Eleven arrested after Capitol sit-in against budget cuts

U.S. Capitol Police arrested 11 Christian and Jewish faith leaders Thursday after they staged a Capitol sit-in against budget cuts.

The group called on the Obama administration and Congress not to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” according to the release sent out after the incident.

The religious leaders, members of an interfaith coalition to protect the poor, have been charged with demonstrating within a U.S. Capitol building, according to a Capitol Police spokeswoman.

All have been taken to Capitol Police headquarters for processing.

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The incident began around 1 p.m., when the 11 protesters gathered, joined hands and sat down in the middle of the Capitol Rotunda.

Supporters surrounded the protesters, chanting “Amen,” according to a witness. Capitol Police cleared the rotunda while making the arrests, and the room was reopened to the public at around 1:30 p.m.

The interfaith coalition is “frustrated that their pleas to the administration and Congress to protect funding for the nation’s most vulnerable are being ignored,” the release said.

“Congress is paralyzed by toxic partisan politics while people suffer,” wrote the Rev. Michael Livingston, a past president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (USA). “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad. Our faith won't allow us to passively watch this travesty unfold.”

Among those arrested were Jim Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center in Philadelphia; and the Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, according to the release.

“We've written letters, talked with and prayed for our elected officials, and prayed together daily in inter-religious community,” Livingston added. “Today, we ‘offer our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to say to Congress, ‘Raise revenue, protect the vulnerable and those living in poverty.’ ”

Molly K. Hooper contributed.