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.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."