Not in the light of day, but in the dead of night, the New York City police department moved in on the protestors at Zuccotti Park, the heart of the #OWS movement, evicting the protestors and arresting many.
There were many excuses given for this police raid, chief among them, as in Mayor Bloomberg’s statement, “guaranteeing public health and safety.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had heard those same kind of excuses before, and here is his answer applied to Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York:
“Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?”
No. It is not right to evict Occupy Wall Street. It is an offense to conscience.
The protestors in Zuccotti Park and around the nation have become the conscience of our nation, bringing our descent as a nation into widening inequality among the very rich and everybody else (the 1 percent and the 99 percent) from the margins to the center of our awareness. Evicting those who are calling our nation to act on its conscience and its deepest values of political freedom and economic equality just isn’t right. This isn’t right.
Conscience is an important religious concept that has been held captive for too long by anti-choice activists. There are many other ways in which conscience needs to be applied our public life besides reproduction.
Conscience is a powerful religious concept. It is often depicted as residing in the heart, a way sacred texts emphasize the absolutely vital role conscience plays in human life. In Jewish thought, the heart is the ultimate witness to the worth of our moral acts, and it is that witness that ultimately determines the moral worth of our acts. It was a supreme irony, in this regard, that in their destructive haste to “clear” Zuccotti Park, the NYC police apparently destroyed a Torah belonging to Occupy Wall Street protestor Michael Glazer, who called New York City police to report the destruction of this sacred Jewish text. What witness does this give to the moral worth of this act of destroying the possessions of those who occupy?
Muslims also focus on the heart when engaging in ethical decision making. According to the Koran (57:27), God “places compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him.” In almost all religious traditions, “listening to the heart” can bring one’s own voice into harmony with the truth of God.
But the voice of conscience can be silenced by a hardened heart, as in the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus preached to thousands, but they had no food. In Mark, the Gospel records that Jesus fed these thousands with loaves of bread and fish, but there were those, even among his own disciples, who just didn’t get it, “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:52)
It takes a “hardened heart” to evict the Occupy Wall Street protestors and then claim they can come back and occupy the Zuccotti Park, except without their tents, sleeping bags, food kitchen, library, and everything else that made their occupation livable. Mayor Bloomberg has said, “Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
“Expediency asks the question - is it politic?” said Dr. King. That’s expediency from the Mayor, packaged as concern for public health and safety.
It’s not right.