Saturday, December 17, 2011

Observations from the Edge 12.17

Today is D17, the three month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street, the one year anniversary of the self-immolation of Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, and the 24th birthday of alleged wikileaker Bradley Manning. A strange karmic brew if there ever was one.

The schedule calls for an all day music and arts festival reminiscent of Occupy Broadway beginning at noon in Duarte Square, a mixed public and privately owned lot. Scheduled performers include Lou Reed and there is rumored that Patti Smith is to appear. If the Patti Smith rumor turns out to be true all my shopping plans are out but as of now she doesn't appear on the schedule. What happens after the festival is anybody's guess at this point. 

Trinity Church, now known as Trinity Wall Street, was founded in 1697 and now its Trinity Real Estate arm is the 3rd largest property owner in Manhattan with holdings valued close to $10 billion. It is the single largest land owner in lower Manhattan, even the NYSE sits on land it owns. The members of its vestry include high placed executives currently at or retired from Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, the insurance giant AIG, and the ever present Brookfield Properties. Under the Episcopal governing system this small group, many of whom aren't even church members, have complete control over Trinity's land holdings and thus the decision on whether or not OWS can use Duarte Square. Trinity Church has repeatedly said that they won't allow the occupation.

A forced occupation of Duarte brings with it a potential downside as any reports on event will note that the land is owned by Trinity Church and not the City of New York or evil Brookfield Properties. It is after all a church and a church that has previously supported OWS with free food and meeting places plus allowed the use of its bathrooms and WiFi network.

Many New York clergy members who disagree with Trinity have called on the church to allow OWS use of Duarte and plan on attending today's event. On Thursday they along with protesters erected a nativity scene outside Trinity that featured Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and a tent with a sign that said "there was no room for them at the inn, you have plenty of room Trinity." Over a dozen clergy members have said they will help take down the fence surrounding Trinity's part of the lot and thus risk arrest. Among them will be retired Bishop George Packard, formerly the Episcopal Church's chief chaplain and a decorated Vietnam Veteran, the Occupied Bishop.

"The story of Christmas starts with Mary and Joseph's search for a home," said Reverend Michael Ellick of Judson Church. "It's thus especially ironic, and tragic, that Trinity Church, one of the largest landowners in New York City, refuses even a tiny, unused piece of its vast land to OWS, which points to the same spirit of transformation that Jesus represented. This is truly a theological line in the sand."

Stay tuned.