Jim Keane, SJ, in America:
This morning in my class at the Jesuit School of Theology on “Jesuit Priesthood: Theory and Praxis,” our opening prayer included the following verses from Psalm 142: “When my spirit grows faint within me,/You know my way;/ In the path where I walk, /they have hidden a trap for me.”
Only an hour earlier, in a far different locale, I had watched while a fellow Jesuit and classmate of mine, Joseph Hoover, S.J., was found guilty by a jury of his peers in a courtroom at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, CA, for the crime of “obstructing a public thoroughfare.” His alleged (I suppose now confirmed) sin was that he did not get out of the way quickly enough at an Occupy Oakland rally and march two months ago in Oakland, Calif, when a charging line of Oakland Police Department officers in riot gear ran at him. That the arresting officer had quite clearly beaten Joe with his baton (the officer who hit him looked Joe and the jury in the face and perjured himself—I know his testimony to be a lie, since I saw the bruises myself the night I picked Joe up from jail) seemed to sway the jury from convicting Joe of a second charge: obstructing a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties. That charge, it turns out, cannot be considered proved if the arresting officer uses excessive force. Joe himself took the stand and testified he had no intention of obstructing anyone—that he was an unarmed man in a Roman collar walking away from the police—but it made no difference as to the first charge, and Joe was found guilty. Of that, at least.
Joe should have been found innocent of all charges—if he was guilty, then so am I, and a number of other peers who have participated in actions with Occupy Cal and Occupy Oakland over the past year, in the name of solidarity with the protests and civil disobedience; and I could name a dozen of my classmates who participated to one degree or another—but he was also unlucky. On the day of his arrest, he donned his clerical shirt, climbed on his bike, and rode from Holy Hill down to Oakland to show his solidarity with the 99 percent—those whom, in another tradition, are called the anawim. He happened to run into an aggressive and violent officer on a violent day, and as a result, the unjustified attack on his person was followed by three days in the Alameda County Jail. He was released to us “on his own recognizance,” a process that took the judge two minutes to approve and the sheriffs at the jail seven hours to carry out. That experience has been followed by two months of seemingly endless court appearances, or at least ten; one thing I will tell you is that I now know four of the bailiffs by name, and I am not even the one who was arrested.
Joe has had no criminal record; Joe was, according even to the arresting officer, completely compliant with the authorities at and after his arrest. But now he’s guilty, and next week we’ll go back for sentencing.
The whole experience left me angry but educated in new ways about the justice system. Below are some of my own reflections from that experience. I speak only for myself, not for this magazine nor for Joe nor for the Society of Jesus.