FAN Action Commission: Occupied in D.C.

Rhett Engelking, SFO attended the October FAN Action Commission gathering in Washington, D.C., as a guest of FAN Action Commissioner Ken Beattie, SFO and shares a reflection from the experience:

FAN Action Commission and Staff at Occupy D.C.

Members of the Franciscan Action Network's Action Commission visited the Occupy D.C. protests in McPherson Square in downtown D.C.

A biannual meeting of the Action Commissioners for the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) was held on October 20th and 21st in Washington, D.C. In keeping with FAN’s call to address the causes of Poverty and Human Rights, the Commissioners welcomed Rev. Brian Merrit, 42, a Presbyterian minister who has gained notoriety as a member of the Occupy D.C. protest, although he does not claim to be a spokesperson for the movement. The Occupy D.C. protest began with about eight protesters camped out in the park at Washington’s McPherson Square. The Square overlooks K Street, a busy commercial district heavily populated with corporate lobbyist organizations. The encampment has served as a meeting place and springboard for marches and other civil actions.

Rev. Merrit began his discussion with a quote from the Christian mystic Hedewijch and proceeded to describe the nature of the protest to the Action Commission. Occupy D.C. is a grassroots, democratic, civil action intent upon affecting public discourse by emphasizing the side effects of America’s unprecedented wealth inequality. Rev. Merrit explained how organizers, with a strict emphasis on the democratic character of the movement, rejected official leadership in favor of many interfaith and secular voices. Decisions of the group are made using a Quaker-style consensus model. The group has accepted the Declaration and list of grievances compiled by members of Occupy New York.

After a brief lunch, members of FAN were escorted to MacPherson Square to visit the orderly base camp. FAN members presented sandwiches leftover from the day’s luncheon to a food tent that was coordinating and presenting donations from organizations ranging from unions to churches to area businesses. Volunteers from National Nurses United, America’s largest nursing union, managed a tent to provide free primary care for those on the premises. Another tent served as a media hub for independent source generation to be transmitted by various social media outlets. The tent was powered by solar panels and also served as a discussion forum for the group’s joint projects. Rev. Merrit discussed with several members of FAN the concerted effort of corporate- and government-sponsored espionage and disruption of Occupy D.C. activities. Private discussions among organizers were thus private to ensure ethical consistency of purpose and effectiveness of tactics. Organizers informed FAN members of a counter-protest in which corprate-sponsored organizations were to visit the camp to distribute job applications. Jointly approved information, such as a collaborative response resume, was available at the information tent. Much of this information, such as a specific list of demands, has continued to be available online.

FAN Commission members interacted with a protest climate populated with a multicultural group of individuals. Immediately striking was the presence of individuals in business suits sharing space with the barefoot and dredlocked. Children at play also populated the non-violent atmosphere. Multiracial musicians circled with their guitars and drums and performed pro-American standards such as “This Land is Your Land.” A group of young artists gathered to construct signs that had a consistent anti-imperialist message, yet that message appeared to be devoid of specific demonization of capitalism or public figures such as President Obama. Some FAN commissioners joined in on the construction of a sign proudly displayed in a group photo. There was also a glaring presence of many of Washington’s homeless Americans who appeared to have found a sympathetic community in the Occupy Wall Street group. As evidenced by the concerted effort to systematically care for the park space (specific areas were quarantined off for reseeding of grass), it appeared to casual observers that the Occupy D.C. group planned to remain in residence in McPherson for an extended and indefinite period of time.

View Photos from the Occupy D.C. visit on FAN’s Flickr page

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Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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