Ok, I'm going to write a lot but that is because I'm passionate and often write too much but also because I have some experience with this situation.

I was working with West-Park Presbyterian Church for quite some time and am still connected to those working there. I have also met many of the individuals with Occupy who work with West Park to promote community and responsibility while in and outside of the church. That does not mean, of course, that my voice is any of their voices or that I speak for them. But I do want to talk a little bit about what I feel I can say.

First of all, calling these people campers is simply inaccurate. Camping implies an impermanent situation. In the article, the author writes, "Occupy Wall Street protesters dispersed across the city in search of shelter" with the onset of winter. The reality is that the vast majority of people who had homes and were in Zuccotti Park solely as a political statement went back to those homes and many others used their networks to find places to stay. While many of these people remain incredibly active and continue to use public spaces in certain strategic ways, they do not require public spaces to sleep. By in large, the individuals staying at West Park are those who, before the occupy movement began, used public spaces to sleep or relied on various government or charitable services to find shelter. Many of them have suffered abject poverty, abuse or neglect and many are part of a large young community of lgbtq youth who have been forced out of their original communities because of their orientation. The reality is that within this community mental illness and drug addiction are very prevalent. Fundamentally, we have not developed many effective ways of treating this population as a part of our society, choosing instead to demonize and ostracize them, nor do we effectively treat them for their actual diseases. That bespeaks a larger issue with access to health care, design of treatment programs and education about access to care.

But this incident and the headline and the reactions it is generating also point to another issue: how we deal with the people who don't do what we want them to do. I know how important this baptismal font is to the congregation. Generations of their children - for the past 100 years - have been baptized in that font and they hope the children to come will be able to be baptized in that same font. Whoever used the font inappropriately was not respecting the property of the congregation and I can assure you has caused much upset and hurt. However, the way we handle the disrespect for property and other legal infractions is completely broken. The prison-industrial complex and school-to-prision pipeline ensure that those who disrespect the rule of law (many of which are designed to keep the system in place, but that is another long facebook comment in and of itself) are similarly ostracized. This does not decrease crime but instead quarantines it, consigning entire communities to deal with prison culture.

The people at West Park are not saints. Believe me, I have worked with them and they are just as perfectly imperfect as the rest of us. While I am Jewish, we share many values. Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" and when they worship at West Park they say, “Look about and see all the images of God assembled here. In me, in you, in each of us, God’s spirit shines for all to see.” But I also know that what they are doing working with this group from Occupy is not solely because they are compelled to out of charitable spirit. They believe firmly in doing the work it takes to build a better world for all people and have, over the past 100 years, partnered with many people and organizations with the same vision.

And my Occupy, the reason I participate and continue to advocate for the movement, wants to build a better world for all people. Wants to raise awareness about individuals and the lives they actually live. Wants to work with people who have historically not been given a voice in our political system. And, fundamentally, wants to connect people. Not because if people connect to one another we would live in some paradisaical utopia, but because connection moves us to deal with each other humanely. It makes us willing to see our own deficiency when we look at someone else and willing to see our own incredible greatness by recognizing theirs.

Mostly, I just want anyone who sees this to appreciate that there are entire lives behind these acts of "desecration." It is this kind of reduction that takes us away from actual solutions and instead instigates a perpetuation of systemic prejudices that allow us to oppress other human beings. And I think that's dumb.