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Pastor Erik’s #OccupyPalmSunday Speech

Pastor Erik Christensen offered the following public remarks at the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance’s 6th Annual #OccupyPalmSunday rally. This year’s rally focused on Chicago’s “Welcoming City” ordinance and the “Recommendation for the Fraternal Order of Police Contract” resolution — both before Chicago’s city council.

Today, all around the world, Christians are retelling a story from the life of Jesus of Nazareth: born during a census; whose family became refugees; who lived in an occupied country, under a brutally violent regime; who was killed in public by the state; and who lives in and through the church — calling us to be his hands, his feet, and his voice in the world.

On this day, at the beginning of Holy Week, we remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the head of a movement of people whose hope had been reignited; people no longer willing to accept political oppression and economic exploitation; people who’d been left out of the social contract and treated as through their lives were interchangeable and expendable.

Once inside the city, Jesus headed to the Temple and flipped over the tables, disrupting business as usual and highlighting the corruption that had taken hold of that holy place.

So, it is right that on this day, we who follow Jesus have also taken to the streets of the city to name the ways that the institutions created to serve and protect us have come to divide and conquer us — and to demand that our city, the city of Chicago, live up to its calling to be a place of real sanctuary for all who live here — regardless of their race or citizenship.

Today we are insisting on a new social contract. A contract that holds the people charged with defending and protecting us accountable for their deeds and misdeeds. A contract that does not criminalize poverty. A contract that does not collude with detentions and deportations.

What we are demanding is specific. It is actionable. It is achievable.

We call on the city to renegotiate the police contract and bring an end to the “code of silence” that has killed any effort to reform police misconduct. We support the concrete recommendations of the Coalition for Police Contracts Accountability, which has laid out specific changes to the contract to reduce barriers to reporting and investigating police misconduct and to increase transparency when dealing with officers with a history of misconduct.

And we call on the city to act now to make its claim that Chicago is a “sanctuary” city more trustworthy, by closing the loopholes in the current Welcoming City ordinance that allow for collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE; for example in cases involving people convicted of crimes of survival, or those in the “so-called” gang database — which strips people of their right to due process and operates completely beyond any form of civilian oversight, making it ripe for abuse.

Again, what we are demanding is specific, it is actionable, and it is achievable.

According to the bible, it was after Jesus flipped over the tables in the temple that the officials began to look for a way to silence his voice by ending his life. By faith, the church proclaims today and every day that his voice cannot be silenced. It lives in us, and every time we cry “hosanna” and raise our palm branches in the air, we are joining the march that does not end until we are all free.

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