- (Photo: Reuters/Stephan Lam)
As police in Oakland, California, broke up the tent communities of Occupy protesters, they arrested about a dozen faith leaders on Monday. In total, 32 Occupy Oakland protesters were arrested yesterday.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released a statement saying that “Occupy Oakland has taken on a different direction from the national movement.”
“At the encampment we've had repeated violence, we've had a murder. I don't want any more people to die before this comes to an end,” said Quan.
Quan was alluding to the shooting of Kayode Ola Foster, an Occupy camp resident who was killed last week while participating in the demonstration.
Israel Jurich, a Teaching Parish Student at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Walnut Creek, Calif., was one of the faith leaders arrested.
Jurich, who was volunteering at the tent setup for prayer and meditation, told The Christian Post that being arrested was “a blessed experience.”
“We were arrested while praying for the safety of demonstrators and police alike. We are pleased that our prayers were fulfilled and no violence between occupiers and police took place that morning,” said Jurich.
“My opinion of the arrest is that it is unfortunate that our right to assemble and to speak was compromised, but that it provided a welcome opportunity to show our commitment to this ministry for the people in the movement and to build relationships with Occupy participants who were jailed with us.”
Regarding Christians who may take issue with the Occupy Movement, Jurich said that they “are free and welcome to oppose the movement or criticize its aims.”
“Christians, whether in agreement or opposition to the movement's aims can still work to provide spiritual, emotional, and even material care to those people involved,” maintained Jurich.
Nichola Torbett, another faith leader arrested Monday, said that she and the others tried to emulate Jesus Christ in their efforts “to highlight the injustice of a human criminal justice system that arrests relatively powerless people peacefully sitting on public property.”
Torbett, who is director of the interfaith social justice-centered Seminary of the Street, took issue with the reasoning Mayor Quan put for evacuating the Occupy Oakland tents.
“More than a hundred people have been murdered in Oakland this year, not to mention the hundreds who die each year of hunger, lack of access to healthcare, exposure to the elements as a result of homelessness, and despair,” said Torbett.
“The tragic death of Kayode Ola Foster is being used as political fodder to discredit a movement that is highly inconvenient, embarrassing, and distasteful to people who have power and fortunes and want to keep them.”
Torbett also believes that Christians who opposed the Occupy Movement “have fallen prey to a distorted version of our faith” that has made them “captive to serving the 1 percent rather than the 99 percent.”
“I do not believe in salvation as an individual enterprise. I believe that we are saved in community as more and more of us live into the Kingdom of God, which Jesus preached was already here and available to us.”
Family Research Council Action Senior Vice President Tom McClusky did not believe the Occupy Movement was a force of good.
“While I sympathize with their frustration they are disorganized, at times incoherent, at times violent and completely disrespectful of individual rights,” said McClusky.
McClusky noted that although there is a long history of religious leaders in America speaking out on “vital moral issues,” in the Occupy Movement, the religious voice is small.
“Unfortunately, in the Occupy case it seems these religious leaders are being overshadowed by communist, socialist and anarchistic organizations,” McClusky said.
In addition to Oakland, other cities, including New York and Portland, Ore., have also issued orders to protestors to remove tents and sleeping bags from the parks they occupied.