john’s response to police brutality

My Brush with Brutality & Love

By Rev. John Helmiere

***Author’s note: As my story continues to be read, may we not forget the exploitation of the port truckers and that the kind of violence I experienced is primarily enacted upon people of color.  I appreciate the energy this piece has generated but acknowledge that my social status allows my voice to be amplified.

 Yesterday evening, I was brutally beaten by my brothers on the Seattle Police force as I stood before an entrance to Pier 18 of the Seattle Port in my clergy garb bellowing, “Keep the Peace! Keep the Peace!”  An officer pulled me down from behind and threw me to the asphalt.  Between my cries of pain and shouts of “I’m a man of peace!” he pressed a knee to my spine and immobilized my arms, crushing me against the ground.  With the right side of my face pressed to the street, he repeatedly punched the left side of my face for long enough that I had time to pray that the crunching sounds I heard were not damaging my brain.  I was cuffed and pulled off the ground by a different officer who seemed genuinely appalled when he saw my face and clerical collar. He asked who I was and why I was here, to which I replied, “I’m a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe another world is possible.”  He led me shaking to a police van where I began a 12-hour journey of incarcerated misery.

 How did this happen?

 The afternoon of Monday December 12 began with a march from downtown Seattle to the Port in a coordinated attempt by West Coast Occupy movements to expose exploitation of workers at major Pacific ports, among other reasons.  Upon arrival, the crowd spread out to picket or blockade entrances.  I joined a small group of about 40 to picket a side entrance (we did not stop anyone from walking in or out).  Several hours later, word came that business had been canceled for the day and our group left in high spirits.  My wife, Freddie, and I considered going home after a long, chilly day of standing up for what we believed in, but decided to see if there was an important need we might fill at other locations before departing.

As we neared a major entrance, Pier 18, the tension was almost palpable. Hundreds of people had been occupying the blockaded road for hours while police kept their distance.  But night was falling, mounted officers arrived on the scene, and the police began to maneuver into position and adopt menacing expressions.  Shortly before they advanced on us, I began to feel a great fear ballooning in my chest and seriously considered leaving.  I sensed that the police would be ruthless under the cover of darkness. This fear was particularly strong because although my Christian convictions call me to non-violence, I had only practiced this by intervening in street fights, and never in the face of a militarized force in which some believe they can act with legal and social impunity.  But in my spiritual core, the place where conscience prevails over fear and self-interest, I knew that I could not run away when the situation desperately called for disciplined non-violent voices and presence.

Utterly terrified, I made my way to the line between the occupiers and the police, held my arms out, and began shouting to my occupation brothers and sisters: “Peaceful Protest Everyone,” “Keep the Peace,” “Do not respond with violence.”  My brothers and sisters on the police force began advancing behind a wall of horses and heavy bicycles.  I linked arms with a young man in dark clothing on my left and a gnarled grandfather on my right.  We stood still until the officers approached us and began throwing their bikes into our bodies, shoving us toward the sidewalk.  I stared into the eyes of the most aggressive officer, who was seething, and shouted above the noise, “Why are you causing violence to peaceful people?  Think about your actions! Think about your humanity!”  With an open hand he rammed my throat.  The old man to my right was attacked similarly and reached back with a cocked fist, but I yanked him back.

A few moments later, an officer threw me to the ground and punched me numerous times.  With hands cuffed behind my back, I was led into a police van and caged alone for a half hour.  In the dim light and cramped space, I sang “This Little Light of Mine” and recited Psalm 23 to stave off a gnawing fear.  Eventually, a few more occupiers joined me and we were transported to a holding facility where they split us into pairs and left us in tiny concrete rooms for several hours.   The rooms were voids in every way: windowless, empty (no restroom facilities, no benches), lit with glaring fluorescent bulbs, gray and white.  My void-mate was a terrified kid who had gotten in over his head.  He gave me heart by singing protest songs while I shared some meditation techniques for maintaining self-possession in trying moments.  Eventually we were hauled off to the county jail and had our handcuffs removed after four long hours of immobility.  As I walked through the metal detector at the jail, a fellow occupier I hadn’t spoken with yet looked at me in my collar and said, “You’ve just been baptized.”   They outfitted us in thin cotton jail uniforms, and proceeded to move us from cell to freezing cold cell for the next eight hours without any clear purpose or explanation.  During that time, the adrenaline wore off and my bruises and lacerations began aching intensely.  I asked officers and staff at least six times to see a nurse and was consistently denied that, as well as water and food.  During the final hour a nurse took pity on me and found an ice pack for my face.  Finally, at 5:00am we were released to the street after obligating ourselves to appear before a judge at a future date.

Why was I there in the first place?

First, I participated in the port occupation at the behest of some of the most exploited and underpaid laborers in our city—the men and women who truck containers in and out of the port.  Over the past nine months, the spiritual community that I convene, Valley & Mountain, has stood in solidarity with these drayage workers in their struggle for dignity in the workplace.  We have listened to the truckers’ stories, held a focused study of the issues, attended a Port Commissioners meeting to demand justice from elected officials, and participated in a major rally in support of the workers’ simple requests for access to bathrooms, less toxic trucks, and basic workplace protections (to learn more about their plight, read their open letter in support of the port occupation).  I participated to stand alongside them.

Second, I participated because I have witnessed overwhelming evidence that the economic and political systems of my country stand against those people who the God I worship stands for.  My conception of God, inadequate as it may be, is better described as the Love that generates creativity and community, than as a super-man judging us from a heavenly skybox.  Such a God cannot be exclusively claimed by a political party, a religion, or even a movement like Occupy.   Such a Love contrasts with everything that reserves power, dignity, wealth, and the status of full humanity for some while depriving it from others.  My commitment to Love requires me to challenge the increasing consolidation of all these good things in the hands of a few, and to collaborate for the creation of something that Love would recognize as kin.

A call to transformation

Here is what I am asking of anyone who will hear it:

· Listen deeply.

· Get upset.

· Generate Love.

By listening deeply, I mean allowing the experiences of others to alter your own worldview.  It might mean allowing my story to challenge assumptions you may have about the reliability of police discipline or mainstream media impartiality (reports of the activity by The Seattle Times, for example, are significantly skewed thus far).  It may mean allowing the stories of exploited people, like the port truckers, to challenge your assumptions about the American narrative of equal opportunity.  Whatever it means, it will require humility and intentional encounters with those you tend to avoid.

By getting upset, I mean being appalled at the dehumanizing forces operating in our world—forces unveiled by deep listening.  Nothing changes just because you become aware that port truckers have to defecate in plastic bags because their unjust classification as “independent contractors” bars them from using the employee bathrooms.  Nothing changes just because you know that some cities have police cultures that encourage brutality, particularly against people of color.  We must have the tenderness of heart to become upset when human beings are violated and oppressed.

By generating love, I mean channeling that passion into creative and liberating action.  There are so many excuses to avoid it: “The issues are so complex,” “There are two sides to everything,” “I don’t want to alienate anyone and lose a chance at making an impact later.”  But as the great preacher/activist William Sloane Coffin once said, “Not taking sides is effectively to weigh in on the side of the stronger.”  As finite creatures, we cannot fight every worthy battle.  But refusing to participate in any struggle for a more loving world is a rejection of even our very finite power.  Right now I am praying for the courage to transform the molecules of my anger and the raw material of my frustration into the greatest, most indestructible, most transformative power on earth: unconditional love in action.

182 Responses to john’s response to police brutality

  1. canaanumc says:

    John (and Freddie): Thank you. We are holding you in the light out here.

  2. Thank you, John, for showing us what it looks like to put deeds above creeds and for living the gospel rather than just preaching it. My prayers are with you and I will be sure to share your story and your message with everyone I can. This, perhaps, gives us all tiny taste of what it felt like to be a Jew in Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago….

    I look forward to working with you and standing with you to face down this corporate oppression and to shine a light in the dark places around us as well as within us. May the Advent season remind us of the new life waiting to be born in the dead of winter….

    • Mary De Leon says:

      My challenge each day is to “walk the talk”. You and and your fellow protestors are testament that we can do it. Your strength came from above and you’ve open your arms to the challlenge! You’ve have reached many of us who weren’t there and have awaken those of us who aren’t aware of how the darkness of evil tries to prevail—but dosen’t and won’t!!! Your experiance, your voice has reached many…Our Father will take care of us in this struggle. More so we must pray that our “public servants” regain their humanity and remember that they were baptized and became brothers in baptism. Walk through the storme and hold on to our Lord’s hand.

  3. Pingback: John is beaten by Seattle Police, and a commitment to nonviolent action – justinh.org

  4. lareding1 says:

    You are one of the inspirer’s that will take us into the light. Thank you and godspeed.

  5. rayburnblog says:

    Bro. John,
    I found your blog post through a Facebook posting from Ruth Laney Vaughan. Ruth is the daughter of my college roommate and best friend Billy. I have known her since birth and recognize the depth of her convictions to peace and a Godly life, convictions she learned from her father.Obviously, you too share those deep spiritual commitments. Thank you for your actions. Thank you for your blog. Thank you for your call to loving action. I promise you I will take the call to heart.

    I left the Methodist church — the church I grew up in — some nine years ago. I now attend a Mennonite church, drawn by their dedication to peace and justice. I will share your blog post with my congregation as well as with my FB friends. You give me hope not only for my still beloved Methodist church but also for our hurting world.

    I will hold you up in prayer. Peace be with you.

  6. Thank you for your witness and words. The brutality I face is less phyiscal but it is delivered through the hands and silence of my bishop, Assistant to the Bishop, colleagues and good United Methodists who believe it is o.k. to
    abuse me because I shared my truth ad a transgender person. Violence and brutality come in many forms. I am sorry fot what happened to you and those you were with. I pray for your complete healing.

    • Angela Smith says:

      Sorry people are so mean…keep expressing your beauty however you wish, some of us love regardless…blessings from NZ..

    • sozmore says:

      So sorry you have to endure brutality at the hands of the church. I will keep you in my prayers, that people will extend to you the love and grace that God extends to all of us.

    • Lura says:

      Rev. Weekley-
      You are, like the writer of this article, one of those whose stands inspire us all. I wish I could shield you from the blows you receive, but instead I give thanks for your courage, and pray for your healing. You don’t know me, but I, along with my Lutheran colleagues, and many ecumenical colleagues, pray for you regularly.

  7. Kmbris says:

    Oh John, thank you for you words, your courage, your example! You are a bright shining light, peace and love, peace and love indeed!

  8. Gina Paigen says:

    Dear John,
    Your description that God is “the Love that generates creativity and community”, is deeply moving, and speaks to a universal truth, however we each choose to manifest that love.. Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. kerry mccune says:

    amazing…a real christian….better be carful ,organized christians will want to assasinate you

  10. Rebecca Dare says:

    John, I don’t know you but thank you for your letter, your witness, and your heart!

  11. Judith Rinehart-Nelsin says:

    Thank you for your post. We need to hear the truth, because it will set us free. I am the pastor of Zion Philadelphia UCC in Ritzville. It is hard to think of you and others going through what you did. So often the work we do for justice goes unnoticed. Hang in there in the fight for what is right. Blessings to you and yours, Judith

  12. Brian Harrison says:

    It’s hard for me to gauge where I stand on this issue, especially when I have an internal conflict happening right now. I have a lot of resentments against the idea of God, and have my own issues with police. But there seem to be two major issues at hand in this narrative: the first is that the corporate structure of America is greed-based as opposed to the “liberty and justice for all” model, and the second is that the police actions taken go against your personal beliefs.

    I’ll preface the remainder of my response by saying that I am a drug addict in recovery. I have been abstinent of all chemicals (save nicotine and caffeine) for going on 7 months now. This may not seem applicable to the situation, but what it gives me is a fair amount of insight as to not only the types of people that police have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but what their responses are. I used to be a driver for a drug dealer shortly after he had been released from a 3 year prison sentence in Shelton, and it’s a tense situation every time you see a police officer. Driving on I-5 and seeing a squad car behind us when we had an illegal and unregistered pistol with us, enough heroin in the trunk to put down a rhino, and enough methamphetamine in our systems to keep us awake for a week, we were naturally tense. It puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, and were we to be pulled over, the tension would have been almost visible. Police encounter dangerous people like this every day, and have little tolerance to those who are not compliant.

    The above may seem inapplicable to the scenario that you shared about, but it’s really not so different. Seattle has had a long history of police misconduct, and in a more general sense, the population tends to be weary of police. In 2009, on a national level, 382 civilian fatalities were linked to police misconduct and over $347 million was spent in settlements due to police misconduct. This boils down to two key components: a) with a history of Seattle riots and the degree of public outcry against SPD, the police are weary and worn down when it comes to large protests and b) much of the public, especially in a protest setting, do not trust the police.

    Many protests start as peaceful, and the basis is to convey a political message. The problem is that there is a recurring theme of an outbreak of violence once the crowd is told what to do by law enforcement. All it takes is one individual (police or protestor) to upset the peaceful aspect of the protest for a mob mentality (on both sides) to be begin. Personally, I would not have joined the crowd. I believe that while the Occupy movement effectively conveys a message, it hurts the 99% more than the 1%. I also know that if I join the crowd and things start getting hairy, I am subject to arrest. The treatment you received at the holding facility was not illegal, although it was inhumane.

    But, of course, the issue of the truck drivers has yet to be addressed. My belief is that the Occupy movement brings attention to the inequality of our corporate system, but what ended up happening was that the day became more about civil disobedience, Occupy, and police misconduct than actually addressing the abhorrent working conditions of these truck drivers. In the end, the original issue was not addressed because the more “news-worthy” incident was that there was police brutality against an unruly Occupy crowd. What was accomplished by this protest? In truth, it seems that there was Occupy news attention, a bloodied man of faith, and protestors arrested while the truck drivers got a day off of work.

    • Myles says:

      Thanks for the eye-opening perspective and thoughtful question.

    • Diana says:

      Thank you for this thoughtful reflection. Everything here, from the original post, to other offerings, such as yours, give much pause for listening deeply and hopefully, wise action.

    • Stephanie says:

      nicely put. and good luck with your on-going recovery.

    • Frankie says:

      I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful reply to the original post. While it is extremely dangerous, as Rev. Helmiere pointed out, to not take action because one is worried about the other side of an issue, I think it also important to consider context. The context of the SPD does not justify their actions, but it does explain and help someone not in the Seattle area understand. Also weighing actions and the results, as you have so beautifully in your reply, is important in considering the path forward. Not to give up the fight, but to make sure the issue being fought for, in this instance the truck drivers, stays the focal point. Both you and Rev. Helmiere have given me a lot to think and pray over this evening.

  13. Nora Morales says:

    Sad n incredible

  14. Christy Riley says:

    Thanks man!! As a native seattleite I’m appalled by this. I will be hearing ur post to local friends and fAmily

  15. Rev. Chava Redonnet says:

    Oscar Romero said, “the church that does not unite itself with the poor in order to condemn from the place of the poor the injustice that is committed against them, cannot truly call itself the church of Jesus Christ.” He also said that when we do that, we will suffer the same fate as the poor.
    You’re doing it, brother. Courage and faith and gratitude and awe to you

  16. Rich Lang says:

    Captain Tag Gleason of the Seattle Police Department is the head of the Office of Professional Accountability, Ethics and Professional Responsibility. He can be reached at 206-684-8798 or tag.gleason@seattle.gov

    Although it is true that the SPD will protect its own, nevertheless it is still a good exercise to protest the evolution of our police department into a paramilitary department of thugs. This is the second, targeted assault on clergy by the Bike Patrol in less than a month. If they do it to clergy, what do you think they will do to you if you find yourself, one day, in an act of patriotic public dissent? What America do you want?

    • Tom Pouliot says:

      Thanks Rich. I have written Captain Gleason and Mayor McGinn and demanded a full accounting of the action of the police. I don’t expect a reply, but I also know what reply would be forthcoming if I didn’t write. We all need to make our voices heard.

  17. Karyn says:

    thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on this experience. I am so sorry this happened to you. As a pastor, and a retired cop, I would just like to add one thing. I doubt the police officers involved believe they can act with legal and social impunity. Police, if anything, are hypervigilant and well aware of the media, the courts, and of the criticisms leveled against them. When they react with excessive force, as seems to be the case here, it usually stems from their own, fear, exhaustion that comes from working long hours on their feet, sometimes hunger and thirst (police working crowd control don’t always get meal breaks) and perhaps frustration from being given orders to do things they don’t necessarily like (like maybe arrest you?) on one end and hearing the taunts coming from protestors who, unlike you, don’t think of them as beloved brothers and sisters. In such a situation, asking them to remember their humanity probably comes across as judgment and condescention on your part, even though I am sure that’s not at all where you were coming from. I say this, not to justify brutality, just to maybe be of some small help. Again, I am sorry this happened to you.

  18. Stacia G says:

    ” When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.” ~John Lennon

  19. Very interesting piece – thank you for making the effort to communicate it.

    I am a little mystified by a thought inherent to the Occupy protests; you say, “Why are you causing violence to peaceful people? Think about your actions! Think about your humanity!” It seems to me that the Occupy movement thinks there is “no violence” done by them just because they do not attempt to touch a person. But I think there is still something about their use of “force” that needs to be addressed, and I think they can be viewed as “forcing themselves” upon others in some of their actions. “Picketing” seems much different than “blockading”, in this regard. Where does the “right” to force oneself on others become wrong? And when does it become proper to respond to the force of the protesters with force? What would make one use of force “violent” and the other not?

    • J. says:

      Do you think that passive resistance as taught by Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy and the Reverend Martin Luther King results in one group imposing themselves on others? When Black Southerners sat at White lunch counters and refused to move were they “forcing themselves on others? When a picket line is formed during a labor strike are the strikers imposing themselves on others?

      When Christ drove the money lenders from the temple did He impose Himself on others?

      • Love4ourHumans says:

        Amen!

      • “Imposing” seems to me an entirely different thing than “forcing” – “forcing”, to me, has a physical component. Pickets on strike impose their message on others, but it does not seem like they are using force until they step off the curb and physically blockade the legitimate free movement of other individuals. My point was NOT that the use of force is never legitimate, even if in some instances it may be illegal according to the law of the land (ie: the example given of Christ driving out the money changers, or Rosa Parks sitting in the “wrong place” on a bus) – it may very well be legitimate. But, that DOES NOT necessarily mean that it is PEACEFUL, which is what some are claiming for the Occupy movement. Blockading, occupying unlawfully, and forcing (again, not the same as imposing) are NOT INTENDED to “keep the peace”, and protesting would probably be completely ineffective if they were, and I think that is a false assertion to say they are and that any response is not called for.

  20. Kate Layzer says:

    Dear John,
    Thank you so much for what you have written here. Your words are salt and light for Christians like me, who feel called into this “rising up” which is Occupy. Thank you for your honesty, your love, and your willingness to stay present to the Spirit as best you could in the midst of terror and pain. I am honored to walk with you.
    Rev. Kate Layzer, Waltham, MA

  21. Jessica says:

    Thank you for your well considered words, strength, and compassion.

  22. brettfish says:

    wow. thanks for sharing john. hectic stuff. keep on…

  23. John, so gad to see that you are mostly OK. Thanks for being a voice for another way to respond to violence other than – more violence. I have been trying to figure out a way to get the stories of those people who are most affected by the situation OWS is directly protesting against, but who would never raise a fuss, and suffer silently in the face of injustice, out for the community to see. I have been working under the idea that Kindness is saving someone from drowning who has fallen in the river, Justice is going up stream and rerouting traffic off of the bridge that continues to plung cars and buses into the river in the first place!

  24. Alexandra says:

    Hi, John,
    I returned in August to the US after 19 years in Europe and was horrified at the inequality and the fatalistic acceptance of the status quo. It has been wonderful to be able to act as an observer at the Occupy Movement. And wonderful to read about other people’s experiences.
    I find people talk a lot here (compared to other countries) but may not be listened to. I like your listening approach.

  25. Stella H. says:

    Do not, please, give up the service of God, in spite of all dangers, all criticisms, and all discomforts. Do not be disappointed, for most people in the world do not serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead; do not give up your own devotional service, which is your everything and all. The Lord is pleased by your actions.

  26. E. says:

    Thank you. Wise and brave words we all need to hear, especially in these times when action is required of anyone who loves justice and values humanity.

  27. “Right now I am praying for the courage to transform the molecules of my anger and the raw material of my frustration into the greatest, most indestructible, most transformative power on earth: unconditional love in action.”

    • implacablepatriot says:

      meghan,
      Thank you. I pray with you for the both of us, and all who struggle to maintain love in the face of such hatred and violence.
      judith

  28. NFH says:

    Dear Pastor John, I will join you in your prayer and hope to follow your example of standing with the “least of these.” Thank you for speaking and acting out peacefully and in love. God’s blessings.

  29. KATHYA ALEXANDER says:

    Pastor John, Remember I told you that I’m studying Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech? I’m struck by its relevance to what’s going on today. I hope his words offer you some encouragement. You are my hero!

    All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand… Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”
    And I want to commend the preachers… I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.
    It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

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  31. Joy Estill says:

    Kelle Rose is a coworker of mine who shared your ordeal. Let us Pray.

  32. Mike McCormick says:

    Thanks for walking the walk John.

  33. jon says:

    As an “employee”, I would preffer that the non union “independant truckers” organise, and negotiate a contract. they are not blocked from using the faciliteies once inside the terminals, and there were portable cans outside that were a disgrace to humanity,” I TRIED TO USE THEM AND WAS DISGUSTED BY THE WAY THEY WERE TREATED BY THE “INDEPENDANT TRUCKERS”

  34. Karen Beck says:

    God loves you to pieces. I don’t know you, but so do I.
    My prayers are with you and you have earned a special spot in my heart today.

    I am an activist and a theologian, a teacher and writer. A daughter, a sister and a friend,

    I pray for the troops,, the police, the clergy, the protesters with equal Christian zeal and with Buddhist equanimity, as an avowed double-belonger.

    You are a special man. I am grateful you survived this horrible ordeal.

    Go with God, continue in peace….

    Karen

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  36. My prayers are with you for healing and strength, with those who stood behside you (and you them), and prayers of thanksgiving for your witness and ministry. May the peace only God can bring be with us all. Christ is coming. G

  37. John Browne says:

    My head and my heart are with you, Reverend… 100%. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WILLING PRESENCE at this confrontation. I cannot apologize for the actions of the police. Only they can do that… and, until they do, I feel that I may legitimately hold them in (even more) contempt, as “officers of the law”, without denigrating their humanity.

    I’m going to post your essay here to my Facebook page (where I have already posted the letter from the as-yet-unionless “independent” drivers- serfs on wheels. I will look forward to any progress made on their behalf that may come about. I worked on the docks in Seattle in 1968-69, when dozens of us were fired for our unwillingness to load napalm at Pier 90. I am still hopeful at Any sign of progress in general around these issues of behaving like reasonable human beings. ^..^

  38. It is an outrage that someone would attack a man of peace. I am loosing all respect for the people that are supposed to keep us safe. No longer are the streets safe while the hooligan actions of the police focus on the wrong people. However, I do not entirely blame the police for their actions. I blame those who send the police and those who dictate what is considered the “correct” response to the actions of peaceful protesters. We can make a difference contact the officials in your area and ask them why it is all right to attack these people. I appreciate that you, John, had not only the courage to stand up to the police, but the good sense to document it in such a public way. Peace and love to you all, and stand up to the bullies as best you can without inciting violence. It is up to all of us to end the violence. I’m just a little voice from Occupy Nanaimo, but we stand with you and keep strong all of you. :D

    • What makes these protesters “peaceful”, when they forcibly take actions (occuping, blockading, etc) in places that do not belong to them? Are they still “peaceful” if it is your personal space or home perhaps that they wish to occupy, without your permission of course?

  39. Judy Mastick says:

    I read your letter with tears……and a lump in my throat. I pray you physical and emotional wounds heal quickly and that love prevails. You are so on the right track. God’s love is the answer and we have to speak up, weigh in on the side of “right”, and let our voices be heard.
    Judy

  40. Deb Conklin says:

    John, Thank you for your courageous witness. I have the gift of walking with protestors in a city where the police have, so far, respected the rights of protestors to witness and speak out. On Monday night we were moving back and forth between a “Let Them Eat Cake” protest rally and city council chambers where our city council unanimously approved a resolution supporting Occupy Spokane. Ironically, it was modeled on the resolution that Seattle’s City Council adopted in November. I just hope and pray that we don’t see the kind of discrepancy between the words of the council and the actions of the police that Seattle is experiencing. Sending healing prayers for your body and your soul. Deb

  41. Thank you for the writeup, John. You exemplify what a Christian should live like, especially in trying times.

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  43. Sue Ablao says:

    A very real example of nonviolent resistence to the evil of violence. Thank you, John and all the others in nonviolent resistence here and around the world. In this season we remember the birth of the “Prince of Peace”, the nonviolent Jesus who gave his life in resistence to the empire in the name of his God.

  44. John,

    Your response to this is amazing, heart-warming, and encouraging. I can’t imagine anyone WANTING to get beaten. Your instruction to listen deeply, get upset, and generate love is profoundly in line with so many of the great non-violent activists (MLK, Jr., Mohandis Ghandi, Bishop Oscar Romero). Thank you for sharing your story so we can all share in getting upset and finding ways to generate love from our anger and frustration to change the systems that resist change for common good in order to protect the select few.

    Peace and blessings on your ministry, your journey, and your Call.

    Eric

  45. Anne says:

    Thank you.

  46. Crista Hope says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you!

  47. Peter Money says:

    Thank you, John. Your “Valley & Mountain” resonates, particularly where offering a voice to the powerless is concerned (here we have just read Grace Paley, her poem “Responsibility”). And here, too, I have a version of lows and highs in “Harbor Mountain” (the name of the press I direct that published Robert Nichols’ poems for demonstrators, Address To The Smaller Animals).

    I have posted a comment & link to your words at http://www.twitter.com/poetpetermoney

    I especially appreciate your suggestion: Listen deeply, get upset, generate love. Here’s how I see the “Ah!” of occupying: a seed of voice from the OMMMM [of meditative breath & consciousness]. . .: AH (listen,) Q (Question. . .) Pie (share. Share the pie.) AH Q Pie.
    –I think we share a horizon, all variety.

    “No more nostalgia. My country is everywhere.” –Saadi Youssef
    “Candor ends paranoia.” –Allen Ginsberg

  48. Brian Dotson says:

    I’m so terribly sorry this happened to you. I am not clergy, but I am a spiritual provider.

    My prayers to you and that your healing goes well. I agree with the things you support, truly. I value the “right to assemble”. The police are in fear of things that have happened to cops in recent past and the mobs created in the “Arab” spring. I pray for peace for them.

    Recently I spent a great deal of energy to simply offer hugs and peace in Seattle. I had 50 people commit, and 5 show up. My problem is this: Americans in this case are more drawn to even passive marches and assemblys as long as they have something negative to say about something. I am anti big corporate, anti (anti labor) and the whole occupy movement, but I try to promote a pure love event and ZIP.

    This saddens me. I’m no hippie, but what don’t people get about true peace, and love for one another?

    I can’t go to rallys, or even union meetings anymore because the low energy of hate is so pervasive I just want to cry.

    Thank you for your work with God. I hope you don’t scoff at people like me as the preacher on the opposite corner did last Saturday as I was giving free hugs. But consiser the tact that people like me are trying to take.

    Mind you I don’t fear violence, I am a high level Kung Fu practitioner. I prefer to send love to everyone even still.

    Sorry about your bad day.

    Brian

    Hugs westlake
    http://www.youtube.com

  49. Bernie Meyer says:

    John, This story, your experiences and your loving actions, is true to Jesus teaching and example. Harrowing and outrageous as it is, you rose to the occasion. I am truly amazed and edified. Jesus went among those most unwanted and oppressed as you did. Jesus truned the other cheek, an act of nonviolent resistance if correctly understood. You locked arms and kept your head.

    The system run by vested powers is coming down on the rightful reaction of the growing oppression in this country. The cop who beat and abused you was most likely acting on his training and instructions. If we knew his personal history, I would wager their was abuse which he experienced and he, most likely, was transferring it on you.

    Take care of yourself. Be sure to heed your own trauma.

    Peace.

  50. Mike Izbicki says:

    Touching story. Thanks for your commitment to nonviolence.

    My question is: do you feel that you can be a more effective witness for Christ in scenes like this because you’re an ordained minister? Do people listen to you more when you encourage them to be nonviolent? Based on your description of the police officer’s response when he saw your condition, he was especially appalled at the treatment you received because you were explicitly a man of god.

    Do you see a difference in your role and mine (as a layman)?

    Thanks again.

  51. Michele says:

    Thank you, John, for sharing your experience and for your clear words of exhortation!

  52. Chris Hoke says:

    Wow, man. I don’t know you, but thank you so much for sharing this experience, writing it up, and so well. My friend Jonathan Knutzen passed it to me via facebook. I am a jail chaplain in the Skagit Valley, and normally work with gang members and violent offenders. I share the conviction that “another world is possible.” Thanks for your courage and witness.
    Chris Hoke

  53. Rachel says:

    I felt great joy to read that you listened from within and decided to stay. Glory to God that you were able to stand and bring Jesus’ consciousness to the situation. May peace and forgiveness wash your heart as you move forward.

  54. Keith says:

    John first I am sorry to see you got hurt. Your account says nothing about being directed to disperse by the police. If the police gave you an order to move the prudent thing would be to move. I am amazed that the Police would attack you without any provocation from your group. In the past they have givin warnings to move or be arrested. Usually they give lots of warnings. So did the police give you warnings that you decided not to heed? I have read a couple other accounts and some of those say the Police with assaulted first. I just think that part of your story is incomplete.

    Once again I am sorry that you were injured. I hope you find peace and healing in Christ

  55. Laurel Kearns says:

    Thank you for your courage and witness. It had me crying, both the brutality and inhumanity of our security forces, empathy with the fear and pain you felt, and gratitude for such prophetic stand.

  56. CalmApparatus says:

    Thank you Mr. Helmiere. Your efforts are appreciated and acknowledged. Not only are you a passionate man of the cloth, but a bringer of peace as well. The movement is so much more with you in it, and furthermore the country at large. Cheers and Solidarity to you.

  57. John:
    I came across your post via a friend’s (Chelsea Globe) FB page. Thank you for being an incarnation of the Incarnation of God’s love, justice, truth, and love. Thank you for being a peacemaker amidst the injustice and violence. Thank you for your passionate and rational writing about you experience. May your experience inspire others to action. May the Spirit, “stir up” in us, in these season of Advent, to continue to be the voice of the one crying in the wildernesses of our age. My prayers are with you and your faith community, I hope that the next time I am in Seattle, I can visit your place.
    Peace, Rev. Martin W. Eldred, Joy Lutheran Church, Eagle River, Alaska

  58. Edward Goode says:

    How can a civilized enterprise require workers to defecate into plastic bags?

  59. David Nagler says:

    Thank you for your faithful witness and for sharing your story.

  60. Beth Tjoflat says:

    Thank you, John. Be strong and let your heart take courage, my truth-telling friend…

  61. Greg Reed says:

    Grace and Peace to you brother

  62. Elizabeth Katy Brant says:

    John,
    I don’t know you but I’m grateful for your courage in the face of fear. And thank you for writing about this with such calm and clarity. You give us all hope.

  63. Pingback: Rev. John Helmiere, Seattle Priest: Police Kept Punching Me and Punching Me | My Blog

  64. Mike Peake says:

    Peace and love from Los Angeles.

  65. uhospaghetto says:

    Why did you lock arms? Everything I read says that locking arms is perceived by police as a sign of aggression. Additionally it sounds like you were blocking an entrance to a building. Why would you block an entrance to a building? What would you do if a couple hundred people not of your faith decided to block the entrance to your church? Wouldn’t you call on the police to break it up so that you can go about your business of freedom of expression. Think about what your doing in a protest before you do it. Understand the laws and the perception of the “Brothers and sisters in blue” as you so eloquently put it, before you go breaking laws. Please don’t misunderstand this statement as a sign of not supporting protesting, just ensure that you follow local law when you go and do it.

  66. Pete Zimm says:

    I emailed that tag.gleason email above.

    I encourage others to do so. 206-684-8798 or tag.gleason@seattle.gov

  67. natalie dyer says:

    Hempy you look rough…I am proud to say I know you!

  68. Angela Smith says:

    Thank you for this beautiful inspiration. I am truly sorry you suffered violence in this way…you are a true hero who even though fear was present, you overcame that & displayed the love for your fellow man. I posted this on my facebook & I send you love & gratitude from NZ…bless

  69. Rev. Kelly Dahlman-Oeth says:

    Thank you, my brother. Thank you for your witness, your courage and passion. The war in my own heart wages on, as I seek to oppose the violence without dehumanizing our brothers and sisters wearing uniforms.

    May God grant me the courage to stand with the poor.
    May God grant me the grace to love the enemy.

  70. Mark Tong says:

    Dear John,
    I received a link to this posting from the family of my brother Jonathan who you know. I am sadly shocked though not surprised to read of your experience, if you take my meaning. Thank you for writing about this. I found this to be truly heart-felt and inspiring. You speak movingly of acting on your calling in the face of fear and real danger. I hope you continue to be a source of inspiration to everyone you meet.

    Mark

  71. samtzu says:

    Blessings to you…. and don’t be discouraged by the pain in your body or your spirit… it all vanishes and is replaced by Joy…. and you can have my mantra if you want it….Life Is Good!!!…. it always makes me smile and laugh….

  72. charrion says:

    I confess that I am an atheist. However, if I were to believe in a God, I would choose yours to believe in Mr. Helmiere. I am at once sickened by your story, sickened at the thought of people who have sworn to protect the citizens (sworn to God, no less) visiting such physical and spiritual violence at peaceful protestors. I am also heartened to see people like you and those with whom you stood who refused to lower themselves to the level of those barbarian police officers.

    The thing that impresses me most about the Occupy movement is its steadfast resolve to remain peaceful despite frustration, despite violence from the establishment, despite being painted as hippies and hooligans by the so-called ‘unbiased’ media.

    Keep hope alive,

  73. Melissa Farber says:

    There is no way I could not take up your challenge to listen deeply, get upset and generate love after reading this post. Your story reminded me of those of the prisoners of conscience in farway lands for whom I would write letters 25+ years ago. No one, here, there, anywhere, should ever experience the fear you felt. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Thank you so much for this post.

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  75. You are an inspiration….thank goodness there is an unbiased way for your story to be communicated.

  76. Jonny Lee says:

    John I am deeply saddened but what has taken place, but I am greatly honored to know such a man of God as yourself.

  77. Scott says:

    I’m an atheist and I’m touched by your courage and commitment. Although I’ve chosen a path of non-spirituality, your story reminds me that people of faith can be respected as individuals. Thank you for your service to what’s right.

  78. Anne says:

    I live near Portland and read this from a link provided by Pastor James Murphy of Ridgefield United Methodist in his newsletter to congregants and friends. Your letter shook me and moved me… enough that I took some immediate action in letting others know about this, both privately and publicly. I had been blissfully unaware of the plight or the port truckers, but now I’ll continue to be involved on some level. The focus and activities in your fellowship resonate with me and give me hope! My prayers are for your recovery and continued belief in grace, as well as with the port truckers.

  79. Brenda says:

    I am deeply saddened that police have the rightto attack persons unprovoked, especially the elderly and clergy. We have no law protecting clergy? We have a revolution here, undercovering the true nature of what pur government has become….

    • Another Christian says:

      Brenda, what makes you think they were “unprovoked”? The whole purpose of the Occupy movement is to provoke. Try to imagine being one of those police officers, whose job it is to clear the blockade so that regular people can go to work and get paid. I’m not talking about the rich executives the Occupy movement hates so much (who are also our “brothers and sisters”) but people who are just trying to do their jobs, earn a living….you know, the 99%. Think, don’t just react emotionally. We are not suffering from a lack of passion here, but a lack of thoughtfulness. Don’t contribute to that.

  80. Deanna Mihaly says:

    Thank you for this.

  81. Mariana Markova says:

    Thank you for sharing this story!

  82. Thank you for courageously bearing witness, John.

  83. Steve says:

    Your actions and your words inspire me, brother. Jesus, Gandhi, King, Romero – all are smiling and proud of you. The snowball is rolling downhill, and brutality merely accelerates it.

  84. Liz Blum says:

    Dear John,

    I am glad that This Little Light of Mine helped carry you through. The civil rights workers in SNCC in the South in the 60′s used to sing lots of freedom songs all day and night when they were in jail and demonstrating. Thank you for standing with the workers. That is what will make Occupy work and continue.
    Here in Vermont we are working with the threatened Postal workers. All the same struggle.
    Heal well and may the light continue to shine on you.

    Liz

    • Well, Liz, what you have expressed is one of the faults in the Occupy movement, and that is that people generalize what the movement is about to include a whole lot of different sorts of things, whereas the point of commonality is really a feeling of frustration with the way things are. The “…threatened Postal workers…” struggle is more about maintaining the status quo, whereas the Occupy movement is about changing the status quo, IMHO. The point of commonality is frustration, but a movement needs more focus than that to succeed.

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  86. Duane says:

    Thank you for your witness. I am honored to be a brother in Christ.

  87. Andy says:

    Thank you brother, for your courage, values and suffering.

  88. Charles says:

    I’m an atheist, but thank you for your love and your witness.

  89. Delfin says:

    John thank you for your example of true solidarity and witness…this is tragic and beautiful. I am very sorry about your experience and am inspired by your grace, courage, and faith. You are amazing

  90. Liz says:

    Over the years my faith had been continuously in a rocky state and I am finally coming back to my true beliefs….it is because of the desensitized humans I have had the unpleasure of coming into contact with that had caused my faith to shake although throughout it all I have maintained my morals and sense of compassion for others. My father was a police officer for over twenty-five years and far from perfection he would have never treated anyone the way you were treated….I’m incredibly sorry and heartbroken for what you had to endure physically and more importantly mentally. I will be praying for your body to heal and your mind to be put at ease…it is a ridiculously sad world when a simple thing like power placed in the wrong set of hands can destroy someones passions and convictions as it did mine.

  91. Pingback: Minister says he was beaten by police during Occupy protests | | American People's PlatformAmerican People's Platform

  92. Mr Klaatu52 says:

    Thank you my Brother for your testimony. I didn’t see this happen, though i saw several taken down by Police and heard someone yelling “Why are you hitting him? Stop hitting him!” I was busy holding the line with others against horses, bicycles, stun grenades and pepper spray. I left the evening stronger and with more conviction that i am on the right side of history. Your story only makes that feeling stronger. Peace on Earth…. Please.

  93. sorumandrea@yahoo.com says:

    This was an inspiring story and I will meditate on your words: listen, get upset, generate love. Beautiful!

  94. dahni says:

    Dear John,

    God told you at least twice NOT to be there. No excuse for the police acting the way they did. Peace is undisturbed believing. Sorry to burst your martyr for Jesus bubble, but Jesus Christ paid the price so that you did not have to suffer this. Many believe in God, few actually believe God. I mean no disrespect. The Apostle Paul did not always listen to God either. No matter what, God Bless you, God Loves you and you are still the best!

    Dahni

    • Paul Fleck (@PaulAndrewFleck) says:

      Dahni- The police and powers that be are not God. You are placing your faith in institutions rather than the God who calls us to act with justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

  95. Thanks for allowing your life to be a sermon. I hope you have many more to tell.

  96. Holly DeWitt says:

    John,

    I was steered here by Amara Monillas, my cousin. I am so thankful I was able to read of your experience. How beautifully and eloquently written! You are an amazing example of what true, Godly love is and I am grateful for the chance to experience it through your words. Thank you for the challenge and I will pray for your continued healing, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  97. Rebecca D says:

    Just read your story. Well done.
    Peace be with you.

  98. Vincent Nance says:

    Even atheists believe in love. You’re a hero, Brother.

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  100. EvilMomLady says:

    John – I am pleased that you took the time to write your story. I don’t know what good it’ll do, but the more people hear about the militarization of the cops, well, the more will know. I’d like to think this will make people angry enough to insist on change, but I fear instead it will simply normalize people to this new state of things.

    @Karyn – I seriously doubt the police are “hypervigilant.” Unless it’s for a well-placed cell phone camera. A badge is a small piece of…some shiny stuff…possibly metal, but more likely these days to be chinese manufactured plastic – & it’s carte blanche to do what the heck you like. If someone sues you, you get the protection of the force, paid leave, & city-paid lawyers to screw up your victim’s life for years. Look at the CA guy who went viral with his casual spraying of sitting students. If I sprayed chemicals in people’s faces, would I be in jail now? Yes. Is he? No. Not nearly. Yet how could anyone see that – them sitting there, him harming them, & have any thing but the most utter disdain for that pathetic little adage – “to protect & serve.” I have a friend who talked her way out of being raped by a cop on a lonely country road. Would anyone ever have believed her compliant? Please….they do exactly as they choose.

    @those who are saying things like, “how could you link arms, don’t you know that’s aggression”? These are cops. What ISN’T aggression? Look funny at a cop & he’ll ruin you just for fun. the police force is where schoolyard bullies go when they grow up, once they realize they get to do all the same stuff as before, only this time with insurance & paid holidays. So that is a NON-violent protest? If you can’t sit? Can’t stand in one place? Can’t attach yourself to another to make a non-permanent wall? What else is left?

    @ John – I am a skeptic but I will say your lite mention of religion, combined with your strong actions go a long way to elevate you in my eyes. There are plenty of people out there who insist they are good christians with a direct line to god, yet they are petty & mean & judgmental. Those kind of people give a lot of ammo to the secular community. You are actually doing something. Most people don’t. Nothing must jeopardize their easy lives, & good access to deals at walmart.

    Regrettably, I don’t think people will really take any strong action until life is MUCH worse. As long as people have things, they have things to lose. when we lose internet, when the stores ration food, when people are being disappeared & you never know when it’s your turn, then people will become desperate enough to act. Until then – I’m sure there’s a Kardashian update to pass the time.

  101. I hope you plan to file charges against the officers who beat you. Things don’t change if officers do not suffer repercussions for their actions. Thanks so much for all your wonderful work. In solidarity!

  102. Stephen Peterson says:

    Thank you for your love and sacrifice John. You’ve informed and inspired many people so your efforts and pain are needed for the struggle. We’ve only just begun and there are many battles yet to come. You’re a veteran of social disobedience, police violence and incarceration. You’re a leader, a peacemaker, and a man of God. You have no idea how important you are to the rest of us. You’ve inspired me. See you on the line brother.

  103. Isaiah Landers says:

    Take your story to Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow and Keith Obermann. Seriously John!

  104. cdpenne says:

    John, what is needed is the police officer’s name or badge number so that they can be disseminated widely. And while there may not be video of the incident, there is the picture of the results. It won’t be as valuable as Mr. Pike wantonly spraying pepperspray, but it will help give the story traction in the social media. If you could produce a name, perhaps this jerk can be made to join Mr. Pike in infamy.

  105. sozmore says:

    Thank you for your witness and testimony of what happened to you and of what I believe is the true message of Jesus – His love for all and a responsibility to stand for those whose voices, rights, and humanity are ignored or actively denied. Thank you.

  106. Michael says:

    I am sad you had to deal with the violence, I am happy you are ok. I wonder if the next place to occupy should be the police station, or the front side walk of the bad officer?? Did anyone get the violence on video? Maybe some thing for Youtube

  107. Mrrphh says:

    Thank you for the doing of it, for the writing of it, and for the loving of it. You give aid and comfort to me who yearned to be there with you.

    Susan+
    Chaplain, StM&M’s, Retired.

  108. Marieke van Ussel says:

    Hi John and Freddi love your massage.
    I hope and pray that you find the gentle unconditional love, that inner smile deep in you heart to melt the hard anger into and to release the deep grief and pain. So more of your being can rest in and vibrate with that inner smile of your heart.

    A teacher told me once: resistance develops power and you have a beautiful big dream that needs a lot of power, which is imbedded in and fueled by love, to become real.

    Dear John and Freddi you have both. So stand up again kick of the dust of you robe and remember who you truly are and go fort

    Let the force be with you
    Liefs Marieke

  109. Greetings from India, Reverend.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s unfortunate that stories like these are found online while massively distributed news media choose to cover worthless entertainment “scoops” or biased reports that are skewed in favour of those in power.

    More power to you and people like you who choose to stand and question their government even when they are strong-armed into silence.

  110. Maya says:

    I found this article deeply moving. Thank you for sharing your story. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the negative forces at work in our world, and it is disheartening. This story gives me hope.

  111. Joe Phelps says:

    God bless your witness to the power of Love over hate. I can tell you that your witness has had at least one effect: it has invited me to put faith into flesh (good timing at Christmas!) in more tangible ways. And perhaps it will do the same for others who come by my FB page.
    Inch by inch, the flower grows and the kingdom comes.
    I especially appreciated the end of your report: “Right now I am praying for the courage to transform the molecules of my anger and the raw material of my frustration into the greatest, most indestructible, most transformative power on earth: unconditional love in action.” May you be granted this grace for the good of all creation.
    Joe Phelps, Pastor, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, KY

    • Charles J. Scalise says:

      John,
      This is simply a note to say that you have been especially in my thoughts and prayers, since I learned of your brutal arrest while seeking to practice nonviolence. I am in strong agreement with Pastor Phelps that the most powerful part of your essay is your prayer to transform your warranted anger and frustration into suffering love.
      Blessings to you and Freddi at the end of this Advent season.
      –Charlie

  112. Ajay says:

    Truly touching! Not standing up for something u believe for, slowly kills something inside of u! I hope justice prevails and the port worker’s demands are met! Your efforts will not be in vain! God bless

  113. Peter Money says:

    Regarding the person who wrote “What makes these protesters ‘peaceful,’ when they forcibly take actions (occupying, blockading, etc) in places that do not belong to them” and “without permission”: I see the Occupy movement calling into question “place,” “belong,” “action,” “permission.” If we imagine ourselves as the Other, we may understand why these assumptions are reasonably up for discussion (as slave, native person, exile, immigrant, member of community, individual). There is an enormous cultural danger when we allow our lexicon to be altered such that the discourse around “peaceful” is skewed to mean its opposite. To link ourselves? To sit or stand? To breathe? Years ago there was a news item about a police officer who in arresting someone apparently without cause replied to the questioner: They “moved” because their heart was beating. That the human being’s heart was moving was evidently the offense for this officer. “The truth, they say, is as slippery as a fish” says a character in Robert Frank’s film The Last Supper (in which a city lot is occupied by community members for a kind of Thanksgiving). I count physical harm as violence. But do we harm the soil or the asphalt when we occupy space? It is a fair question: what is an abuse of our own occupation(s) or another’s? Still, peace is one thing and justice is another. The modes can co-exist, yes? But to refer to peace as somehow a breach of justice belies how justice is achieved. There is no justice in violence. “Your ‘heart’/ I felt (resisting // arrest, the man/ defended, ‘well, his heart // was moving’/ –alive, not resisting)” goes part of a poem called “Portrait of a Blue Stranger”. The heart does not resist, or seek permission, but beats on until it cannot any more. If we cannot breathe as we stand up or sit or speak out for peace and justice, we cannot occupy with one another any possible dialog toward our solutions. We cannot evolve without participating in a peaceful sit or stand or voice. Justice requires this–and Humanity opens itself to the moment and embraces this. Occupy with conscience, not violence. Let “The fist you didn’t throw” be your word (to quote Victor Martinez).

  114. Canadian Catholic says:

    HI John. I wanted to “Like” you on facebook, assuming you were a public figure in Seattle’s social media scene. Alas, all I could find was your personal page. I wish there were more Chrtistian leaders like you. I mean, exempliary leaders who are actually Christ-like in their ministry, challenging the oppressive/complacent status quo.

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  116. Bill Jones says:

    Thank you for your courage. Your strength is inspirational. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope those who committed these inhumane acts can realize exactly what they did to other human beings.

  117. Thank you for your example. We need it, especially your fellow brothers and sister in the clergy

  118. Pushkara says:

    Dear John,
    Your testimonial reached me through my Facebook page. Thank you for sharing your story; it is one that will help to illumine the light and shadows of our present day polarized society. You may have had the notion, beforehand, that neutrality without bloodshed was possible. Even with bloodshed, even with the fear and pain of being dragged into the fray, YOU showed courage and occupied the higher ground. I daresay, you and we know more from your story about doing so in the face of such violent confrontation and treatment. I hold the vision that the police will remove their riot gear, put down their weapons, and join us. Some of them have. More will come.

  119. Lots to think through after an event like that, I’m sure. Thanks for your careful account of it, and I appreciate your three action items. It seems fitting to find ourselves in Advent, a season of longing. Come and dwell among the people you have created, Emmanuel.

    Peace and Joy in Christ, brother. Let me know if I can be of any help or encouragement to you.

    Aaron+

  120. Thank you so much for your peaceful bravery. Your story is so encouraging. I thank God for using you as a vessel in these moments. I pray, too, that we can listen deeply – to our own fears, angers, misconceptions, and frustrations. And I pray that we can respond with a robust and radical love to what we hear.

    Peace & Power,
    J Prophet

  121. Joanne Coleman Campbell says:

    John and Freddie,
    I give thanks for your strong witness, and am horrified, if not surprised, at your ordeal. I am thankful of your courage in the face of your fear. Your actions give inspiration to those of us in the Olympia area, as we continue to find ways to support Occupy Olympia and speak out against the injustices they raise up. I hold you and the others in Seattle in my prayers.
    Rev. Joanne Coleman Campbell

  122. Stephanie Sunde says:

    John, if you were trespassing, the SPD had the right to use whatever force to disperse you. If you weren’t trespassing then you have the right to file a criminal assault charge against them. Also, God is not only love, but also a judge of who gets into Heaven. We must be accountable for our actions to someone, right? If you’re a parent you judge the actions of your children and deliver some sort of punishment, right? All followers of Christ should be doing everything possible to be Christ like. Those that fall short still have time to confess their sins and change their ways before God’s final judgement. None of use are as perfect and sin free as Jesus. We can only do the best we can.

    • Mat R says:

      Really?? Whatever force? Just for trespassing? That just shouldn’t be how we as a nation behave. An arrest may have been justified, but we as a humane society should not concede that a beat down is justified for simple trespassing.
      None of us is without sin. But we can call for a better world despite our sin. We ARE called to create and foster that world. Thank you Rev. John for your work toward that end.

    • sozmore says:

      The SPD have a right to use “necessary” force to enforce a law, not “whatever” force. I doubt it was “necessary” to pound John’s face with his fist once he was on the ground.

  123. Lura says:

    Thank you, brave brother. For your actions, but also for your strong and gentle words. May God continue to grant you courage, protect you and those you love, and grant you healing from your bruises of body and soul.

  124. Barbara sparks says:

    Thank you for your beautiful words. As I sit here in a small country town on the other side of the world,Australia, looking after my four young children who are presently sick with a minor illness, I battle with my personal frustration and seeming inability to take any direct action at present.

    All I can do is join wonderful people like yourself, in prayer and thought. And continue to spread the word by passing on important and heartfelt messages like this. Joining the causes in the cyber realm wherever I can.

    My faith is non donominational but I believe in people. In their struggle for equality, in the ability to release the love we all have and share as humans. In the dream many of us share – I need to believe that we can be triumphant and that it is not too late to create a new peaceful nurturing and loving paradigm to live in. Yes. I believe the meek can not only inherit the earth but reshape it in the image of love.

    So I thank you. Heal well. And continue the good fight:-)

    Yours in faith and love
    Lil ol me

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  126. Alfredo Feregrino, MDiv Graduate Student- Seattle U says:

    Thank you for be a witness … and for your courage to be present denouncing injustice.

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  128. April Reeves says:

    By the amount of posts here, it’s becoming apparent the light is getting stronger than the dark. Your work is more important than ever: you have the support and backing! I know one truth: for every action is an equal and opposite reaction. As the dark grows, so will we, and there is no darkness that can extinguish the light of a single candle. Shine away my friend, shine away…

  129. Stephanie Sunde says:

    I viewed a video on King 5 that shows some of the sequence of events that lead to John being brought down by the police. What you all have to understand is that there were others throwing bricks, paint, and various items at the police and injuring them. Their response was a systemic response for their own protection against those that seemed determined to block or resist their act to disperse the crowd. The incident with John (as shown in the video) happened after he locked arms with another protestor. Clearly to me, a sign of defiance. I’m sure when you are faced with the threat of personal injury you’d fight back as well. But I guess illegal protest allows folks to disobey the law without consequence?

  130. Another Christian says:

    Maybe if police work were not a profession but a duty every citizen had to take a turn at, there wouldn’t be this “us/them” prejudice against police officers and protesters would understand how difficult – and scary – it is to deal with this kind of situation. And there would be more compassion, more thoughtfulness, less hatred. People of the Occupy movement, did you forget that police officers are part of the 99% too?

  131. Rev Dr. R. Lawton Higgs, Sr. says:

    My heart over flows with love and gratitude for your willingness to work and suffer for our oppressed brothers and sisters in the American work place. I will listen deeply. I am angry. I will generate Love.

  132. Shannon Rog says:

    I am an Earthist, so grew up praying in Nature’s temple instead of man’s, yet Tuesday morning, I woke up singing, “This Little Light of Mine”… I sang it all over the house, I sang it to my daughter, I sang it with joy. John, your strength and your peaceful convictions were heard and felt, through the stratosphere, way down to Eugene, Oregon. Thank you for being such an integral member of peaceful protest and change.

  133. Helen Vanes says:

    Thank you. I do not act as beautifully as you, I do not show your courage, faith and understanding. But I do thank you for being the person I have not yet been. As long as we act as you do, there is hope for the world.

  134. Michele Leonard says:

    God bless you sir and beware the enemy of ignorance.

  135. JD says:

    At what point do the actions of SPD begin to reflect directly on Mayor McGinn? I am left wondering if our Mayor has control of our city police force at all. Surely at some point his inaction or inability to change the culture of police brutality in Seattle makes him directly culpable.

  136. Ari says:

    By you letting your light shine bright, I feel more compelled to do the same as well. The more stories I hear of non-violent protest against the existing societal matrix which deems money more important that people or animals or nature, the greater my confidence becomes to be a force for change. Your example, for me, is what it means in my mind to be a man of god.

  137. Vivienne Murray says:

    Thank you for the detailed account of what it is to experience Police brutality. And for sharing your model of ‘God’ – it’s also my understanding that God is a state of being, the state of unconditional love. And that this comes through transforming or cleansing pain through forgiveness and keeping an open mind.

    My cause is the ongoing brutality of the Tibetans by the Chinese Authorities. And your detailed account of state sanctioned brutality provides a lucid and visceral example of what the voiceless continue to experience on a daily basis. The Dalai Lama talks similarly about loving kindness in the face of brutal oppression. Regardless the path taken, the common thread of enduring faith in unconditional love I too believe is the thing – and a Man of God doing what you are doing is a powerful reminder of what Jesus was actually on about.

  138. Pastor Jesse says:

    Hi John,
    I’m also a UMC pastor. I’m glad that you were present at the protests, making sure that their was a pastoral presence on the side of the protestors. The words you wright are powerful, and I picked them up via UMC.org. Your story is getting widespread attention, which is why I feel compelled to respond where others can read. As you sort out in your heart and mind what happened, and share this story for many years my only hope is that you are careful about judging too harshly those in authority, including the officer who hit you. I pastor a lot of law enforcement personnel and I’m a military reserve chaplain. The police and military are placed in a strange position (kind of like clergy are sometimes) where they end up caught in conflict that they do not really want to be a part of, but they do it for the larger cause of an ordered society. I’m sure if you met the officer you’d find out that he is not full of malice, he was just doing his job, which in this case meant ensuring that a volatile situation did not get even more violent than it did. Don’t forget that protestors were throwing stuff at them, and you did not heed their many warnings to leave. Instead you locked arms, so you knew conflict was coming, and if anything you put the police in that strange position where they will have to use force to keep order. You could have ended the blockade of the port peacefully by walking away too, but you choose not to. You also know that the blockade of the port was not going to end unless the police dragged you and others off physically (otherwise you probably would have listened to them when they said to leave) because you don’t want the protest movement to be weak. Now put yourself in the officers shoes in that situation. You and the protestors left them with the choice of physically moving you, or letting you illegally blockade a port, in which case the authority of the government to protect lawful enterprise (as unjust as it is sometimes) becomes weak. I’ve toured our county jail (which is in Texas, so probably less considerate of comfort than WA in general). The jail conditions do sound inhumane on the surface, but they often do not put toilettes in holding cells because a lot of the people police pick up are intoxicated, and they can actually drown themselves in the toilettes, usually by passing out while puking in them. So, there’s actually a fairly good reason for not having a toilette, and the government is not trying to be a total jerk. There also might of been people who’s injuries needed immediate attention by limited jail medical personnel (especially if people were tazed or pepper sprayed) so caring for your fairly minor injury was probably not the first priority, and its not like you had a concussion or needed stitches. They often move detained persons to different locations in the jail as they assess who needs to go where i.e. reception cells for evaluation of inmates, general holding cells, cells for people who may need extra care or protection, etc. So, they might not have been trying to be as irritating as you think. It might be worth talking to some of the people responsible for running the jails in your area to get a better understanding of why they do what they do before you claim that they quasi-tortured you. They were probably simply following protocol to keep you and many others organized in a jail setting. This also might be a call for dialogue with the police in your area. Anyways, I think that what you and the protestors were doing was a good act of social defiance in the face of injustice, but don’t forget the men and women on the “thin blue line” who also have to keep order. It might sound strange, but I bet you that when they take off the uniform, there are police officers who would join the protest with you, but while the uniform is on they are committed to the larger cause of keeping the overall order of society, so I hope you and others don’t vilify them too quickly. I hope you don’t get hurt again, but I really do think it is important that you pastor to the Occupy protestors. Society is strangely balanced, changed, and kept in check by powers seeking change, powers seeking to exploit, and powers seeking to mediate between the two. In each case I think the church needs to be present to those people.
    Grace and Peace be with you,
    Pastor Jesse

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  140. Stephanie Sunde says:

    Thank you Pastor Jesse for your eloquent words. I too tried to make the same point to Pastor John about the police perspective, but many others are only too ready to vilify the police with limited understanding about the police responsibilities and how jails work. I have ministered (unofficially) to people in jail and prison and can tell you that their (the police/CO) main thought/objective is keeping themselves from harm while doing their job. They don’t have the luxury of determining which “prisoner” is safe and which one isn’t, so they have to treat all prisoners as potential threats to themselves and the staff as well. John, I pray that part of this journey of understanding that God has set you on also briings you to a multidimensional perspective of this event. I pray that God also helps you understand how your actions put you in this situation (the police needed restraint, but the Holy Spirit kept telling you to leave and you didn’t).

  141. Jeanny House says:

    Thank you for your courage in standing for peace and non-violence. On a Sunday when the lectionary reading was the Annunciation to Mary and the Magnificat, there was no choice but to talk about how God upsets the social order all the time. I read your whole post as part of my reflections on scripture during morning worship. I serve a tiny congregation, but there were tears in the eyes of more than one person. Thank you for sharing your witness, both at the protest and in your blog. We need to hear your voice and so many others like it. Thank you.

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  143. Pam Brokaw says:

    Dear John, Thank you for your courage and acts of peace and justice. I am a lay minister in the Methodist Church and you have truly touched my heart and mind.

    In Christ,

    Pam Brokaw

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  145. Darren Wertz says:

    Brother I am sorry you have run into the edge of authority. Your social status is its own reward.

    Enjoy the ability to make the case for how best to work out your anger and frustrations. It was bought at a price much higher than you paid.

    There is little difference between just and unjust pain and death. The issue of justice resides with what authority you hold as right. As Christians we are societies of one – one with Christ – one with the family of God. When we allow, anywhere in this world, a brother or sister to suffer the reality of pain or have their life ripped away for their faith in Jesus, we sin.

    In this country at least we have the option to fashion the authority by our participation and protection of the principles fought for and preserved by previous generations. If that authority is to be just I suggest, no I avow, we cannot leave God out of the Courts, out of the classroom, out of city hall or out of church.

    Now that you have some understanding – fight not for justice but for restoring what is just in our country.

  146. Pingback: Top 10 Memes of Occupy Wall Street | Art21 Blog

  147. Rs Thomas says:

    What an insulting, contemptuous action of the Police upon people who seek justice, dignity and honor as humans made in the image and likeness of God , a derision. The local police officers were counterfeits; imitators of true peace. Can we expect less from within a world system influenced by the worldviews opposite of that which is biblical, of the flesh and from Satan? African-American history reveals familiar stories of violence to include hangings, water hosing, attacks from dogs, etc, administered while in their struggle for Rights as humans. A struggle and Rights that is yet to be fully realized! Persecution of Jewish descendants has occurred on numerous occasions and at widely different geographical locations worldwide and their struggle is yet to be over as well. So what is the Problem? What is the Solution? And how does one get there from here?
    Luke 21:10–19 – The Words of Jesus –
    10 Then He told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of My name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance gain your lives.
    The Holy Bible : Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Lk 21:10–19). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
    1 Timothy 1:18–20 – Engage in Battle
    18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies s previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, 19 having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.
    The Holy Bible : Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (1 Ti 1:18–20). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
    Fight the Good fight of faith

  148. Sandy Smyth says:

    Hi, John!
    I remember you well from classes we took together at YDS.
    I was proud of your passion/compassion then and now!
    All reformers experience the dungeon from time to time
    don’t they!! and didn’t they sing from that place!!
    Love and peace to you!
    Sandy Smyth, MAR 2010

  149. Dennis says:

    As I was reading this I found tears appearing in my eyes. Certinaly for your plight, but after reflecting, how you were treted by those whoe are sworn to protect – Not one officer thought maybe we have gone a little too far, yet these officers are people who live, work , shop, and play among you and your family – yet your treated liek an enemy – Proud of you for the stand you took!

  150. Pingback: What I like about Occupy « Mental Inertia

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