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Occupy and ‘the better angels of our nature’

Occupy and ‘the better angels of our nature’

The Christian Science Monitor reports on tension within the Occupy movement to resist or give in to violence.

Nonviolence is the baseline, insists Father Mike Jackson, an assisting priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle and Occupy liaison.

While the group has not changed its decision, Jackson notes that a number of nonviolent training sessions have sprung up in the community. “We’re hoping that this will help equip them to make a better decision,” adds Father Jackson.

The next generation seems to have gotten the message, however. The national group, Occupy Colleges, requires new recruits to adopt an official nonviolent approach, explaining on its website:

“As a nonviolent movement, we have agreed to refrain from violence against any person, from carrying weapons, and from destruction of property.

“We reject violence, including property destruction, because we recognize that it undermines popular support and discourages the broadest possible participation among the 99 percent.”

On January 1, Jackson wrote an open letter to the Occupy Seattle community.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We in the Faith Community have supported the Occupy Seattle movement almost since its emergence some months ago, and this support has been increasing through forums and workshops at many places of worship, providing meeting space for work groups, being “on site” at Seattle Central Community College, and being part of marches and demonstrations. Two local clergypersons were injured during these events, as were others from the Movement. What Occupy is calling in and of today’s social and economic structure resonates so very strongly with us in terms of justice, equality, and personhood.

It is because of these shared values that many of us were deeply disturbed, distressed in fact, that an adoption of a nonviolence policy was rejected at the General Assembly this past Tuesday, December 20th. Nonviolence is a deeply held value by us. It is the policy that enabled the civil rights movement, not only to be born, but to last, increasingly gained the hearts of millions in this land and throughout the world. It is the policy that empowered the anti-Viet Nam protests. It is the policy that gave strength and sustenance to the farm labor movement. It reaches the deepest part of the human spirit, it has always ultimately prevailed and grown. The Occupy Movement itself has captured the political and public moral high ground with its creatively bold actions rooted in nonviolence. It is nonviolence that calls forth that which is genuine and right, and which ultimately triumphs good over evil, be it personal or societal.

Make no mistake. Nonviolence is not passive, but rather a robust effort to create and model the conditions that foster genuine and sustainable equality and justice. It is both a moral and pragmatic choice—the most profoundly revolutionary source of strength available to us. As noted in A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, “It is not a myth that violence can alter events. It is a myth that it gives power to the people.”

We are concerned that for many in the Faith communities, this rejection will impact standing in solidarity with you. Many of us want be with you, helping hold up the critical social and economic concerns you raise. Many of us would like to continue this conversation, possibly through an Occupy Seattle Working Group, possibly helping facilitate an understanding of nonviolence and developing nonviolence tactics.

We urge Occupy Seattle to seriously reconsider adopting a policy of nonviolence. The cause is right. We want to stand with you.



The Rev. Mike Jackson, Assisting Priest

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral

Seattle, WA


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June and Mike Jackson are right. Nonviolence is the only way to succeed. This is having an impact from within the movement. Many of us who are involved in ancillary roles, such as chaplains, are committed to nonviolence and are watching how the movement unfolds. It will be a tragic turn if violence is not rejected.


Mike Jackson, is right. The Occupy groups will lose moral force without an absolute commitment to non-violence. I’m sad to hear of the decision by the Occupy Seattle group to reject non-violence.

June Butler

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