The “Occupy” movement is back, and this time it joins forces with progressive religious leaders in a siege of 13 locations of the Federal Reserve Bank across the nation as the country celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day Monday.
The new movement is led by Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr., a legendary civil rights activist who worked with King, and the Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple Church in Baltimore, Md. Chavis was the North Carolina State Youth Coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under King and has worked closely with hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons in recent years. Bryant is a popular pastor and cultural personality in a growing church with a congregation of over 10,000. The men are being joined Monday by Occupy Wall Street protesters, students and newcomers to the movement calling for economic equality.
The date of this renewed class action event is not coincidental, as the movement's leaders made it clear they are going to allude to the legacy of Dr. King while demonstrating in front of the bank buildings, showing that the “99 percent” is still not appeased and ready to protest the economic inequality in the country.
“It’s ‘Occupy the Dream,’ it’s about Dr. King’s dream, it’s about fighting economic injustice, calling for economic equality,’” Chavis told The Christian Post Monday. “We’re paying our respects to the living legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
“Occupy the Dream” was born when members of the African-American faith community joined forces with OWS to launch “a new campaign for economic justice inspired by the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faithful to its philosophical origin,” organizers said in a statement. It is just the first day of action that is intended to last until the goal is achieved, Chavis suggested, as the movement is supposed to spread in the style of the original OWS movement.
Monday demonstrations are taking place in all cities with a Fed branch – Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, San Francisco and St. Louis. But “some actions” in regional offices are planned as well, according to the organizers' statement. The New York branch is near the New York Stock Exchange and close to Zuccotti Park, where OWS protesters had established their original headquarters, and from where they were eventually evicted before Christmas by city authorities.
Organizers of Occupy the Dream are calling on supporters to leave crutches and other prosthetic devices at Federal Reserve offices around the country to display how financial institutions are crippling the economy. They are demanding absolute funding of federal Pell Grants; a moratorium on foreclosure and reparations from banks for “predatory lending” practices; and $100 billion from Wall Street for job training and placement.
Since the establishment of the OTD committee in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 14, many Christian organizations and prominent religious leaders have endorsed the movement. Among them are the National Action Network, one of the leading civil rights organizations in the nation with the Rev. Al Sharpton as one of its founders, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rainbow Push Coalition, a Christian nonprofit led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the National Baptist Convention of America, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“I am pleased to join the ranks of clergy leaders to affirm the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for economic justice and equality. I will be at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago on January 16, 2012 to Occupy the Dream,” Jackson said in a statement.
Some prominent celebrity figures have also endorsed the movement, including rap mogul Russell Simmons, musician Wyclef Jean, and comedic actor Russell Brand.
“Occupy Wall Street” has also fully endorsed the movement in a statement reiterating all organizers have been fighting for since it launched protests in New York in September 2011.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for social and economic justice with a deep moral commitment to non-violent civil disobedience. His legacy inspires many of us on the front lines of the Occupy Wall Street movement,” David DeGraw, a journalist associated with OWS, said in a statement on behalf of the movement. “Nearly fifty years since hundreds of thousands of people marched with Dr. King and filled the nation's capital, the dream that inspired our nation remains unfulfilled. As shocking as it is to believe, there is a more severe inequality of wealth in the United States today than there was back then. More Americans are living in poverty today than when Dr. King organized the Poor People's Campaign.”
While the rich have grown richer, tens of millions of Americans have been exploited and left behind, DeGraw said.
“We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the African-American Faith community in this campaign for economic fairness and justice. We are all in this fight together. We all want a healthy and secure future for our families. In the absence of a government that will defend and represent us, we are now taking it upon ourselves to stand up and defend our own families,” he added.
The question of whether the church should endorse the OWS movement or condemn it has divided the church, with some leaders claiming that Christians should side with the underprivileged, while others have criticized protesters for creating an unnecessary stir.
The Rev. Lee Peterson, founder and president of The South Central Los Angeles Tea Party and BOND Action group, told CP recently that, in his opinion, “Occupy the Dream” is a “scam” and that organizers are trying to “rob” American taxpayers. Peterson claims the movement is a tool of the Democratic Party organized to motivate entitlement-minded African-Americans to vote for President Barack Obama.
Peterson went on to say that Dr. King would not support “Occupy the Dream” nor “Occupy Wall Street.” He claims that King was not for more government, but was about family, one nation under God and moral character.