An Open Letter to the Participants of Occupy Seattle from a Member of the Faith 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.

Peace,

Mike

The Rev. Mike Jackson, Assisting Priest
St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
Seattle, WA
comprose@earthlink.net
206 – 909 – 3336

8 Responses to An Open Letter to the Participants of Occupy Seattle from a Member of the Faith Community

  • WhiteyNoMoney says:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reasonable-Solutions-Occupy-Seattle/272842572761405

    Others agree as well. I was not present for the vote, but if what I understand happened, it is an embarrassment. Take the euphemism ‘diversity of tactics’ and go somewhere else. If you want to argue about defending yourself from police then please continue to live in your rambo fantasy world.

  • Boswell says:

    Thank you very much for this articulate, beautiful letter. I and many other occupiers agree completely with the principals of non-violence. We understand that not only is violence to achieve political gains immoral, but it isn’t a workable tactic in America. If one did throw away the morality of non-violence, what would one be left with tactically? In this case, it would be a handful of kids in black hoodies thinking they can take down the US government. Yeah, not likely
    Many of us did not attend the GA meeting in which the proposal was brought up, as it was holiday time and many occupiers were away. Also, many members of Occupy don’t usually attend GAs, preferring to put their effort into working groups and caucuses. Hence, I can say with confidence that, despite the vote in GA, majority of Occupiers remain committed to the tenants of non-violent resistance.
    It is a telling fact that the great Polish Solidarity Movement NEVER used violence. If Lech Walesa’s movement could change a nation like Stalinist Poland, even with the KGB deployed, than I think it’s safe to say the Occupy Movement can create change in America, even with SPD deployed.
    Some of us are working on a new caucus within Occupy Seattle dedicated to using Reason, Logic and Common sense to win real, political victory for the 99%. We embrace democracy and believe that solving the problem of the disparity of capital in America, both monetary and political, can only be solved by working with the political process and/or using non-violence.
    We are Reasonable Solutions Occupy Seattle, dedicated to being a voice of Reason in the movement and a voice of the majority whom are non-violent, not the minority who think throwing things at the police and destroying property are acceptable tactics.
    Please don’t let a handful of youngsters in black hoodies cloud your vision of the entire occupy movement. Those political violence embracing criminals, who could easily be categorized as fascists, are not what Occupy is about.
    It is about decent Americans coming together to do nothing less than change the world. It is about people uniting to challenge the rule of a corrupt few, for whom the lives of millions are of less consequence than the movement of a single decimal point on the stock exchanges of the world. It is about we the 99% putting our collective foot down, even in the face of so much opposition, and saying to the system of war, greed and inequality, that enough is enough.
    -Boswell, organizer of Reasonable Solutions Occupy Seattle
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reasonable-Solutions-Occupy-Seattle/272842572761405
    ReasonableSolutionsOS@gmail.com

  • msmikestew35 says:

    Boswell – how are you planning to do this? You do not talk of issues of class. You do not talk of forming a political party for the interests of the 99%. So how exactly are you – and your caucus – going about this?

    • Boswell says:

      This page is for the Reverend’s letter only. I only mentioned Reasonable Solutions because it’s formation is valid to the conversation. All specific questions about RS should be made to the email address: reasonablesolutionsos@gmail.com, do so and I’ll be more than happy to answer them for you.

    • REPUBLIC says:

      …this organization will get better organized and form a political caucus and let the 100% know what will take place in a transparent way with no hidden agenda. The current administration claims transparency and I have notice opaque, cheating, and blurry government. Can this organization do better? Say, go up there win the election and pick-up that antiquated constitution and rip it up? and put a new one in its place.

  • TomD says:

    Morally and effectively.

  • OccupyMarkD says:

    This is the problem with the proponents of this proposal. They confuse the ideology of non-violence with the tactic of non-violence. They have re-framed the debate from one over tactics into an ideological one, so they can paint those with whom they disagree as ideologically opposed to Occupy Seattle in order to push them out of the movement. Sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened in movements, and the police are usually behind it.

    There is no ideological requirement to be a part of Occupy Seattle. We have everyone from Ron Paul supporters to anarchists. What we all should be able to agree on is that we need to use the best tactics we can to get our message across and attract more people. Those tactics should be non-violent — not because we are dogmatically adhering to a one-sided ideology but because it is the best tactic for the current level of struggle. (That was underlined just in case anyone else tries to say that I’m calling for violence or that the only thing diversity of tactics could possibly mean is “more violence”.)

    Ideologues use these types of divisive arguments to “smoke out” opponents and target them for removal from the group. That is what this proposal is meant to do, and that is why Occupy Seattle should reject it. Occupy Seattle needs to remain open to different ideologies in order to grow. Adopting or dogmatically adhering to any ideology is counter to the core principles of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Are you willing to adopt my ideology of socialist feminism? I believe that the best way for Occupy Seattle to grow is to adopt this ideology, but you don’t see me bringing proposals to General Assembly to try to make everyone agree with me. That’s not the way that mass movements work, and it’s telling that those who are new to class struggle and those that have held it back in the past are the ones most fervently proposing the ideology of non-violence. Mass movements survive and grow because they connect the issues that people care about to solutions that resonate with those people. They fail when they constrain themselves with proposals such as this.

    History has shown that non-violence as a tactic works against armed oppressors (Gandhi, MLK, Walesa, etc.) but that as an ideology it fails to create positive, lasting change for the working class (99%). Last time I checked, the masses of India were still destitute and African Americans in the US were still oppressed by racism (and it’s close sibling, classism). Do you want your grandchildren to have to go out in the streets twenty years from now to protest what OWS is protesting today? The level of struggle changes and we must change with it. The mass movements for independence in India and civil rights in America were effective for a time but did not change tactics when needed. The level of struggle changes and Occupy Seattle must change with it. We should not accept simple legislative reforms that gloss over the problems of our world while still allowing suffering, oppression, and destruction to continue unchecked. We need to press for government action that will stop the problem at its source, and be able to take further action when governments fail to meet the basic demands for survival and security for their citizens.

    And to those who are thinking of leaving Occupy Seattle over this debate: I urge you to reconsider. I urge you to join in the planning and organizing of actions so your ideas get heard and considered. Without a diversity of voices, your voices, a diversity of tactics is impossible. There are a lot of actions coming up which require extensive planning in order to be successful. I urge you to seek out and attend meetings and events that interest you and have your voice heard. That’s what democracy is about!

    The point is that we need to work together, celebrating the diversity of the 99%, to organize effectively. We need to use all the tools in our toolbox, because we have a lot more choices than roses and guns.

  • Corpulace says:

    “Those tactics should be non-violent — not because we are dogmatically adhering to a one-sided ideology but because it is the best tactic for the current level of struggle.”

    I am quoting your highlighted sentence because it is an excellent example of what bothers me about this whole “Diversity of Tactics” argument. I have heard people refer to “Diversity of Tactics” as “smart tactics that may be interpreted by the media as ‘violence’” or ,as you say , nonviolence is the best tactic for this “current level of struggle”.

    I have talked to folks that tell me we must have “all tactics at our disposal”. What does that mean? The opposite of nonviolence is violence. Nonviolence is not a synonym for Pacifism. Nonviolence is not passive or weak. Nonviolence is dynamic. It changes minds and hearts.

    Who within #occupyseattle will make the decision that our level of struggle necessitates a different tactic? Who makes the decision that our level of struggle now necessitates violence? And again, there is no “Diversity of Tactics” once Occupy Seattle decides to respond with violence. An act of violence from a group of protestors completely negates any attempt at nonviolent civil disobedience I or others attempt.

    Could someone please explain that if “Diversity of Tactics” does not mean violence, what specifically does it mean? And if it can possibly mean violence I can no longer be a part of this group. Not because I am being dogmatic, but because I believe violence is a response that in this case will ultimately fail.

    I am in agreement with the author of this letter that the vote against proclaiming Occupy Seattle a nonviolent movement was a huge mistake. This website has from the beginning called Occupy Seattle a “nonviolent movement”. And no one is forcing nonviolence on anyone. I was with Occupy Seattle from the first day at Westlake. After learning of this vote, I can no longer defend the actions of this movement, so I will leave.

    I believe in the cause, I will fight for fairness and justice for those less fortunate, but I can not belong to a violent organization. That is my personal choice, but it is based on a lot of soul searching.