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Uprising

Saturday, Dec 17, 2011, 3:31 pm

Occupy Marks 3-Month Anniversary

By Allison Kilkenny

This is an early report. All photos by Allison Kilkenny.

Updated 4:20 PM

Hundreds of protesters gathered at Duarte Square today to mark the three-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Those present included the OWS hunger strikers who are currently in their fifteenth day of fasting.

The fenced-in property is owned by the Trinity Wall Street church, which doubles as a house of God and also a real estate powerhouse. Trinity Church is one of the largest landholders in Manhattan, and the revenue from the church's real estate holdings funds the parish's work. 

That dual function has placed Trinity at the centre of controversy as Occupy calls upon the church to grant the movement "sanctuary" on its land, since OWS and Trinity should, in theory, share many of the same values: housing and feeding the poor and making the world a more egalitarian place.

Earlier this month, author and Harvard Divinity School alum Chris Hedges appealed to Trinity Church to turn over the empty lot to occupiers.

The Occupy movement is the force that will revitalize traditional Christianity in the United States or signal its moral, social and political irrelevance. The mainstream church, battered by declining numbers and a failure to defiantly condemn the crimes and cruelty of the corporate state, as well as a refusal to vigorously attack the charlatans of the Christian right, whose misuse of the Gospel to champion unfettered capitalism, bigotry and imperialism is heretical, has become a marginal force in the life.

It was the church in Latin America, especially in Central America and Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, which provided the physical space, moral support and direction for the opposition to dictatorship. It was the church in East Germany that organized the peaceful opposition marches in Leipzig that would bring down the communist regime in that country. It was the church in Czechoslovakia, and its 90-year-old cardinal, that blessed and defended the Velvet Revolution. It was the church, and especially the African-American church, that made possible the civil rights movements. And it is the church, especially Trinity Church in New York City with its open park space at Canal and 6th, which can make manifest its commitment to the Gospel and nonviolent social change by permitting the Occupy movement to use this empty space, just as churches in other cities that hold unused physical space have a moral imperative to turn them over to Occupy movements.

Where is the church now? Where are the clergy? Why do so many church doors remain shut? Why do so many churches refuse to carry out the central mandate of the Christian Gospel and lift up the cross.

Thus far, church officials have said, while they support the protesters, the property is not available to be occupied. On Nov. 15, twenty-two protesters and journalists were arrested at Duarte Square after police raided Zuccotti.

Trinity Church's rector, Rev. James Cooper commented on the church's website:

"Trinity has probably done as much or more for the protestors than any other institution in the area," and cites the church's meeting rooms, offices, computers and bathrooms that are at the protesters' disposal.

Cooper goes on to say that "there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment" in Duarte Square, and criticizes those attempting to exploit the church's position as both an ally of the movement and a major land holder. "Calling this an issue of 'political sanctuary' is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best."

December 17 was meant to be an OWS resurgence - "Occupy 2.0" as one protester's sign proclaimed.

But at least in the early hours of the protest, it didn't seem like the activists were planning to take the square as a camp site, and instead a puppet show briefly entertained the crowd.

Interestingly, the Duarte Square rules explicitly forbid "rallying," which seems odd and conspicuously illegal considering a portion of the land (the area not owned by the church) is public space. 

I moderated an OWS panel at Netroots Nations New York today during which an interesting conversation broke out about the future of Occupy, and if the traditional occupation of public spaces made famous by the Wall Street franchise would continue into the future.

The panel consisted of four activists: Biola Jeje (Brooklyn College Student Union, OWS,) Jesse LaGreco (Daily Kos, OWS,) rapper Jasiri X (Occupy The Hood,) and Nelini Stamp (OWS,) and the panelists seemed to agree that the future of the movement resides in Occupy taking its philosophical aspects and directing well-meaning dialogue into concrete acts of civil disobedience.

These direct actions have already manifested at 702 Vermont in East New York and in movements like the push back against student debt recently seen at CUNY.

Those acts, more than the occupation of public parks and squares, seem to be Occupy's future, at least according to the panel.

As of the filing of this report, about 300 people are marching from Duarte Square to an unknown destination. Updates to follow.

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Update: A group of about 30 protesters reportedly entered the vacant lot at Duarte and police have arrested them. Journalist Andrew Katz tweeted the photo below of the arrests. One of those arrested is retired bishop George Packard, who I photographed above.

Journalist Ryan Devereaux tweeted at length about being assaulted by an NYPD officer. Devereaux details the officer "pushing his fist into [Devereaux's] throat." Despite repeatedly insisting he was press, the officer replied, "get the fuck back." Devro's colleague, a credentialed cameraman, was punched in the kidney three times.

Independent photojournalist Zach Roberts was also arrested.

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More D17 photos (all photos by Allison Kilkenny)

Occupy Hunger Strikers

What remains of the OWS Library

Doctors demanding "Medicare for all"

Occupiers share food on a rug in Duarte Square

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.

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