NYC police arrested over 50 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters when several hundred
demonstrators gathered in a small park in New York’s lower Manhattan.
As many as ten members of the clergy, including Episcopal bishop George E. Packard, were among those arrested.
The arrests took place after the protesters got together in Duarte Square of Manhattan to mark the third-month anniversary of the OWS movement on Saturday.
Organizers said they were also rallying to find a new base campsite for the movement, which lost its iconic Zuccotti Park when the police forced them out of the encampment in the park on November 14.
The park is next to a lot owned by Trinity Episcopal Church where protests erupted last month after demonstrators were evicted from Zuccotti Park.
“Today we are out here along with civil rights leaders, members of the religious community, local artists, members of the community board, calling upon Trinity Church to allow us to use this vacant lot next door, which has been vacant for three months, will and continue to be vacant for another, for a short period of time as a place to meet, to voice our protest until they come up with some other use for the space,” Mark Bray, a member of the OWS press team explained.
Trinity Church officials said they support the protesters but the property is not available for an encampment.
While Trinity has been considered a close ally of the movement, providing protesters with facilities and pastoral services, it has refused to give the demonstrators access to the space.
In a statement, Trinity blasted the protesters for breaking into the lot.
“We are saddened that OWS protesters chose to ignore yesterday’s messages from Archbishop Tutu, from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and from Bishop of New York Mark S. Sisk,” said Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, the rector of Trinity Church.
Rev. Cooper said that while the church shared the occupiers’ quest for “social and economic justice, we do not, however, believe that erecting a tent city at Duarte Square enhances their mission or ours.”
“The vacant lot has no facilities to sustain a winter encampment. In good conscience and faith, we strongly believe to do so would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy, and potentially injurious.”
After the arrests at Duarte Square, the protesters marched through the streets of Lower Manhattan. At first they headed towards the rector’s house, but found it barricaded.
Afterwards, they marched up Seventh Avenue in the Village, chanting “take the street” and marching through traffic before heading up toTimes Square.
Along the way, a number of protesters were arrested.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators, joined by members of the clergy and some elected officials, held up signs and chanted “Hell no, we won’t go! Occupy 2.0!”
“They are portraying that their door is open to negotiation .. we’ve been proposing alternatives but so far we’ve had no response .. If we walked over and leaned against that fence we (would) get arrested for trespassing. “said retired Bishop George Packer.
And Chris Ashley, a chaplain from Union Theological Seminary in Morningside
Heights, said that “this movement needs a space where we can make democracy happen in
“I want to bear witness that there’s plenty of us in the church that stand up to support this movement,” he added. “Jesus prayed and he occupied.”
A Message of Solidarity from Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Posted on Dec. 15, 2011, 7:37 p.m. EST
Sisters and Brothers, I greet you in the Name of Our Lord and in the bonds of common friendship and struggle from my homeland of South Africa. I know of your own challenges and of this appeal to Trinity Church for the shelter of a new home and I am with you! May God bless this appeal of yours and may the good people of that noble parish heed your plea, if not for ease of access, then at least for a stay on any violence or arrests.
Yours is a voice for the world not just the neighborhood of Duarte Park. Injustice, unfairness, and the strangle hold of greed which has beset humanity in our times must be answered with a resounding, “No!” You are that answer.
I write this to you not many miles away from the houses of the poor in my country. It pains me despite all the progress we have made. You see, the heartbeat of what you are asking for–that those who have too much must wake up to the cries of their brothers and sisters who have so little–beats in me and all South Africans who believe in justice.
Trinity Church is an esteemed and valued old friend of mine; from the earliest days when I was a young Deacon. Theirs was the consistent and supportive voice I heard when no one else supported me or our beloved brother Nelson Mandela. That is why it is especially painful for me to hear of the impasse you are experiencing with the parish. I appeal to them to find a way to help you. I appeal to them to embrace the higher calling of Our Lord Jesus Christ–which they live so well in all other ways–but now to do so in this instance…can we not rearrange our affairs for justice sake? Just as history watched as South Africa was reborn in promise and fairness so it is watching you now.
In closing, be assured of my thoughts and prayers, they are with you at this very hour.
God bless you,
Archbishop Emeritus ofCape Town