Seattle Police Pepper-Spray Pastor

U.S. authorities and major news media are quick to condemn leaders of foreign nations when they unleash police to rough up and intimidate protesting citizens, but a different standard applies inside the United States, as Rev. Rich Lang discovered when he walked with an Occupy protest in Seattle.

By the Rev. Rich Lang

You could feel the tension and raw energy crinkling throughout the air as the marchers once again began their journey into downtown Seattle.

The Occupy Movement is the prophetic voice of God calling out to the nation to “repent” and turn from its ways of corruption. Those who camp are a rag-tag, motley crew made up of mostly young adults, mostly unemployed, almost all of whom are alienated and cast out of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all.

They are … the first fruits being devoured by the Beast of Empire.

Rev. Rich Lang at earlier "Occupy" Protest in Seattle

The police were once conceived to be a citizen force created to serve and protect the public. Today however, the police have been militarized and view the populace as enemy combatants, as threats to their well being. The police, like our Armed Forces, are well-trained, disciplined and exceptionally talented. They follow a chain of command and are increasingly apprenticed into a culture of institutional conformity.

Because America has always affirmed the right of dissent, the role of the police is to keep the peace. They are trained to enter the protesting arena as unfeeling protectors of property and people.

What has changed in our time is that the police are entering the arena of protest as agents of provocation. They push and shove at will, they ride their bicycles up the backs of protesters, they engage in verbal abuse. Their commanders allow this breach of discipline. Their comrades silently condone the bullying.

The police become the agitators encouraging violence. It is as if they are spoiling for a fight – a fight, mind you, against the citizenry, against the youth, the unemployed, and those who are trying to return America back to its promise, and dare I say it, return America to its covenant with God, “we hold these truths to be self evident …”

On Tuesday night, a small group of the rag-tag campers of Seattle’s Occupy Movement left their camp to protest the destruction inflicted upon the Wall Street Occupy site.

Throughout the march, I — as a Pastor in full clergy alb, stole and cross – acted as a peacekeeper placing myself between the police line and the Occupy Movement. On four occasions I stepped between verbal battles between the police and the protesters.  The point being that it was evident to all who I was and what my role was in this non-violent march of the few escorted by the many.

 

The incident was minor in nature. A girl, dressed in Anarchist black waving the Anarchist black flag, was plastered side by side with an officer on the bike. They were jawboning each other. At one point her flag was thrust in his direction – a provocation yes – threatening? – no.

The officer grabbed the flag and in the pulling, pulled down the girl. Her friends reacted jumping in to pull her away from the officer. It was at this point that the first wave of pepper spray went off.

Point: One might think the officer acted within reason, that the officer was suddenly threatened. But with what? By whom? The friends of the offender were grabbing for the girl, they were not grabbing at the police. Basically the officer and his comrades were trigger-happy as if they couldn’t wait for just this moment. And so the spray went forth.

I leapt to the front and tried to place myself between the parties – with spray in the air the protesters were also fleeing. Separation between the police line and the protesters was clearly visible … there was certainly no threat of the “mob” suddenly rampaging into the well-armed police.

The separation had occurred (as can be clearly seen on the video captured by King 5 News). But the spray continued. I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was – with the protesters fleeing and the police line holding – with my back to the police and my hands waving the protesters to get back.

I was alone in full alb, stole and cross when six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.

I praise the courage and compassion, the discipline and the decency of the Occupy Movement. Out of the rag-tag mob came help, grabbing my hands, leading me (I was blind by then) to the wall and administering care and concern for my well-being.

The protesters were assembled around all the wounded, and maintained the discipline of nonviolence (granted the nonviolence was in behavior but not language). And they were not afraid.

The spraying had been a baptism sealing them into the security of knowing that their prophecy of repentance was indeed the Spirit-Word through them – it is as if they did not prophecy their very bones would melt within them. Against the wall in increasing pain and burning I realized I was in the midst of church.

The police, on the other hand, were afraid. Their quick use of chemical warfare reveals how cowardly they are. The unwillingness of their commanders to maintain discipline reveals how incompetent they are becoming.

The only tool in their bag is brutality and like a drunken-raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves. Step by step, they are being shaped into the front face of fascism, the emerging police state that protects the property interests of the Marie Antoinette’s who have seized control of our government, commerce, media, military and increasingly the Church itself.

My question to my clergy colleagues is this: “Where are you? How much longer can you preach without practice? How dare you remain protected in your sanctuary while your people (the rag-tag mob of the least, last and lost whom Jesus loved) are slaughtered doing that which God has commissioned you to do (prophecy!).

“Where are you? Who have you become in this age of baptism by pepper spray? Do you not know how much power you have to stop our national descent into chaos? Don’t you realize that the world is your parish and right before your eyes the Spirit of God is doing a new thing?

“Can’t you hear that God’s judgment is upon the land? God is against the thieves that bankrupted our nation. God is against the armies of the Beast who pillage other lands in our name, and turn and destroy our people on our own soil.

“Are you blind? – Perhaps you need a baptism of pepper spray in your eyes to restore your vision.”

And to the police I say this: “There are always the brutal ones in our midst. As colleagues you have the moral responsibility to police your own. If your commanders order you to brutalize your people you have a Higher Command that says, ‘disarm yourself, turn away from your sin, renounce the orders of unrighteousness.’

“And in doing so, cross the line, come over and join us because we are the winning side of history. And we welcome your repentance and heal you of your shame.”

And to the church, beloved church, I say: “You cannot sing the hymns of faith if you are too afraid to live that faith. In Amos it says to silence your sacred assemblies and let JUSTICE burst forth. Our nation, with the nations of the world, are under an assault of tyranny and treason of the 1 percent against Creation itself.

“You may not worship God until and unless you care for the image of God living in those tents and prophesying on your behalf. Once the Powers sweep the Tents away, if you dare to lift your voice even a peep, you too will be swept away.”

But the destiny of the church, the Body of Christ, is not one of quiet passivity and fear, our destiny is to bear witness having no fear of the Cross because even now we have crossed over into resurrection.

A PASTORAL LAMENT FOR MY COUNTRY:

America, America, my country ‘tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty

Of thee I sing

America, oh America

America the Beautiful has fallen.

Rev. Rich Lang is a pastor at University Temple United Methodist Church www.utemple.org. He can be emailed at rich@utemple.org. To watch a video of the pepper spraying, click here.

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16 comments on “Seattle Police Pepper-Spray Pastor

  1. Well, this should reassure you that you’re on the right trail when it comes to following Jesus. Wear it with pride.

    I would hate to be in law enforcement at a time like this. Pepper spray can cause death in young/old/ill/asthmaric people, and can cause damage the cornea. What some of those guys for a living do would make a decent person puke. And, unfortunately, the ones who remain silent are almost as guilty as those who vent their frustrations on protesters or peacemakers.

    “Pray for those who persecute you” is all we can do.

  2. Pingback: Methodist priest pepper sprayed by police just for the H of it « Mercury Rising 鳯女

  3. God bless you Reverend Rich. You’re still my pastor and continue to inspire me with your courage, commitment, and clarity of vision. Speaking of which, I hope your sight has recovered from the attack. I hope to see you out there soon. I think it’s going to be a long struggle.

  4. Christopher Michael on said:

    As just a reader who is following OWS closely but all too sadly is unable to participate I read this and feel compelled to reply(I live in WI and have to hold 2 jobs in order to survive. Other than holidays I have to request off in order to have a day off for myself),I want to say thank you for all you are doing. It truly does mean the world to me, around my area most priests and ministers are against the movement I’ve even heard of a handful of Roman Catholic priests preach against it. Ironically it’s the lawyers and city council who seem to be all for it around here.

  5. I am no fan of organized religion precisely because I see little practice by those who preach and even less by those who people the pews each Sunday. My heartfelt thanks to you for showing by peaceful example, your love for your Lord, who loved the least of us, and your courage to wear the armor of your faith to bring positive change to our floundering country.

  6. Gregory L Kruse on said:

    The police are being cheered on by the power-holders and those who are enamored of the rich. The conversion of the police into a para-military organization protecting the property and persons of the rich and powerful has been deliberatly crafted since 9/11. No group knows better what dire straits we are in, with 7b people on earth and increasing, global temperatures rising, and dignified persuits for common people melting away, than the wealthies 2%. The training of the police is like that in the military, they are convinced that the riff-raff are being treated this way for good reason. If this small demonstration is not effectively suppressed, what will happen if the numbers reach 100,000 or more? In fact they are doing everything they can to assure that the numbers will increase and the discipline will break down and the people will riot. Then they will be justified to bring out the big weapons, of which they have plenty. I propose that the police are so militarized that many of them impatient to use them. At least, judging from the video, some of them are having fun.

  7. I empathize with your outrage, Reverend. However, I think it is unfair to call your fellow clergymen to task for not participating in protests. I especially found it hard to swallow that you used your own suffering, which was cruel, unnecessary, and unjust, as a prod of guilt upon them.

    Turn to them the other cheek. Love those that hate you and despitefully use you. Stand firm in righteousness, and doubt not, fear not, that the Lord will know his own.

    • PeggyforPeace on said:

      I find your response a bit strange. You think that Rev. Lang should just let his fellow Christian ministers remain silent? He is one of the very few who are standing firm against the violence being perpetrated upon the people. He has every right to ask where are the others who say they follow Jesus….

  8. Thank you, Rev. Lang, for standing with the people and for speaking out. You are a true Christian and a model pastor. Thank you.

    Today I learned that the NYPD used the new and very cruel Sound Cannon against the unarmed and peaceful people of Occupy Wall Street. This hideous weapon was invented in CA – are we proud of what our country invents and manufactures? The Sound Cannon has also been purchased and refined by Israel; they are using it against the Palistinians.

  9. Reverend, I applaud your convictions. I’m sure you’re aware that this blessing you’ve received from the police will not go unrewarded, though you probably don’t feel like leaping for joy.

    That said, while Scripture certainly confirms that the 1% are in sin and need to repent, I have a very hard time equating the “99%” with the church. These are by and large people who are fighting for their constitutional rights; that’s an American jurisdiction, not a kingdom one. As believers, we have no rights, only responsibilities; to fight for our Constitutional rights is noble and supporting of the highest law of the land, but it is, indeed, the world and not His kingdom. Certainly we are to obey the law of the land, and in a government “by the people, for the people, and of the people,” that means getting involved, but we cannot equate the American Constitution and our beloved country with the kingdom of God. That was Lot’s approach, and look where that got him! No, Abraham was separate from the world but able AS AN OUTSIDER to influence and assist those in need.

    The church in this country has become focused on our rights, not on putting on the righteousness of Christ, which is interesting considering that in all the world, the church here has the least amount of effect or influence on our culture; 95% OF OUR OWN CHILDREN LEAVE THE CHURCH AFTER HIGH SCHOOL. We are a self-centered and self-serving church, and the Occupy movement is not about repentance but about getting “our fair share of the American pie.” Our Americanism has become an idol that is provoking our God to jealousy.

    God will purify His church. I am convinced it will be through overt persecution.

  10. Here’s an article I wrote that will explain what I mean in more detail:

    http://www.the-reality-check.com/articles/Holy_Life/holy_life.htm

  11. The police in all cities need to remember that they and their husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and so on are the 99%. The 99% pays taxes and pays their salaries. What the 1% contributes to the infrastructure via taxes is a drop in the bucket. Are individual police officers concerned with losing their jobs if they don’t carry out orders to attack their fellow citizens? If it has come to this, the next step in the Occupy movement is to demand that offending police forces be de funded and disbanded and replaced with a citizen protection force. I know that sounds absurd but do we want want thugs “protecting” us when in reality they just want to bust heads because they enjoy it and can’t think for themselves enough to defy insane orders from the top?

  12. Pragmatic Realist on said:

    This story reminds me of another about an unwise and disorderly preacher:

    http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/resources/article/annotated_letter_from_birmingham

  13. You’re living the message of Jesus. You inspire me.

  14. The article is very interesting in light of my Bible study proving the traditional church is fraud based on Rev. 17:5, 18:4. Now if people were to occupy churches and demand the genuine faith of Jesus written up in the Gospels and Revelation 2-3, resulting in the true church of overcomers in Rev. 12:5 being separate from the marginal believers in Rev. 12:6, they may realize the error of material equality based on having all things in common in Acts and find the spiritual equality given by Jesus in Matthew 23 and its practice in getting all material goods directly from God the Father instead of man’s works like Jesus did in turning water into wine and twice feeding thousands from a lunch.

    Such a turn to fix the church first, which is the foundation of America could go far to fix the results of people applying the faith they learn in church to their daily lives on both sides of conflicts in the streets. Police apply their jack booted thuggery learned from Paul’s elders whose very existence violates Jesus the Creator’s words in Matthew 23:8. Occupiers apply the lazy audience or laity attitudes they learn by being on the receiving end instead of producing value for themselves and others. Both groups need to get right with God and the way to do that is to fix church first.

    Here’s a hint on how to fix America and the world starting with church. http://www.congressionalbiblestudy.org

    Love Truth,
    Kirk W. Fraser