Cyrus Tells It Like It Is

It’s early Friday morning, and I need to be going to bed. Sufficed to say, a lot has happened in the past 24-hours with “Occupy Dallas.” The camp has been dismantled by the Dallas Police.

I’ll have much more to say about this in coming days. The short version is that, pretty clearly, the City of Dallas decided against the choice to de-escalate the tension in the camp, as I had implored them to do the other night. They had a choice, but chose to believe otherwise.

I know that my email was received because somebody from City Hall called yesterday morning to talk about it, saying that it was “getting quite a lot of attention.”

To which I said, “Good.”

But, in retrospect, it wasn’t enough. Or, perhaps the decisions had already been made? Who knows. What is known is that the city acted last night and cleared the camp with about 90 minutes notice.

Here is my own view:

a) The Occupy Camp was not unsanitary and unsafe, despite what the city is saying, and the decision to close it now is completely arbitrary.
I saw this on numerous trips with my own eyes. The camp was quite clean and orderly, despite what is being said. All campsites look messy when you tear them apart. But what I saw, repeatedly, were Occupy Dallas people attempting to live up to their agreement, picking up the camp, respecting the trees, grass, etc. And, on more than one occasion, debating how they could better comply with the city. That’s just what I observed.

b) If, in fact, tensions were escalating inside the group, then the City and its leadership, as our public servants, bears much of the responsibility for this.
 The city (police, City Manager) was putting pressure on the group, through an almost constant police presence. It built to a crescendo Tuesday night, when the group (and apparently all the new media, and news helicopters) believed that a raid was about to happen. The group was feeling it. The city had to have understood that this kind of show of force, on a consistent basis, could not help but increase the internal tension within the group. This is human nature.

Therefore, the increase in intra-group tension, to the extent that it existed, was in large part exacerbated by the city and police itself. Intra-group tension was a predictable outcome of this, and the city (and everyone else trying to analyze what happened) should not fail to account for this.

c) Dallas had the chance to be different, but in the long run chose not to be.
It made an agreement with the Occupy Dallas group. Nobody forced them to. The city will claim that the group broke faith with them. If in fact the agreement was broken at all, it was also most definitely also breached by the city, and certainly made abiding by the agreement difficult at every turn.

Dallas could have chosen to respond differently than Oakland, New York and elsewhere. It could have, as Forbes Magazine hoped, been different.

Now, Dallas is clearly not different, and I am saddened, disappointed, and ashamed of my city’s leaders.*

Much more could be said.

But for now, a short video, emailed to me tonight by old friend, John Wolf (of Crawford Peace House fame, for all yall Camp Casey friends…) I stumbled into him at the back of City Hall tonight, as the Occupy Dallas folks began to regroup and plan their next steps. Like me, he was just coming by to check on them and see how they were.

He tells me this little guy’s name is Cyrus.

It’s a pretty good reminder that the Occupy Movement is not over, by a long shot. The message comes to us, even out of the mouths of babes. (Thanks, John…)

*BTW, in my mind, I do not include ordinary police officers, even those who carried out the raid, in this critique. I believe the decision was likely made by the City Manager and Chief of Police. The rank and file DPD officers heroically do their jobs, and are often caught in the midst of challenging situations like this too. I know some of the “Occupiers” feel differently about the DPD, and if I was pressured as they were for weeks on end, I might be in their place too.

More of my thoughts on the “Occupy” movement are here, and here.

(As always, if you like this post, then “like it” or “share it” on Facebook by clicking the box below, or send it to your friends…so others can see too…and leave a comment…EF)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

9 thoughts on “Cyrus Tells It Like It Is

  1. Beautifully written. I'm a native and I, too, hoped that my city was going to be different. It saddens me to think that in the end, Dallas chose to be against the side of history. Unfortunately, "get a job" in this era of high unemployment appears to be eerily like "let them eat cake" after the wheat harvest failed, and I'm afraid now for my country . . . .

  2. Exactly. The city official who called me Wednesday shared that he (and, clearly, others) were becoming increasingly anxious and concerned about the movement.I suggested that if there was any increased in violence that this was a "chicken/egg" phenomenon between the city and the camp….ie, yes, there was probably more tension in the group, but that much of this came from the external pressure they were feeling from both the police and the fear that they would not be seen as abiding by the "agreement."I also said to him that, as public servants…whether elected or appointed…there is far more burden on THE CITY to understand these things, and to respond…to not escalate when its not necessary.I personally believe that the officials here were far too swayed by what they say, nation-wide, and by the almost inevitable "echo-chamber" that was created in their conversations with other leaders around the nation. They clearly felt there was a threat because of the tension…failing to realize that their OWN tension and anxiety was causing part of the problem.THIS is a failure of leadership.

  3. Field theory posits that there are forces- fields, often mysterious- that are responsible for physical, cultural, evolutionary changes. Tielhard d'Chardin put the physical in spiritual terms when he wrote that from chaos there comes a 'rising' which appears at first without purpose and indescribable (the Big Bang, a fallen tree, e.g.). But the rising and expanding from that initial chaos begins to coalesce, to come together just as the fallen tree becomes a new home for insects, small mammals, fungi, etc. and as the Big Bang over 4 billion years began to come together into clouds of gas, galaxies, stars, planets, moons, and roses. In Occupy, we are I believe, seeing a new field, a world-wide rising that seems chaotic, without consistent definitions. It is coming together though in evolutionary ways- 3 steps forward, 2 back. Don't be discouraged.Keep rising, everyone. There are, I've found, many many many who empathize and are working to understand because they know something necessary and right is happening beyond the immediately visible. If we all continue to do what we can, wherever/ whenever/ however we can, we will see the rising continue. Cyrus will see the coalescing. Dedicate what you do to him. Behold! All things are made new..

  4. Eric, thank you for your efforts for Occupy. I happened to be in Army basic training in Missouri in July and August of 1968. Our training was interrupted by emergency training to control the "riots" in Chicago at the Democratic convention there. There had been riots there in April after Dr. King's assassination. I remember 2 things from this experience: 1) We were trained not to push the crowd into a small space where a sense of panic would cause a possibly violent reaction. I always thought of this in the sense of physical space, pushing the crowd into a corner. Now it can be that actions taken by leaders like those in Dallas and other places can create that same sense of no space for public expression and a bit of panic. As leaders in 2011 they should have gone another way and allowed the expression. 2) The leaders in 1968 decided not to send us to Chicago, but a few days later approximately 90% of our company of 240 young men, mostly teenagers who were drafted, were sent to a place in Washington for infantry training and then sent to fight in South Vietnam. Our leaders should have gone another way back then as well. I know these events are separated by 4 decades, but it still seems our leaders act of fear. Your leadership stands in stark contrast to that. Cuidate mucho,larry

  5. Something about that little boy chanting "we are the 99 percent" troubles me deeply. Jesus did not die on the cross so we could be the 99% – He came and died for each one of us making us "the one" in His eyes. I cannot reconcile the two. God loves each of us as if there was only one of us. That little boy deserves better.

  6. Becky, Jesus always spoke in plurals: Our Father, Give us, Lead us, Forgive us. When he used the word 'you' it was almost always in its plural form. He came to reveal the kingdom of God (that's what he said anyway), the kingdom of many parts, all dependent on the other. Jesus spoke of life and life abundant for ALL who would hear, and called those who would deny that fullness of life "pretty but empty tombs." Sounds like 99 and 1 to me :). I'm with Cyrus..a little child is leading.

  7. Thanks, from a fellow Dallas Kossack (tom 47).Yeah, you crazy Methodists, always gettin' all "social justice" and all! I truly appreciated your appeal to City Hall's public servants' better nature. Deaf ears, it seems. Keep working.Thanks again (from one of those crazy "Pax Christi"-type Catholics).

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