Sabtu, 17 Desember 2011

Arrests as Occupy Protest Turns to Church

From his spot at the center of Duarte Square in Lower Manhattan, Matt Sky watched on Saturday as hundreds of protesters streamed into the public areas of the triangle-shaped space at the center of an ideological tug of war between onetime allies turned adversaries: Occupy Wall Street and Trinity Church.

That began a long day of demonstrations and marches that extended to Midtown and resulted in at least 50 arrests.

By noon, protesters had streamed into the square from all directions under cold, cloudy skies to reinforce the vibrancy of a movement swept last month from another space, Zuccotti Park, and signal a resolve against ecclesiastical leaders resisting their wish to set up an encampment on property owned by the venerable Episcopal church.

“Everything about this movement is momentum,” said Mr. Sky, 27, an Internet consultant from the East Village. “We need to show people that we are still relevant.”

Since the earliest moments after they were displaced on Nov. 15, many protesters drifted north to the park at Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas. Trinity embraced them, giving them hot chocolate and blankets. But when the Occupy movement expressed an interest in setting up an organizing camp in Trinity’s private space, beside the public park, the church said no.

The Occupy Wall Street forces then aimed their skills on the church. In familiar fashion, police officers converged on the area, standing around the perimeter.

A flier distributed by protesters summed up their mood: “While the event may include a reoccupation, the event itself is a broader celebration and expansion of Occupy Wall Street,” it said. It also advised people to bring backpacks, warm clothes and sleeping bags.

About 3 p.m., several hundred people began to slowly march along the blocks around the park. They went about five blocks north, then circled back. They were carrying homemade wooden ladders, draped with yellow banners. At Grand Street, the protesters made a move: They threw a ladder fashioned into a portable staircase against a chain-link fence separating the sidewalk from the church’s property.

Many people went over the fence that way. Others lifted the fence from the bottom, allowing protesters to squeeze into the space. The protesters were joined by a few clerics, including one man dressed in a long, purple vestment.

Within minutes, police officers began taking people into custody. About 4:15 p.m., the man in the purple vestment was led into a police van. His identity, and possible role in the church, was not immediately clear.

On the sidewalk, other officers pushed into a line of protesters, ordering them to disperse.

But hundreds of demonstrators marched up Seventh Avenue on Saturday evening, in the street and on the sidewalk — and against traffic.

Police vehicles — cars, scooters, vans — followed, and there were more arrests.

“Is there a problem?” said one protester, who was on a bicycle, as a police officer grabbed him on West 29th Street, near Seventh Avenue.

“The problem is you’re under arrest,” an officer replied.

Earlier in the day, the Rev. Stephen Chinlund, 77, an Episcopal priest who retired seven years ago, held a placard reading: “Trinity Hero of 9/11. Be a Hero Again.”

The mission of the church was to help those in need, he said.

The church’s rector, the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, expressed sadness over the protesters’ actions on Saturday.

“O.W.S. protestors call out for social and economic justice; Trinity has been supporting these goals for more than 300 years,” Dr. Cooper said in a statement. “We do not, however, believe that erecting a tent city at Duarte Square enhances their mission or ours.”

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