Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another sweeping story

This blog began with a story of sweeping...the steps of West-Park church. Last November, a connection was found with men and women sweeping the streets of Managua, Nicaragua in the early morning. Today there is another sweeping story.
It is still dark when I arrive at Zucotti Park. Energy, spirits and tension is running high. All  around the edge of the park, I see people with brooms, sweeping. We are prepared, if necessary, to form a human chain around  the park to prevent police evicition. I see a young man in a collar sweeping and approach him. He’s one of the “protest chaplains”, a seminarian froom Union. I ask him what it’s been like. 
He tells me that they have been a constant presence. That once occupiers got used to them being there, they began to accept them, to talk. Ask questions. And there had even been requests for baptisms. As we’re talking, a cheery young woman approaches. Hey, another collar person! She too is a chaplain, a seminarian. I ask who’s in charge. And they tell me, we’re in the spirit of the occupation, we share leadership. (I do know that friends at Auburn Seminary had provided trainng yesterday to prepare for police action.)

Soon I’m surrounded by a circle of collar wearing men and women, all with brooms. Many have written phone numbers and other information on their arms and wrists in case of arrest. And I came here this morning prepared for that possibility myself. Only wondering about my healing back.
A marching band is providing music. I see two men quietly playing chess, as I have every time I’ve been down there. Breakfast is being served.  I see, greet  and hug my friend from St. Mary’s Episcopal, Father Earl Koopercamp. Another one of my if he’s there it’s real colleagues. 
The word begins to spread....the city has backed down.  There will be no eviction today. Cheers wring out. And one by one people get up, call out mike check, and begin to speak.
A burly middle aged man stands up. I’ve been a trade unionist all my life. And this is a true people’s victory.  Don’t let any one take this away from you. Allow yourselves a moment to appreciate what you’ve done. Today we won a victory. And every win counts. 
And then there’s a young clean cut man in a suit, City Councilmember Steve Levin from Park Slope Brooklyn, calling out mike check. This is a victory for people who still believe  in democracy, that democracy still belongs to the people. The voters of ths city wouldn’t let you be evicted. The stayed on us until we stayed on the mayor. Money’s not the only power.
Later I learn how right that was. All day long people kept up the pressure. I called my Councilmember Gale Brewer. She assured me that the progressive caucus would keep meeting, keep asking to speak to the mayor. Thousands of ordinary New Yorkers kept calling. One of my clergy colleagues called 311 over 20 times. Finally even the owner of the park told the mayor to back off. 
The people united...
There’s a spirit of celebration. Voices begin calling for a march down Boradway to City Hall to say thank you. The sanitation task force calls on everyone to grab a mop or broom and sweep up as they march up Broadway. And brooms in hand, the march begins. 
                           * * * * 
Eleven o’clock. Judson Memorial Church. An interfaith clergy gathering and press conerence. Behind the lectern is Judson’s notorious Golden Calf, looking a lot like the Wall Strreet bull, created to point to the worship of false idos. I sit beside my friend and colleague Annie Rawlings who has been staffing the Intefaith Center’s Prepare New York to further understanding in light of the tenth anniverdary of 9-11. (West-Park’s showing of Divided We Fall was part of that campaign.) She's also been a key organizer in the new emerging PHEWA Criminal Justice Network . And  Mark Greenburg of the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness. And my friend Kellie Anderson Picallo  from Auburn, one of  the chaplain trainers. Representatives of Interfaith Immigration Action. There’s an opening Buddhist chant. A chanted verse from the Koran. A Jewish prayer. Then Rev. Michael Ellick of Judson uses the people’s mike to read the statement of solidarity that had emerged from an interfaith working group. 
Line by line the statement echoes back:
We, the people of faith communities throughout New York and the United States, see in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street a promise of democracy renewed. 
Our spiritual traditions are clear: the impoverishment of the many for the benefit of the few destroys us all. The cries of our people are clear: the American dream is compromised; the middle is slipping away; and in our politics, fairness is dissipating. The Soul of our Nation is threatened by many false idols. 
So together we affirm the golden rule: do to others as you would have them do unto you. We commit ourselves to the restoration of justice for all in our economy, and compassion in our politics, that together we might behold a revolution of values for all our people. We ask all Americans to join us in this prayer, that once again our country might be the fulfillment of hopes and dreams for all who reach its shores. 

(To learn more an sign on go to 
Already over 150 clergy had signed.
And then one of the longtime faithful witnesses, The Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord church in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, who goes back to King and the Civil Rights Days, ever young even after 80, comes to close out the talks. He gets a standing ovation from his peers. And then says, I liked that, that was good. Do that again. At my age, I’ll take all of those I can get. He reminds us of a 1978 march on Wall Street. Quotes from Hillel: If I am not for myself,who will be? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And James Baldwin: nothing is as dangerous as a society letting loose someone with nothing to lose. Then reminds us that in his last week, as he was preparing  for the Poor People’s Campaign, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, What this country needs is a radical redistribution of economic and political power. 
the golden calf

The time had come to lift up the calf and process to Zucotti Park where the statement of solidarity would be shared. 

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