OWS and Trinity Wall Street face off

Wondering if both sides have chosen the wrong ditch to die in New York Magazine gives the background on the pending case of the Occupy Wall Street protestors and Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street:

Following their eviction from Zuccotti Park last fall, Occupy Wall Street protesters thought they might find refuge in lower Manhattan’s Duarte Square, a then-empty lot owned by Trinity Church. The landowners weren’t interested in hosting demonstrators, who attempted to take the space (located conveniently next to New York’s office) by force, leading to dozens of arrests and buckets of bad blood. Now, as the protesters face trial, the park is filled with food trucks, and the grudge match between Occupy and Trinity persists.

In the latest statement from Trinity, the Rev. James Cooper writes:

FIRST POSTING (June 7, 1:30 pm): Trinity Church is not seeking retribution or punishment as a result of the OWS actions of December 17th at Duarte Square.

Trinity has contacted the District Attorney’s office requesting that non-criminal dispositions without fines or incarceration be granted to all. The District Attorney has advised us that they have offered non-criminal dispositions without fines or incarceration to all except for three individuals who have either multiple open cases or additional crimes. The offers, though made on numerous occasions, were consistently refused.

Trinity fully supports the District Attorney’s decision to offer protestors non-criminal dispositions without fines or incarceration, and also respects the protestors’ right to make a choice.

Trinity has welcomed and continues to welcome OWS members, like all members of its community, to its facilities in the Wall Street area. However, Trinity unequivocally does not support the seizure of private property.

UPDATE (June 7, 4:51 pm): After protestors refused to accept the District Attorney’s offer of a non-criminal disposition without fines or incarceration, the District Attorney withdrew the offer. Trinity thereafter reached out and asked the District Attorney to re-offer the non-criminal dispositions to all (except those with multiple open cases or additional crimes.) The District Attorney agreed to do so, giving the protestors up to the date of trial to make their choice.

–James H. Cooper, Rector

From Occupy Wall Street press release today:

With a group of 20 Occupy Wall Street defendants set for trial Monday June 11 on trespass-related charges involving Trinity Church —

A last minute evidentiary hearing this morning:

Friday June 8 9:30AM, at 100 Centre Street, First Floor, AR1

Arguments about the production of documents by Trinity Church et al

Occupy Wall Street pressures Trinity as criminal court trial looms

New York–Trinity Church faces continued pressure about the use of its property, not just the fabled church and yard at the foot of Wall Street but over its corporate subsidiary, Trinity Real Estate, a cash cow of commercial real estate (valued at $1 billion) that makes it one of the largest landowners in Manhattan and the richest parish in the Anglican world. Last year Occupy Wall Street (OWS) along with allies in faith communities pleaded with Trinity for sanctuary at an unused vacant lot on Canal and Sixth Avenue known as Duarte Square, for an organizing base after being violently evicted from Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park). A December 17 clash over use of the lot resulted in 49 arrests, including several priests (Catholic and Episcopal), Bishop Packard (Episcopal), and one Catholic religious sister; a consolidated trial of 20 defendants is set to begin June 11.

Preceding the trial are two events that will put Trinity Church/Real Estate on the spot about its values. Trinity is being asked to stop prosecuting a group of OWSers and members of the faith community, and commit itself to economic justice.

Thursday, June 7, 11am Liberty Square (Broadway & Liberty St.) — “ Justice for the 99% Rally” Featuring author/journalist Chris Hedges and peace activist, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, a public event to remind all land rich religious institutions that their faith calls their loyalty to those at the losing end of economic disparity. Contact: Bishop George Packard, 914-260-1178, geopackard@gmail.com

Sunday, June 10, 7pm Steps of Trinity Church (Broadway & Wall St.) — Vesper Service On the eve of the trial Rev. James Cooper and Trinity Wall Street will be asked in this service to embrace forgiveness, drop the charges, and re-consider use of the empty lot at Duarte Square. Contact: Sr. Susan Wilcox, 347-282-1480, swilcox@sjcny.edu

Monday, June 11th 9am Trial – Manhattan Criminal Court, Jury Part 7, 346 Broadway at Leonard Street, 4th floor. 20 defendants face trespass-related charges. Contact: Tom Hintze, 914-329-0347, thintze1@gmail.com

The vestry of Trinity Church has recently been racked with divisions over the tenure of Rev. James Cooper. Ten of the church’s 22-member vestry—its board of directors, which includes worshipers, local business, political leaders – have either been forced out or quit. Cooper’s compensation of over $1 million a year, including a lavish SoHo townhouse, has become a lightning rod for criticism. Much like its Wall Street neighbors, Trinity gives money to charitable causes but refuses to challenge dramatic income inequalities right outside its doors.

Occupy Wall Street is part of an international people powered movement fighting for economic justice in the face of croney capitalism, the crimes of Wall Street, and a government controlled by monied interests. #OWS is the 99% organizing to end the tyranny of the 1%. For more info www.occupywallst.org and press.nycga.net.

Bill Dobbs

Occupy Wall Street Press Team

Category : The Lead
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4 Comments
  1. Cyberia Rune

    Trinity Wall Street did not bring, cause, create, press, or file charges against anybody, insofar as I can see from what’s been presented. I note, however, that either a presumption that they “must have,” or an assumption that any apparently wronged party can force their local municipal Attorney’s Office to drop police-created charges is in play here, and both notions are wrong.

    Unless OWS truly wishes to make absolutely certain that positively everybody believes that Trinity was targeted from the start – rather than being genuinely approached as a source of succour to the helpless and hopeless – such assumptions and presumptions, and the heavy-handed address, need to go. Otherwise, vitriol will rule the day, assisted by attorneys who specialize in it.

    Then, it might well end in tears for all concerned, which may suit those who dislike OWS and Trinity equally, but would not serve justice, good, or God.

    Were I asked, I would counsel that such an outcome be stringently avoided by all parties.

    Blessings,

    Rev CW Brockenbrough

  2. E B

    A disclaimer: I know very little in the way of specifics about the situation at Trinity. But $1 million a year for any clergy person? How exactly does that work? And how is this different from other non-profits, where folks serve in order to bring positive change to the world?

    Eric Bonetti

  3. William R. MacKaye

    The amount of Father Cooper’s salary at Trinity, $1 million plus in at least in one recent year, is information that’s been hanging around for some weeks now, but this is the first time I’ve seen it published. I’ve been wondering when it would happen. Newspaper, magazine, and broadcast accounts of the Occupy stand-off with Trinity haven’t touched it, at least to my knowledge.

    Trinity Church itself stopped publishing its financial reports some decades ago, but this compensation figure was found in a Form 990 (a public document) that one of Trinity’s subsidiaries filed with the Internal Revenue Service for, I think, 2009 or 2010. I seriously doubt that any other priest (or bishop, for that matter) in the Anglican Communion has been paid more than a million dollars a year by his or her church.

    Another unusual feature of Trinity Church’s governance structure is that members of its vestry are not required to be members of Trinity and many are not. Some years ago an acquaintance of mine who worked for the Ford Foundation served on Trinity Wall Street’s vestry while he was a member of Trinity Church, Princeton, N.J.

  4. Joe Brewer

    Bishop Packard, one who will stand trial, states:

    Those of us who had turned down the District Attorney’s plea bargains electing instead for a bench trial knew the consequences. We felt it was important to call into question Trinity’s authority to cite ownership, declare a trespass, and even to act as a corporation and landlord when its avowed mission was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    More at http://occupiedbishop.blogspot.com/2012/06/when-choice-is-honorable.html

    What I wonder is:

    -How on earth does a parish justify paying a rector $1.3 million a year and purchasing a $3.5 million townhouse for him?

    and

    -I thought this was the Episcopal Church. Bishop Sisk of NY and PB Jefferts Schori were all too happy to chime in with unhelpful rhetoric before this action occurred. Their silence now is deafening…but not surprising. Is it that they don’t wish to bite the hand that feeds them?

    OWS is about exposing abuses; I am proud they are exposing Trinity Wall Street’s abuse of its mission.

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