Danny Schechter : Occupy Wall Street Marks Anniversary With New York Street Actions

Bishop George Packard climbs a fence along with other protesters. Photo from Getty Images.

Seeking ‘sanctuary’ at Trinity Church:
Protests mark third anniversary
of Occupy Wall Street

Trinity Church may be there to serve God, but the defense of their real estate portfolio seems to come before their pretensions to social justice.

By Danny Schechter /The Rag Blog / December 20, 2011

NEW YORK — This past Saturday marked the three-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. It was also Bradley Manning’s birthday. It was one of those days that confirmed the validity of the chant: “All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street.”

OK, maybe, it wasn’t a whole week but Saturday felt like a week in one day.

The plan for the day, as announced, was to gather at Duarte Park at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street to attempt a RE-Occupation of vacant land owned by Trinity Church, more of a real estate company than a house of worship.

For a few weeks, the Occupy Movement had been demanding that the Church allow the movement to take “sanctuary” on that land. There were earlier protests and even a hunger strike that made page one of The New York Times.

Police in riot gear had ousted the occupiers the last time they tried to take over the space a few weeks back, and, since then, there has been a rancorous standoff between a church that is supported by many fat cat one-percenters and OWS’s volunteer nonviolent army of outrage.

The Church has repeatedly turned the movement down, despite support for the OWS demands from many clergy in New York and the most famous Episcopal priest in the world, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu. (Tutu sent OWS a supportive message but, then later sent the church a disclaimer of any attempt on his part to sanction violence.)

No doubt church lawyers were expressing worries about financial liability should there be any claims, but many of their trustees had political objections. They are Wall Streeters, including, a Vice President of Brookfield Properties, the owner of the “public” Zuccotti Park that had been the Movement’s home until they were unceremoniously and violently ejected by police in the dark of night.

Trinity Church may be there to serve God, but the defense of their real estate portfolio seems to come before their pretensions to social justice.

The gathering at Duarte Park was predictably surrounded by cops, some in riot gear, while what looked like the Zuccotti Park alumni Association roamed around on a sliver of a City Park next to the unholy Trinity site.

At least half of the crowd, which grew as the day progressed, appeared to be covering the other half with still or video cameras and tape recorders. The press was out in force too, no doubt hoping for a bloody confrontation. Pacifica Radio outlet WBAI was broadcasting live and its programming was played back to the crowd on boom boxes.

The librarians of the People’s Library were on hand with a few boxes of newly donated books, but, despite the rhetoric, the scene seemed tired except for those who were dancing around or looking for action.

A few activists and clergy were arrested for climbing over the fence while others tried, but failed, to knock it down. (There were more than 50 arrests Saturday,)

I was pretty discouraged by the relatively small turnout and the focus on getting to occupy a new tiny land base in an area with no real pedestrian traffic nearby, instead of finding more ways to reach out to mainstream America.

Saturday was a big Xmas Shopping day. While tens of thousands of New Yorkers were flocking to stores in Times and Herald Square. I thought that if you want to hit at economic power, you should be Occupying Macy’s or Toys”R”Us.

All the stores were putting on new sales after Black Friday turned out to be a relative bust. Why not a march by Occupy Santas?

It all seemed unpromising when announced concerts at the park by Lou Reed and others didn’t seem to materialize, or at least I missed them.

But I left too soon.

Unknown to me, the movement then launched a previously unscheduled march, but, at the last minute, changed its direction and headed uptown, catching the police unaware.

The Live Stream people went with them so what happened next was shown on the Internet. (One of the live-streamers was busted but kept his camera-computer going from inside a Police paddy wagon.)

At one point, I saw coverage by three cameras. One view, in ironic counterpoint, covered several cops defending the statue of the Bull on an empty Wall Street traffic junction. No one there was bullish. Bullshit anyone?

The cops attacked as the activists marched up Seventh Avenue at 29th Street, arresting some for marching when they should be walking, a crime that may soon by punishable by the crazed new NDAA measure treating the homeland as a battlefield.

The crowd then broke into smaller guerrilla-style groups, darting in and out of various streets, and ending up in a packed Times Square on a Saturday night at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

This march was spontaneous, powered by the element of surprise. The police actually chased some out-of-towners out of Times Square to try to cut them off at the pass, but failed.

Before the Men in Blue, led by Men in White, could reassert their version of Law and Order, and while shoppers and tourists watched, the occupiers began “mic-checking,” with individual after individual shouting out “Why I Occupy,” and offering personal statements and testimonies that were repeated several times.

In this way, individual members of the movement, from every class, color, and gender, spoke with eloquence about their reasons for protesting — personal reasons and social reasons, national reasons and global reasons, economic reasons and political reasons — and reached out to thousands.

This had to electrify whoever was watching. The passion and sincerity was there for all to see.

I watched the Live Stream of the event on a computer in Harlem and was moved, at some points, to tears by how articulate and reasonable they were. They later left the square and returned to Zuccotti Park for a late-night General Assembly meeting.

Not only was this the best show on Broadway for that hour, but it proved the correctness of a political claim, asserted in one of the OWS signs written after the police raided Zuccotti Park.

It reads: “It’s So Not Over.”

[News Dissector Danny Schechter is covering Occupy Wall Street in his News Dissector blog and and other websites including Al Jazeera. He has collected his reporting into a new book, available next week, with a preface by writer Greg Palast. Email Danny at dissector@mediachannel.org. Read more by Danny Schechter on The Rag Blog.]

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2 Responses to Danny Schechter : Occupy Wall Street Marks Anniversary With New York Street Actions

  1. stanchaz says:

    You don’t even 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 in the 1%, in blind greed and endless schemes, have forgotten this, and have closed their eyes to what the word “society” should really mean. But because of 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 really going on in this country. In a city where there is precious little public space that we can call our own, this is much more than a plea for sanctuary: It’s a hard-fought carving out of a protected space amid the repression, an expression of conscience and affirmation… continually reminding us, goading, prodding, annoying, illuminating and encouraging us..reminding us what of we’ve lost, of what we can do, and what we can be. They would pen us in, they would permit us to death, they would tell us to “ move on, move on, there’s nothing to see”…..don’t block the street, don’t trespass, don’t EXIST. You don’t belong, you don’t count, you don’t have a right to even be here…. A city where control-freaks would sweep us under the rug and out of the way…as they deny both us, our lives, and our futures. But OWS says loudly, both in word and in DEED: 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 this space is important. Trinity Church should look deep into its collective soul, do the right thing, and help OWS. If Christ were physically among 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… 

  2. Religion has always been more about making money than social justice.

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