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March 30, 2012
The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York, Bishop Coadjutor the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche and Assistant Bishop the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith issued the following joint statement today:
At the six month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, we repeat our support for the principles of Occupy, and our conviction that the issues and challenges raised by this movement are in our opinion among the most important of our day. At our convention in January the Diocese of New York affirmed our commitment to these principles, and to the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience as a means of putting the legitimate concerns of people of conscience before the public eye and before the powers of civil government.
We understand that it is inevitable that where civil disobedience breaks law it will provoke a response by police and governmental leaders. That is not only inevitable, but is of the very fabric of civil disobedience. On March 17, there were demonstrations at Zuccotti Park to mark the anniversary of Occupy, and those demonstrations were cleared by the police. Allegations of excessive force by the police have been made. We remind all persons, and every elected official, and all officers of the New York City police, that a guaranteed recourse of people in a democracy to give voice to legitimate grievance is public demonstration. We ask the forbearance of elected officials. But when arrests are made, we call on every public official and officer of the law to exercise judgment and restraint, to honor the dignity of those they place in custody, and to remain committed to their safety and protection. The use of excessive force by police in any circumstance is destructive of the common life on which we all depend and the trust we must have in our institutions and one another, and when excessive force is used to silence the political voice it is destructive of democracy itself.
We also write this at a time when lawmakers of this state are testifying in Albany to their own experiences and those of their constituents of the unfair, humiliating, and potentially dangerous practice known as Stop and Frisk. This is also written against the backdrop of the heartbreaking killing of Trayvon Martin by a private citizen operating under the protection of Florida's wildly ill-conceived Stand Your Ground law. Laws and law enforcement practices which dehumanize, demean and debase; which deny and take life; and which are inherently racist, are ruinous to the freedom in which God intends us to live and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,.
The Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church calls us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We commend these virtues, and the temperance, charity and nonviolence which flow from them, to the wider community and its government as well. We call on the elected officials of the City of New York to re-examine the laws and practices by which the officials our city protect its citizens and visitors, to end the biased and prejudicial practices of Stop and Frisk, and to commit to restraint, fairness and transparency in every encounter with the people of New York.
The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk
Bishop of New York
The Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche
Bishop Coadjutor of New York
The Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith
Bishop Assisting in the Diocese of New York
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