An 'Occupy Wall Street' Thanksgiving?

An 'Occupy Wall Street' Thanksgiving?

Last week, a deranged malefactor was arrested at Occupy Wall Street for threatening to launch Molotov cocktails at Macy’s. It might have been a Macy’s Thanksgiving to forget.

A much friendlier Occupy Wall Street offering comes from my Religious Left friend, Jim Wallis:

It's time to invite the Occupy Movement to church! And Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion. Have some of the young protesters — the "99ers," as they're becoming known — from this rapidly growing movement over for a big holiday dinner!

Our faith communities and organizations should swing their doors wide and greet the Occupiers with open arms, offering them a feast to say "thank you" for having the courage to raise the very religious and biblical issue of growing inequality in our society. ... Let's invite the young occupiers into our churches and ministries for good conversation and a great meal.

If our mayors and police departments are making the Occupiers feel unwelcome, why don't we welcome them to stay on our church property if they need someplace to go?

Open our church basements and parish halls as safe places to sleep — shelter and sanctuary as cold weather descends upon many of our cities...

The Occupy movement needs a sanctuary.

On the surface, Wallis’ invitation sounds innocent enough, albeit remarkably odd given that the “OWS” movement is extremely secular, not exactly characterized by prayer circles and Bible studies.

But what struck me about Wallis’ suggestion is its historical irony and naïveté: Churches as sanctuaries for radical leftists?

Well, this is exactly what happened in the original Days of Rage in Chicago, which was the inspiration for Occupy Wall Street (click here).

The original Days of Rage occurred in 1969. Its ringleaders included Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Tom Hayden and Mark Rudd — all of whom magically reappeared in 2008 as Progressives for Obama. In 1969 they united in Chicago under the banner “BRING THE WAR HOME!”

Rudd, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) leader who shut down Columbia University a year earlier, established the plan of action: “In Chicago the pigs have to be wiped out. We’re going to fight with violence and wipe out Chicago.”

An organized riot ensued, erupting on October 5, 1969, when these apostles of “peace” dynamited the statue commemorating Chicago police killed in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. The anti-war protesters went to war with 1,000 police.

Particularly dispiriting — and my interest here — was the role of the Religious Left. Amid this rampage in Chicago, liberal Christians stepped in to offer aid and comfort to the revolutionaries. It was a matter of “social justice.”

Consider: Just like at Wall Street today, numerous leftists occupied the streets of Chicago. Where would they find housing? There was no easy solution, especially since many were wanted for violent activities.

That fall of 1969, the answer came from nearby clergy. A special clergy group was established for the purpose of finding housing. As Mark Rudd recorded, “churches [were] loaned to us by sympathetic clergy.”

So troubling was the intervention of these liberal pastors that Congress investigated, taking testimony before the Committee on Internal Security in December 1969. According to the official Congressional investigator, the revolutionaries were accommodated in Evanston at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Covenant Methodist Church, and at Garrett Theological Seminary, where a police officer was beaten. In Chicago, they stayed at University Disciple Church in Hyde Park.

The clergy laid down one condition for the dope-smoking, weapons-toting militants: No dope or weapons in church. That simple rule, naturally, was violated. Much like how the Vietcong used “sanctuaries” in Cambodia to launch attacks on American troops inside Vietnam, the youngsters used these literal sanctuaries to stage assaults on their enemies: the “pigs.”

Of course, the folks in the pews were not exactly thrilled when they heard the news. They demanded that the extremists be expelled from their houses of worship. Unfortunately, the good reverends sided with the marijuana smokers.

In one case, police entered the Covenant Methodist Church with warrants. The Methodist minister complained that the police broke down the door. There’s more to the story, as the Congressional investigator calmly explained during hearings: “They broke the door down because the Weathermen had barricaded the door of the church and had refused to let the police serve the warrants.”

The pastor was shocked by this behavior — shocked, that is, by the behavior of the police.

Will history repeat itself at Occupy Wall Street right now? Exhorted by Jim Wallis, the Religious Left is poised again to offer up itself and its services.

Good luck, Jim. I sincerely hope things in New York in 2011 turn out better than they did in Chicago in 1969. Forgive me, however, for not sharing your optimism. With the radical left, history has a funny way of repeating itself — for the worse.

A longer version of this article first appeared at

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and his latest release, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

Publication date: November 23, 2011