Occupy Trinity Wall Street: Part 4 of 4

Sunday, December 23rd, Trinity Wall Street held it’s final forum at the office complex at 74 Trinity Place on “Jesus in the Margins”. TWS’s site states this last session “continues by exploring economic marginalization. Bryan Parsons will look at Situational Ethics, the prophet Amos, and the goals that Occupy and the Christian movement have in common. How does Christ call us, and Occupy encourage us, to look at humanity first when considering another? And what is the place of movements in influencing secular society to create space for all people to live happy and productive existences?”  Those familiar with this blog and the OTWS community remember Bryan Parsons arriving intoxicated one night to trade alcohol for cigarettes. Clergy, Matt Heyd, commented in November that it was time for these people to leave. It was getting cold, after all. It was cold for those shepherds who kept watch, and the parables often read in Advent are about waiting in faith. This is the time of year during which we are reminded that it is God’s decision about what happens in our lives. Our work is to wait in faith. Rather than deciding what’s right for those on the street, it might be the “churchy” or priestly thing to do and bring blankets. a hot meal, counsel for the troubled.

Some of those sleeping in front of Trinity Wall Street are part of the Occupy Sandy efforts – it’s an easy commute to Brooklyn or downtown and the Diocese of New York (not Long Island of which Brooklyn is a part) has forbidden volunteers from sleeping in the churches.  It has been observed that the space in front of Trinity Wall Street could provide a warehouse for provisions, but that space is locked up tight.  This time of year, it’s dramatic and telling – lots of square footage empty, with signs posted about the area being under surveillance, and tourists following red umbrellas touring the adjacent graveyards.

The spiritual illness at Trinity Wall Street has metastasized and those charged with oversight are cowed by Trinity’s wealth. Like so many stories in holy scripture, riches keep a person or an institution sick.  Christmas Eve marked day 200 of Occupy Trinity Wall Street.

OTWS Five Marks of Mission

Real Estate and the church

OTWS under surveillance

Occupy Trinity Wall Street, Pt. 3: Life on the street

OTWS why does this occur

On November 17th, when this broadside was handed out at the NY Diocesan convention, there were a few people from Trinity Wall Street’s staff who handed the broadside back. One was Reverend Anne Mallonee who said “I don’t need this, I know all about it.”  I replied “And now everyone else does!”  It was a stunning response from someone who has taken the oath of the priesthood, or even made the promise of baptism.  To claim to know all about this and do nothing is an admission of dislocation. No matter what your opinion of the validity or efficacy of Occupy Trinity Wall Street, there is the reality of these people sleeping on your front steps, being harassed by Trinity Wall Street staff and the NYPD.

On December 12, The Village Voice published a piece on the general spiritual malaise infecting Trintity Wall Street (found HERE). Hard copies of The Voice were kept by those sleeping in front of the church and handed out to passers by as well as parishioners. A middle-aged blonde woman asked for copies, took them all and then threw them in the trash can. She was identified as Linda Hanick, Trinity Wall Street’s PR representative. A puerile act and comically ignorant – the world of print is in demise. Google “Reverend James Cooper” and the first choice is the article in The Village Voice. That is his legacy unless the institution has a change of heart.

Below is part 3 of the original broadside.

A core group of people have been occupying for over 5 months. These include Fathema Nusrat Sha’didi, a street medic who found refuge and rest at St. Paul’s Chapel after the traumatic recovery work in the smoking remains of the World Trade Center; Ed Mortimer, a street medic, and Jack Boyle both defendants in the D17 trespassing trial.

OTWS NYPD harassmentThey are joined by a diverse community which includes people with regular jobs sleeping when they can, traveling activists, and most notably homeless youth seek refuge there. The latter group finds a haven safer than in  shelters and get a sense of being part of a greater cause. All who pass by note the irony in Trinity’s slogan—”For a world of good”. Some are there because this church sits at the top of Wall Street, the epicenter of capitalism at its most cancerous stage. Those same passers by know this story, noting the church as complicit by its silence with the toll taken by a culture of greed.

A careless disregard for the young, sensitive population was featured on September 23 when alcohol was served to these minors. CEO/Rector Cooper said casually “I hope everyone’s of age!” Bryan Parsons, TWS staff was observed one night in August intoxicated trading alcohol for cigarettes among the youth.

Representatives from TWS, such as clergy Matt Heyd, straight-faced recites NYC code requiring hosing down of the sidewalk twice a day. However, the second hosing was not initiated until September—three months after the sleep-in began. Heyd will also tell you it is NYC code to drill holes in scaffolding to prevent standing water. Holes were drilled on October 21st, long after the summer heat when standing water would offer a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. When it rains, instead of the steady fall of drops, the water accumulates in pockets, hitting those below in bullet-like large drops making sleep or simple rest very difficult.

At press release, Heyd was not available for further comment.

TWS staff defends the practice of maximizing profits through luxury apartment development at the expense of small business and middle and working class families through TWS’s charitable work overseas, inspiring the street chant Trinity Church you look so pretty, but you do nothing for New York City.

Throughout the heat of summer, rain and snow, beatings and harassment from the NYPD, no clergy have offered a drink of water, a bathroom to use, or sanctuary in any form. During Hurricane Sandy OTWS found safety among the greater OWS community. After the November snowfall those occupying TWS sent out word that they needed warm clothes. Meanwhile, TWS proudly Tweeted a video of one of its priests delivering clothes to those in the vicinity but not to those huddled in front of the church.

TWS will cite Charlotte’s Place as a resource. However OWS can get free internet at dozens of locations. Charlotte’s Place is limited in many ways, to include that it is only open Monday through Friday from 12 to 2PM.

Need doesn’t punch a time clock.

OTWS fellowship

OTWS sleeper 1

Occupy Trinity Wall Street: How it started

 

Trinity Wall Street Moral Gate

“Trinity Wall Street could be the moral gateway between Wall Street and Main Street.”

OCCUPY TRINITY WALL STREET: OVERVIEW

Since June 8th the sidewalk in front of Trinity Wall Street (TWS) has been location central for prophetic witness.  People affiliated with Occupy Wall Street (OWS), calling themselves Occupy Trinity Wall Street (OTWS) are occupying that doorstep 24 hours a day.

WHY?

At least 10 and as many as 30 people are sleeping on the street-an activity completely legal in New York City and protected by the U.S. Constitution. These men and women bear witness to the inequities wrought by the greed of Wall Street calling attention to a deformed capitalism that does not respect the dignity of every human being but looks on all Creation as a source of personal profit and production. For Episcopalians the significance of this sleep-in is sacramental. Yet rather than welcome the presence of these prophets or offer any kindness, TWS has harassed, humiliated, and sent protesters and homeless youth to jail and the hospital. This was done in the name of the Episcopal Church, notably with the tacit acceptance of the Diocese of NY.

 HOW IT STARTED: D17

When OWS was violently rousted in November, 2011 from the encampment at Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square, it lost a home. People were fed, educated, and community was being built. A national voice of outrage was embodied. A new vision of democracy was evolving–inclusive and horizontal-it was oriented towards peace, justice, and mutual aid. Without a home, OWS would have a difficult time working on this vision. OWS approached Trinity Wall Street, particularly CEO/Rector James Cooper, in December to discuss the possibility of occupying one of its many Manhattan real estate assets–a vacant lot on Canal Street and 6th Avenue known as Duarte Square. Like the time when St. Paul’s Chapel was a sanctuary for recovery workers after attacks on the World Trade Towers, Trinity Wall Street, by destiny, was at another a nexus of history.

Encouraged by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, retired Bishop George Packard was asked to facilitate dialog between OWS and TWS. With the exception of token gestures, CEO/Rector Cooper would not enter into discussion. OWS was told ground would be broken on a new building in May, 2012. OWS gathered support from the local Community Board and residents surrounding Duarte Square; made plans for a healthy encampment; and promised it would move out when ground was broken in May. Several members of the OWS community went on a hunger strike to call attention to this prophetic moment and a need for sanctuary. TWS and CEO/Rector Cooper only answered with a corporate line about plans for private property.

Mallory Diego Elliot

 Hunger strikers Malory Butler (19-year-old ballet student) & Diego Ibanez, with supporter Elliot Figman on Day 15 of the hunger strike. Mr. Ibanez was a critical organizer for Hurricane Sandy relief, spearheading a volunteer corps that served over 5,000 hot meals a day in addition to other forms of relief.

Coming up: D17 and Duarte Square

Ed Mortimer Text Box

OCCUPY TRINITY WALL STREET

Writer and photographer Mickey Z-Vegan has a blog post on Occupy Trinity Wall Street

HERE

for those who are not trusting the spin from The Episcopal New Yorker “The Real Estate edition”.

And speaking of spin, has anyone seen the latest Episcopal News Service item in which the Episcopal Church takes credit for the hard work of one responsive priest (Michael Sniffen) in Brooklyn and the work of Occupy Wall Street when it comes to serving those who lost so much in Hurricane Sandy?

Turn the other cheek…don’t look the other way

When I called on a friend to sing an original song for my wedding, he asked me about dress requirements. ” Oh…whatever. I trust your judgment.  You should know the Bishop of NY will be there and dressed like a bishop.”

“Should we all wear cardboard boxes on our heads as a show of solidarity?”

There is something inherently comical about bishops.  Their outfits are just the beginning.

Bishops become supremely comical when they take not just their outfits but themselves seriously. To observe the behavior of those with egos that put them in the delusional world – one in which they imagine they have authority outside the priests in their regional management districts—is classic comedy. Rudy Vallee in a Preston Sturges movie without the endearing charm.

The latest edition of The Episcopal New Yorker has one with a head scratch asking “Real…or Onion?” The issue,  released in this post-Sandy/Advent/wealth disparity-financial cliff/climate change crisis/people leaving TEC to find God elsewhere time was devoted to Real Estate!  And it’s not dedicated to actual real estate issues in New York, a city with home health care givers, families, and shop clerks living in shelters; a metropolitan area with a disproportionate amount of empty homes for every homeless family. No, the bulk of the issue is dedicated to diocesan real estate, the problems of its upkeep; the Bishop’s Message culminating with the observation that “the Church’s property can be a problem, but it is a nice problem to have.”

What a punch line! It’s one of those real-life instances that if you heard it in a movie about a clueless, quasi-villainous religious leader, you wouldn’t believe it real.

Coincidence?  On November 17th, I handed out broadsides at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine during the Diocesan convention that told the story of ongoing harassment on the steps of Trinity Wall.  In addition to shining the light on the spiritual sickness that has infected Trinity Wall Street and its staff, the intention was to initiate a horizontal discussion regarding the responsibility the church has when it comes to its properties.

The content of the broadside will be posted on this blog in the days to come. Until then, you can check out interviews with those who have been sleeping on the front steps of Trinity Wall Street HERE.

The broadside was written primarily to give voice to those who have been sleeping at Trinity Wall Street since June 8th and suffered harassment in the form of beatings, theft, verbal insults, and more from the NYPD and the Trinity Wall Street staff. Some have been put in jail at the insistence of CEO/Rector James Cooper. No one – and no one means no one – from Trinity Wall Street parish has offered so much as a glass of water let alone visited those in prison. These people are my friends and comrades. They are the friends and comrades of every person who leads a spiritually intentional life. Naively I thought that if Cooper’s and Trinity Wall Street’s colleagues and supervisors (i.e. bishops) were aware that there were homeless, hungry, troubled people treated like chattel on the church steps they would be held accountable in some way. They would have the opportunity to heal the spiritual sickness that for so long has infected Trinity Wall Street.

More importantly this is a time when the institutional Church has to evaluate honestly and quickly whether the way it maintains itself is sustainable or even Christian.  It has got to realize as so many of us have, that the Spirit-led life of commitment to Jesus includes finding the service on your doorstep. In Trinity Wall Street’s case and the Diocese of New York that is not metaphoric.

You can read the Diocese of New York’s puff piece here, keeping in mind George Orwell’s thought on PR – Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.

As you read, carry with you this protective amulet of The Word from John 18:37 – “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

To whom does Bishop Mark Sisk listen?  To whom does CEO/Rector James Cooper listen?

Jesus would have us turn the other cheek not look the other way.

Community Service

Today George began community service for the audacity of trespassing on Trinity Wall Street’s vacant lot.   The other 7 defendants were all assigned to picking up trash in parks despite gifts as teachers, medics, counselors, one master carpenter, (Will Gusakov) one excellent comedian (Ted Alexandro), and  a talented  young artist (John Carhart).  Asking activists to perform community service is like throwing Brer Rabbit in the brier patch.

During these times of crushing heat and financial ruin I wonder how the local churches are serving their communities.  One of the local parishes was shut up tight all day Sunday – the floor show was over – and all I could think about was how the clergy lobbied to get air conditioning in the sanctuary so they wouldn’t be so hot under their robes. How cool – thermally and spiritually – it would have been if the sanctuary was indeed that during this heat wave. A place for those who have no air conditioning could take a time out and experience mutual aid. Put in some books, board games, have a few volunteers to share their skills. Why isn’t the institutional church more concerned with doing community service rather than “doing church”?

With Trinity Wall Street inhabiting a capacious expensive booth touting its good works, General Convention continues, the attendees getting heady about the  Marks of Mission (remember how excited the Episcopalians got about 20/20?),  New York City goes through a record-breaking heat wave,  and Mark Adams serves his time behind bars on Rikers Island. We have received phone calls from retired clergy – people who have nothing to lose had they spoken out during the exactly 6 months after D17 and the sentencing date of June 18th – telling us not to judge the church based on James Cooper’s behavior. He is an embarrassment – they are outraged at the persistence of the prosecution and Trinity’s overt collusion with the DA, Bloomberg, and the NYPD.

Yet this is one of those rare times when had the TEC leadership had been as persistent as Trinity and released statements regarding Occupy, the prison and legal system, worked the “cocktail party” social circuit,  it might have made a difference in a young man’s life.  Mark will always have a criminal record. 80% of those who go to Rikers return.

James Cooper and his staff are intentionally spreading disinformation by telling the handful of Trinity Wall Street parishioners that Mark is not serving time for trespassing and criminal mischief committed on December 17, 2011 as related to Duarte Square but for priors. This is not the case and all those who attended the trial can tell you the real story. John and Molly’s show on Breakthru Radio offers an accurate assessment.

Trinity Wall Street and James Cooper – preserving the sanctity and rights of chain link fence. Solidarity!

Posts from the  fans of General Convention and TEC through email networks, on Facebook, and Twitter indicate the institution is just not getting the point. The answer is more program, look to the mitres for wisdom and training that is not necessarily there, lobby for a piece of the budget pie. It is all unsustainable, insular, and delusional.

So what gives this Episcopalian hope? Some of the extraordinary seminarians who acknowledge that they are the precipice of a new era,  self-train, “skill-up”, and don’t plan on working their way up the company ladder of promotion.  The members of Occupy who work the streets, share skills, stand in solidarity with the poor, and put their energy behind mutual aid. The plans of Occupy Faith who know this is it – either the church goes down in a hospice/spa environment or it goes out fighting, dying in order to be reborn. (Now where have we heard that story before?)

And the entries in the blog Support Mark Adams which shows us all how we can BE church to each other without a single resolution passing the House of Deputies.

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)