Charges dropped against ‘Rotunda 11’ protesters

October 11, 2011

A city court in Washington, D.C., has dropped charges against a group
of religious and civic leaders who were arrested in July during a
prayer vigil for the poor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The vigil, held
at the height of the summer's debt ceiling debate, was aimed at stopping
Congress from cutting funding to programs that benefit the most needy
in the U.S. and abroad.

"We are guilty of one charge: the
promotion of social righteousness," said J. Herbert Nelson, director of
public witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). One of several
clergy among the 11 people arrested for refusing to leave the rotunda,
Nelson called the vigil an act of "civil disobedience."

The
court-approved settlement, re­leased October 11, dismissed misdemeanor
charges of "intention to disrupt Congress" as long as the group stays
out of the Capitol for six months and submits to a drug screening.

"While
we accept the agreement to resolve the charges against us, we do not
regret or apologize for our actions," said Bob Edgar, president of the
advocacy organization Common Cause and a former general secretary of the
National Council of Churches.

Jennifer Butler, executive director
of the advocacy group Faith in Public Life, said the Rotunda 11 group
has aims similar to the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement around
the country. "We are working for an economy that protects the least of
these and where the very wealthy pay their fair share," Butler said. "We
pray for members of Congress that they will repent and turn to the
common good."  —RNS