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.