Occupy the Clergy

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I'm really not clear on what, precisely, this is supposed to accomplish:


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."

From what I can tell, Trinity (which had been supportive of Occupy) has committed the sin of owning a lot of land in downtown Manhattan. This just seems like really small-ball--a concern for the activist one percent.

A bit more from the Observer:

Laura Gottesdiener, one of the supporters of the hunger strike, clarifies that the strike is in no way to undermine the work Trinity Church has done by letting OWS use their space. 

"They've allowed us to use facilities, to be part of their services, and have reached out to community to find places for Spokes Council," said Ms. Gottesdiener by phone. "The hunger strike is an effort to reach out to Trinity Wall Street Church's community, and especially Rector (Jim) Cooper, who has open say over all the church's properties, including the open space on Duarte Street, and express the seriousness of OWS needing to have an outdoor occupation." 

The issue, Ms. Gottesdiener explained, was that Trinity Wall Street Church (whose commercial branch is Trinity Real Estate, one of the largest landowners in NYC and owner of Hudson Square Properties) had not protected the protesters when they were arrested on the vacant property on November 15th, a day after the raids on Zuccotti Park. 

 "That day, a delegation of OWS members and members from other clergies and religious groups sat down with (Rector) Cooper and the Trinity community and asked if we could use the space. They didn't give us an answer - but when they allowed 25 members to be arrested on their property, we took that as an answer. They did not call off the police."

From Trinity:

Trinity's position has been consistent and clear. Trinity has provided meeting and gathering spaces as well as a tranquil place at church facilities in and around Wall Street. Thousands of protesters use these facilities every week. However, the enclosed lot at Duarte Square is not available nor is it suitable for large-scale assemblies or encampments. It has no facilities and is licensed to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for interim outdoor art exhibits which will resume in the spring. 

Trinity supports the vigorous engagement of the issues which Occupy Wall Street has raised. We will continue to extend our hospitality to protestors and all who come to our church properties during open hours. We strive to be responsive and responsible and appreciate the many expressions of support we have received during these times.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/occupy-the-clergy/250139/