From Occupied Bishop

from the blog by Bishop George Packard: Occupied Bishop

Mark Adams Makes Us Better

(c) Tracie Willams

Mark Adams was convicted of trespassing with us this past Monday for that infamous intrusion on Trinity’s hallowed vacant lot on December 17th. And so, Judge Matthew Sciarrino became the next unwitting person to be encircled by Mark’s spell. His Honor intended a lesson to be learned–even a national point to be made with, “this country was founded on the principle of private property”, in his sentencing statement. You wouldn’t have thought Mark had directed or charmed anyone but goodness finds a way.

Our cases were all referred to as “Mark Adams, et al.” We seven were the “et al.” and Mark remained in a class by himself, gentle, attentive, staunchly loyal to friends, with a back bone of steel. We knew the District Attorney’s whiz kids had him in the cross hairs; they even announced a “deal” which summarized the system’s frustration with “Mr. Adams.” There would be jail time since this miscreant dared to defy authority. It’s a public worry: such dangerous characters on the loose.

The judge got right to it quickly announcing who was guilty and what would happen. He barely took a breath. I wish I had thought faster—and didn’t have to pee—since the sentences forced us to huddle under the benign label of “4 days of community service.” If I was better prepared, centered and ready—like Mark—I would have asked for jail time in solidarity. It all happened so fast.

The court police swarmed Mark in a pitiful display of force. The charade of a decorous trial on behalf of pitifully wounded Trinity was called out for all to see and the unassuming, guileless man, with the bushy beard and kind face did that for us. Judge Sciarrino was a goner even though he had urged for a stern, well-paced trial. Court agents put Mark Adams in handcuffs with all the deftness of raw meat being rush-wrapped for a customer. Mark faced it all with a quiet certainty, a silent, “See what I mean?”

For as long as I’ve known of OWS there’s been Mark Adams. He’s the poster person for this phenomenon coming from somewhere else after his home was swallowed up in foreclosure. There are other parts of his story he should tell you, not me. Those details add fuel to that motor of energy inside him of, “Why not justice? Why not now?” He said to me last week that he “came to join a social movement in Occupy and found a family instead.”

I think that discernment is what makes his representation in Occupy so compelling. When others might be drawing from personal agendas he fulfills what Jesus said of Nathanael in John’s Gospel, “Here is a man of no guile!” (John 1:47) By no design of his, circumstances around him drop pretense…like a court room revealing itself as nothing more than a star chamber so Trinity can collect rents and swagger.

Even as I prepare to pick up trash at Tompkins Park for my days of community service I still breath the air in freedom but my sweet brother languishes behind bars where he has started a hunger strike “for all those who are unjustly imprisoned.” Even from jail Mark Adams beckons to our better selves.

photo (c) Tracie Williams (Tracie Williams Photography)

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Another person in prison courtesy of The Episcopal Church

The verdict and sentencing for the Duarte defendants came yesterday afternoon.  The day was marked by the completion of testimony from Bishop George Packard and the testimony of Rev. James Cooper, Rector and CEO of Trinity Wall Street.

I remember when the Anita Hill hearings were going on, Clarence Thomas would look from side to side during questioning – like someone behind a painting in a Scooby Doo episode set in a haunted house.  Thomas was literally shifty-eyed.

In downtown Manhattan yesterday, family and friends of the defendants were galvanized at the sight of Rector James Cooper on the stand. Wearing the vestments of someone who had taken vows for the priesthood, he visibly turned his head away from the courtroom. No eye contact.

Then came the testimony. I give Cooper the benefit of the doubt, he most likely has a bad memory. He couldn’t recall a petition in late 2011 with over 13,000 signatures on it asking Trinity Wall Street to give Occupy Wall Street sanctuary. Another petition -again with over 13,000 signatures on it- to ask for clemency and forgiveness when it came to prosecuting the defendants who would not be suppressed with ACDs.  He forgot about 15 additional phone calls between himself and George Packard . (Jim – we could really use some reimbursement for those calls. Happy to show your people the Verizon bill.)

There were many moments where Cooper was unsure and unclear. And that’s all right, really because he’s human. But he’s a human who gets an annual package of over 1 million dollars.  He sanctions teach-ins and gives lip service to the values of OWS. Is this how Wall Street and the corporate ethos has corrupted The Episcopal Church? I know of golden parachutes given to failing rectors, but are we seeing right in front of us the phenomenon exemplified during the administration of Bush 43 – that of  “failing upwards”? (Heckuva job Brownie!)

Cooper not only unleashed the brutal berserker of our so-called justice machine, he did nothing to stop it. He said nothing about the violence done to OWS nor about the violence done to people gathered around Duarte Square on December 17th. Beatings done in his name.
…or your personal benefits and perks.

The defense team – Paul Mills, Meghan Maurus, Gideon Oliver, and Martin Stolar – presented insightful closing statements. The heart of the matter is First Amendment rights. Does private property trump free speech? According to Judge Matthew Sciarrino, yes. Yes it does.

The first sentencing was alphabetical and the most harsh. Mark Adams, a sweet spirit, comrade of everyone in OWS got 45 days in Rikers. Forty five days for clipping a chain link fence and trespassing on property that never really belonged to Trinity Wall Street in the first place.

Sentencing statements were made by Bishop George Packard and Medic Ed Mortimer. Packard’s can be read on his blog Occupied Bishop. Ed’s statement and his humanitarian witness will be written about soon.

The trial transcript is a rich document.The morality play that is this trial, what it uncovered about The Episcopal Church’s collusion and adoption of the Wall Street/corporate culture will be unpacked and explored for years.

Most important now, is active support for Mark Adams through visiting, writing letters, advocacy, and prayer.  Parishioners of Trinity Wall Street – some portraits of the man Jim Cooper sent to the environment that is Rikers Island.