movement is all about.
PAX Christi is for social justice OWS is about social justice!