Occupy survives in churches, marches


(Gazette Photo by John Ruch) Carlos and Melida Arredondo set up the “Camp Alex” Occupy Boston/JP display at First Church on Dec. 19.

While the Occupy Boston protest was shut down last month, it lives on in symbolic displays at Jamaica Plain churches and in a team-up with JP housing activists.

It also survives as a loose, active organization with lots of JP residents involved, including prominent spokesperson Gunner Scott.

Meanwhile, the local Occupy JP group has gone quiet after two protest marches last month, but continues to meet about possible activities.

Hope Central Church in Sumner Hill and First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist in Monument Square both had strong involvement with Occupy Boston. And both have displayed tents on their lawns in recent weeks to symbolize the former protest camp in Dewey Square.

Hope Central displays a simple, blue-tarp “solidarity tent,” in the words of pastor Rev. Laura Ruth Jarrett. First Church had a sprawling, colorful display centered around an anti-war tent that once stood at Occupy Boston.

Three Hope Central members participated in Occupy Boston, with one acting as a facilitator at its “General Assembly” meetings, Jarrett said. It’s a natural link, she said, describing Occupy’s themes of equality and democracy as “the center of our Gospel.”

“Jesus and the Jews lived in a land that was occupied by people who did not have their interests at heart,” Jarrett said. And the Christian revelation came to “the original 99 percent,” not to aristocracy or royalty, she said.

First Church also sees Occupy as related to its religious faith, according to Andrea Clardy, chair of the church’s standing committee.

“A commitment to social justice is a very central tenet of the church,” she said, adding that she and other members regularly delivered food and books to the Dewey Square camp.

During the weeks around Christmas, First Church agreed to host the “Camp Alex” tent, named for the late Marine Alexander Arredondo, who was killed in the Iraq War and whose name is now on the JP post office. Alex’s father Carlos and stepmother Melida put up the tent as well as a larger display about war and Occupy’s theme of economic inequality. They are also active in Occupy JP, which was mentioned in their display.

“The congregation was divided in its response,” Clardy said, calling the display more than they expected. “Some of us felt it was kind of theatrical and interesting. Others were not so pleased.”

But tensions disappeared when Alexander’s surviving brother Brian committed suicide that same week, resulting in a strong bonding experience between the Arredondos and the church, Clardy said.

Clardy said that First Church does not plan to host more Occupy symbols. She noted that the actual Occupy movement is still alive.

“It ain’t over,” she said.

“It’s pretty thriving,” said Scott, the JP-based Occupy Boston spokesperson. While still an open-ended, leaderless group, Occupy Boston is even looking at “renting space for long-term use” somewhere in the city, he said.

On Dec. 19, Occupy Boston teamed with JP’s City Life/Vida Urbana in a downtown “Occupy Our Homes” march to protest federal policies that can force people to be evicted from foreclosed homes. City Life Executive Director Curdina Hill did not return a Gazette phone call.

Occupy JP has indicated a desire to team up with City Life as well, but its current activities are unclear. Its designated spokesperson did not return Gazette phone calls. Minutes from its last public meeting in December show plans for more outreach and no word of further protests. It will meet again on Jan. 8. [See JP Agenda listings.]

“I’m excited to see something happening in JP,” said Scott, adding he has been too busy to be directly involved in Occupy JP. “The hyperlocal is really important.”

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