Friday Photo

December 23, 2011

Last Saturday was the three-month anniversary of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Activists in New York City marked the occasion by attempting to occupy a new plot of land--Duarte Square. That location is owned by Trinity Church, an Episcopalian church that literally sits at the start of Wall Street and is just a couple of blocks from Zuccotti Park (the birthplace of the occupy movement). Although church leaders initially were supportive of the occupiers, they repeatedly rebuffed calls to offer space after Zuccotti Park was cleared last month. Arguing that the church should live out its ideals, many occupiers started asking for permission to use Duarte Square, which is several blocks from the church and is currently fenced off and not being used. As one occupier stated:

We are coming to you for sanctuary.
When the request was denied, the occupiers told church leaders they would use the three-month anniversary to "re-occupy" by entering Duarte Square. On Saturday, more than 50 people were arrested after entering the Square. Among those arrested was retired Episcopalian Bishop George Packard, who was the first to climb over the fence. Now that Trinity Church is at odds with the occupy movement, its wealth has come into question. One of the largest land owners in New York City, the Church's real estate holdings are worth more than $10 billion and numerous Church lay leaders are quite wealthy. It probably does not help that the Church's website is www.TrinityWallStreet.org. The use of "Wall Street" in their name is a good geographical indicator but now makes them an obvious target of the occupy movement. To connect the criticism of Trinity with the spirit of Christmas, activists went to Trinity Church two days before the Duarte Square effort and placed a nativity scene in a little tent on the Church's property. The scene included a sign declaring:
There was no room for them in the inn. But with $10 billion in real estate, Trinity has plenty of room.
Although the argument for using Trinity's space is not the same as the original argument for occupation (see post here)--and Trinity's land would not be needed if there was public space for people to peaceably assemble in (see post here)--the occupiers make an important spiritual argument. Here is a photo I took this summer of Trinity Church as seen through the fence surrounding its cemetery.


Trinity Church

1 comments

  1. Re Occupy & Trinity Church: You don’t need to be religious to understand -and embrace- the idea that "Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." But many of the 1%, in blind greed and endless schemes, have forgotten this. They have closed their eyes to what the word "society" should really mean, what it can mean. But due to Occupy Wall Street, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING. Instead of demanding m-o-r-e budget cuts -to be borne by the middle class and poor- we are FINALLY focusing on the shameful bleeding that the poor and middle class has endured, for all too long. Instead of talking about even m-o-r-e cuts in the taxes of millionaires....we are now talking about fairness and justice - about an economy and a political system that is increasingly run for the rich, and by the rich. Instead of talking about LESS government, we are talking about a government that WORKS FOR ALL OF US, not just a favored few. Thank you OWS, for reminding us that people -ordinary working people- really DO matter, and for helping open our eyes to what’s going on in this country, and why. The attempt by OWS to occupy Duarte Square (the empty lot owned by Trinity Church) is much more than a plea for sanctuary. For like Zuccotti Park, it’s an attempt to carve out a protected space, a living conscience for the city, amid the repression. A refuge...in a city where control-freaks would sweep us under the rug, and out of the way. In a city where they would pen us in, and permit us to death. In a city that tells us to “move on, move on”..... you don’t belong, you don’t count, you don’t have a right to be here...don’t assemble, don’t block the street, don’t trespass, don’t EXIST! They would deny us, deny our lives, deny our very futures. IF WE LET THEM. But OWS responds, both in word and in DEED: it says we’ve had ENOUGH - we BELONG, we STAND our ground, and we DO matter! This IS our land, and we want it BACK! The word OCCUPY...says it all! That’s why OWS has captured our imagination. That’s why a living breathing OCCUPIED public space is important for OWS. Like Lady Liberty’s never extinguished torch that burns in our harbor, OWS needs to have a concrete, persistent, in-your-face presence.. ..to continually remind us of what we’ve lost, of what we are, and what we can be; a protected place to affirm, to illuminate, to defy...and to inspire. Trinity Church, with its oft-proclaimed ideals (and its huge land holdings), should look deep into its collective soul, do the right thing, and help OWS secure a sanctuary. Not merely a space of refuge, but one of hope, non-violent change, and compassion. And dare I say: a space of love - love of country, love of your fellow man and woman, love for the poor and oppressed. Can thoughtful Christians argue with these simple Christian / human values? For if Christ were physically with us today, as He was 2000 years ago, He would be among the FIRST to climb those fences, and occupy Trinity’s Duarte Square. Of this I am certain. Let us pray that Trinity Church -and others -hear the call, and respond. For the old ways are not working....

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