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Loving the Neighbor in the Occupy Movement
Here is an example of how to get involved with the Occupy Movement in your city, taking concrete steps to help others in the quest for justice in the world today.
By Craig R. Loftin
Editor's Note: Martin Luther was not a big fan of all the law books the medieval church had published over centuries. People had to run to the priest with their law books to find out how to act in specific situations. Luther threw out the law books and told people to just do it, just see the need of the neighbor and do what you can to help; Love the neighbor as God has loved us using your own practical reason. I thought of Luther's attitude when I read the following report a friend had sent about his involvement with Occupy Portland. He saw a need and did something. On this first Sunday of Advent we are reminded that we are to "stay awake" to the opportunities to do justice in our time.
I got involved with Occupy Wall Street, from Portland, right at the beginning as soon as I heard that they were marching and occupying Zucotti Park in Lower Manhattan. I used to have pizza around there when we lived in Midtown. I still had their number in my phone, so I called and had a few large cheese pizzas delivered to the marchers (that was before they were known as Occupiers and the park started being called Liberty Plaza!). I'd actually done that when the protestors were marching around the Capital in Madison. When some of my Twitter and Facebook friends from Wisconsin suggested sending them dinner, Linda and I jumped in and had pizza delivered there at dinner time for weeks, almost every night!
When we heard the movement was spreading to Portland, (no surprise in this town, btw!) Lin, some friends and I marched along with them on October 6th, the first day they gathered and started to get organized. The second night they were here, some of them camped in the park across the street from where we live. As they were waking up in the morning I brought them a big tank of coffee, drained it into their cups in minutes and continued the routine for hours while they had a morning general assembly. When the Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams agreed to allow them to camp for an undetermined time about 10 blocks away in front of the Federal Courthouse at Chapman and Lownsdale Parks, we'd go down every day with more coffee, tanks of propane gas for their kitchen, and hang out at their General Assemblies to mostly listen and lend some community support... We went down to catch Michael Moore's visit at the neighboring federally-owned Terry Shrunk Park, closed our BofA account (opted for a local credit union)... and held my breath when the police moved to shut down the encampment six weeks later. We actually marched there with crowds of Portlanders that ultimately converged to demonstrate support for the Occupiers the night the camp was supposed to be dismantled by the police at 12:01 am... There were folk singers and a generally festive atmosphere... there were hundreds of police, some on their normal bikes guiding the marchers at the crosswalks, others in riot gear on the distant fringes. A night of peace and cooperation! With just the hint of threat & fear as some protesters, faced with the announced midnight shut-down, set up tents in the federally-owned Terry Shrunk Park, across the street from the existing encampment.
Shortly after dawn police moved in quickly, dismantled the tents, removed the tarps and by noon the following day, surrounded the parks with fencing and police monitors. There was little resistance from the protestors and the general spirit of non-violence and cooperation prevailed on the part of both the protestors and the police with only a few, isolated incidents of property destruction or arrests.
In a way I feel better about the Occupy Movement since the encampment shut-down. The problems that the 1% percent has created for our society over the past 40 years... homelessness, joblessness, low-information and undereducated masses resulting from weakened public schools, untreated mental-illness and drug abuse problems... eventually all found themselves together with the original protesters trying to do everything for everybody, with no real consistent, structured institutional support. I used to see these problems among street-children when I was working to address their needs in third-world countries. Now they are common to the street-people in this fourth-world country that the U.S. has become! The 1%, their misguided supporters and unwitting advocates were only too happy to watch the confusion and difficulties as they predictably unfolded in the Occupy camps.
Now that the camps have been disbanded the serious protesters can, and do, continue to analyze and confront the significant problems affecting the 99%. There are daily meetings during the day at the Unitarian Church down the street as well as other locations such as Director Park also nearby, and 7 pm GAs at, or near, Pioneer Courthouse Square a few blocks away.
But above all, I feel it is important to find ways to support them as they decide where they go as a movement. I will continue to encourage them to become a unified political force while remaining activist, which can help us finally find another way; past coal, oil, nukes, war, racism, sexism, and two political parties! I think that will take them beyond 2012! Hopefully, they'll continue to see the wisdom of their non-violent methods and the value of getting President Obama re-elected, and then to really push hard on him to be true to progressive values - although if he keeps caving into Corporate America, I simply won’t vote!
I have always been a proponent of thinking globally and acting locally; the Occupy Together Movement with its local expressions is the best example I have seen. We need them, they need us… after all we are all in this together!
Craig R. Loftin earned his Ph.D. in psychology in the 80s and subsequently spent his career with UNICEF, predominantly in Latin America. He and his wife moved to Portland in 2011 to join his daughter, her husband and daughter. Their son and his wife live near New Orleans.
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