by: Donna Schaper on November 17th, 2011 | 3 Comments »
On Monday night, November 14, 2011 the mayor of New York City ordered the police to evict the 500 or so overnight occupiers in Zicotti Park. The eviction happened around 2 a.m. He did not tell them to leave within 72 hours. Or 48 hours. Or even by morning. He moved them out by force at 2 a.m. using surprise. In addition the police put the tents and tarps, many of the backpacks, computers, notebooks, sweatshirts and granola bars into a trash compactor and let the grind be heard throughout the park. As Rev. Robert Coleman of Riverside Church said, “I have the receipts for the 100 tents we bought. I’d like the city to repay my congregation for the destruction of our tents.” Sacred space may start with tents and have a middle stage in church buildings, even sanctuaries. Sacred space has no need of one place. It can occupy many, at the same time.
What follows is a list of blended do’s and don’ts if your congregation or minister were to decide to open your space as a sanctuary for Occupy Poughkeepsie or OWS Protesters. For the record, my congregation has done so the last two nights, will again tonight, and will consider doing so going forward. We “slept” about 100 each night, turned away about 40. Riverside, our chief partner, in this enterprise, slept about 60. The rest have been scattered to the four winds, originally by the police eviction that separated then forcefully by allowing only forty or so at a time to go any one direction. The police action gave new meaning to the words, “divide and conquer.” It didn’t work – as the movement is already too deep in the hearts and minds of Americans. If anything, the eviction moved us forcefully into a second phase of this movement, which has changed the American story about ourselves. We are now authoring the story again – not reading what Wall Street tells us about our political and economic futures or ourselves.