Statement from Jim Wallis on Friday's "Cleaning" of NYC's Zuccotti Park

By Jim Wallis 10-14-2011

The Occupiers in Zuccotti Park received a visit from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg late Wednesday night. The mayor delivered a message: The park where demonstrators have been camped out for the better part of a month is to be "cleaned."

Bloomberg's office has said that this "cleaning" action, scheduled for Friday (10/14) morning, is not a shutdown of the protest and that Occupiers can return after the cleaning and if they agree to follow a set of rules. But these rules ban sleeping bags or tarps from the park and it is not clear if even laying down will still be allowed.

This is effectively a shutdown of the #OccupyWallStreet demonstration, which the Mayor Bloomberg promised just a few days ago not to do.

Throughout the history of social movements, those in power have tried to find ways to slow or make legal protest more difficult. For the health of our democracy, political leaders need to do whatever they can to protect the Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly -- not make them more difficult.

Bold leadership means that Mayor Bloomberg should do what he can to allow these protests to continue, even if he doesn't agree with them. As an elected official, it is essential that the mayor find a way to protect demonstrators' free speech and right to assemble.

The freedom to protest is one of the things that has made this country great and its abridgement is an affront to us all.

Some protesters have announced their intent to form a circle around Zucotti Park tomorrow at 6 a.m. ahead of the 7 a.m. scheduled "cleaning" of the park.

A group of clergy has decided to join that circle and is planning a press conference at 11 am at Judson Memorial Church to report on the morning's events at the #OccupyWallStreet demonstrations in Zucotti Park, as well as to issue a multi-faith statement of support for the Occupiers.

Still others have asked folks who are concerned about the city's planned action Friday to phone Mayor Bloomberg's office directly.

Right now it is more important than ever that the Occupiers remain non-violent and respectful of private property.

Abuse of power should never be met with violence. We urge demonstrators to continue their principled and peaceful actions.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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