Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Rt. Rev. Marc H. Andrus, newly installed Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of California, was arrested today outside the San Francisco Federal Building in a "die-in" protesting the U.S. war on Iraq. Prior to joining in blocking doors, Bishop Marc celebrated the Eucharist in the plaza in remembrance of all the dead in Iraq.
About 200 Episcopalians followed the Bishop in procession from Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill down through the Tenderloin to the Federal Building.
The crowd was heavy on Diocesan staff and clergy, as well as members of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
Longstanding regulars of the weekly Thursday vigil against the so-called "war on terror" welcomed the reinforcements.
Markley Morris, the tireless organizer of the peace protest, greeted the procession.
Bishop Marc's sermon held people's attention...
although not perhaps all in quite the same way.
The elements of the mass, the bread and wine, consisted of pita bread on a tin plate and wine offered from metal canteens.
At the conclusion of the mass, those willing to risk arrest took places in front of building doors, singing softly. Federal police declared them an "unlawful assembly" over a bullhorn.
Arrests were slow and gentle. Here the cops take a Quakers participant in the vigil.
Police removed David Hartsough who works on the Declaration of Peace campaign.
Fr. Louie Vitale, O.F.M., was among those taken away.
Police used "handcuffs" that looked almost as if they were made of heavy shoelaces rather than the usual plastic bands.
Not all the protesters appeared to enjoy the class and clerical privilege that characterized most of those arrested.
When the Bishop's turn came, he seemed almost in his element. More than one member of the Episcopal clergy remarked to me: "we're seeing a new day."
The event was surprisingly moving even to this hard-bitten old political cynic. I've been known to be critical of these carefully choreographed "non-violent" protests, even though I've done my share of them. When we the comfortable get ourselves arrested, we don't risk much; the power of nonviolent action is only really revealed when people who have little or nothing choose to demand, through peaceful demonstrative self-assertion, that they have a right to full humanity.
Seeing Bishop Marc get himself arrested wasn't about that; it couldn't be. But it was about seeing him exemplify through action what he thinks the people and clergy of his diocese ought to be about -- and that is quite a call, even here in Left Coast City.