I marched yesterday with 700 St. Louis occupiers and friends. Four of the men carried a tent with a sign that read "Occupy Everywhere." We went from downtown St. Louis past the Federal Reserve building, which drew jeers, to the Martin Luther King Bridge that is in need of repair. Twenty people sat in front of the traffic in an attempt to close the bridge. The police arrested them and they went off gracefully.
Back when I was risking arrest to protest weapons contracting, we talked a lot about graceful direct action -- by which we meant actions motivated by and full of grace. These protesters were prepared and committed. And yesterday somebody was carrying the sign: "What would Jesus do? Occupy!"
It surprised me that a couple of comments to my last blog about the occupation said Catholics shouldn't be there. It reminded me at first blush of the criticism of Jesus dining with tax collectors.
But the Occupation is not sinners feasting. It is a cry for justice. It expresses the pent-up frustration of people who are suffering. Veterans for Peace was there. A laid-off carpenter who spoke at the rally is losing his house. A teacher talked about her family's financial struggles. Everybody carried handmade signs about job loss, medical expense and the costs of war.
Some of the troubles occupiers have faced, especially in Oakland, Calif., have been because the Occupation has drawn the homeless mentally ill. That's a group that has suffered grievously at the hands of capitalism, a group these young occupiers have not rejected.
The first name of my religious community, Loretto, was Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross. Where else should we be standing but with suffering people?