For months, they were the best of neighbors: the slapdash champions of economic equality, putting down stakes in an outdoor plaza, and the venerable Episcopal parish next door, whose munificence helped sustain the growing protest.
But in the weeks since Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, relations between the demonstrators and Trinity Wall Street, a church barely one block from the New York Stock Exchange, have reached a crossroads.
The displaced occupiers had asked the church, one of the city’s largest landholders, to hand over a gravel lot, near Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas, for use as an alternate campsite and organizing hub. The church declined, calling the proposed encampment “wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious.”
And now the Occupy movement, after weeks of targeting big banks and large corporations, has chosen Trinity, one of the nation’s most prominent Episcopal parishes, as its latest antagonist.
“We need more; you have more,” one protester, Amin Husain, 36, told a Trinity official on Thursday, during an impromptu sidewalk exchange between clergy members and demonstrators. “We are coming to you for sanctuary.”
Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James H. Cooper, defended the church’s record of support for the protesters, including not only expressions of sympathy, but also meeting spaces, resting areas, pastoral services, electricity, bathrooms, even blankets and hot chocolate. But he said the church’s lot — called Duarte Square — was not an appropriate site for the protesters, noting that “there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment.”
“Trinity has probably done as much or more for the protesters than any other institution in the area,” Mr. Cooper wrote on his parish Web site. “Calling this an issue of ‘political sanctuary’ is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best. Hyperbolic distortion drives up petition signatures, but doesn’t make it right.”
As you might guess, the Occupiers went ahead and tried to “occupy” Duarte Square without permission and about thirty of them were arrested while the rest of them watched and whinged.
Let’s get a couple things clear. This was not a group of homeless people in desperate need of shelter. This is a group of protesters looking for some private property where they could stage another semi-permanent camp-out. Of course they don’t want to pay for it (even though they have over $500,000 in the bank) nor do they want to obtain official permission or permits.
Duarte Square is a fenced-in gravel lot. There is no shelter there, nor any running water, electricity nor toilets. It is not public property and the protesters have no legal claim over it or any right to use it.
The Occupiers claim they have no place to protest. THIS IS A LIE!
The Occupiers can protest at Zuccotti Park every single day of the year, from 6 am until 10 pm. They just can’t camp-out over night or set up tents. They can do the same at every public park in New York City.
What is really pathetic is that OWS had a whole month to plan something and this nothing-burger was the best they could come up with.