(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/07/Occupy-wall-street-trash.gif)Yesterday I took a walk down to the oldest part of New York City, where the Dutch landed and planted their flag near the current location of the Staten Island Ferry, where George Washington stood his officers rounds at Fraunces Tavern, now filled with Wall Street types, and where a bunch of smelly hippies stirred by an anti-Semitic Canadian magazine decided to squat a park in order to make a statement about their own need for attention.
Zuccotti Park has returned to its original function as a place where secretaries, construction workers and off-duty cops go to eat quick lunches bought from local fast food places or disease-ridden Halal Mafia food carts. The few plants wave in a breeze that blows between the narrow lanes of the financial district, which has some of the oldest and narrowest streets in the city. An information desk for OWS is the only sign of the occupation, with cardboard signs denouncing the NYPD and sarcastically informing the Indian and Russian tourists taking snapshots of the under-construction Freedom Tower; “And to think these ‘People’ are the ‘Heroes’ of ‘911’… Right.”
Occupy Wall Street has gone east, one block east. It no longer occupies Wall Street, instead it has transformed into Occupy Trinity Church. The media, which served as the unofficial PR corps for OWS, is not too enthusiastic about reporting that a movement which they hailed is busy trying to seize land from a historic Episcopalian church that dates back to 1697, in whose cemetery lie several signers of the Declaration of Independence and several delegates to the Continental Congress, not to mention several Revolutionary War generals and a fellow by the name of Alexander Hamilton.
Trinity was also an enthusiastic supporter of Occupy Wall Street, providing them with bathrooms and private conference rooms, but turning over Duarte Square was asking too much. After being evicted from Zuccotti Park, the OWS crowd assumed that they could bully Trinity into giving them the land with the “fact of their occupation.” Instead Duarte Square, named after Juan Pablo Duarte, a founder of the Dominican Republic, has become OWS’s Waterloo.
Despite several attempts to occupy Duarte Square, Trinity Church has held firm. After half a year, OWS has made less impact fighting Trinity than it has fighting Wall Street.
When I passed by, the sad remnant of Occupy Trinity Church was down to three people, one of them sitting with a plastic bucket designated for the “OWS Laundry Fund” and another with a sleeping bag marked “Occupied.” A cardboard sign proclaimed that Trinity Church had stolen Duarte Square from the Indians and should give it back to OWS, as representatives of the native peoples.
One sign accused Trinity Church of greedily sitting on 200 million dollars while refusing the homeless trustafarians of Occupy Wall Street a small measly strip of land for their campsite. On its websites, OWS has blasted Trinity for being aligned with the “1 percent” and spun conspiracy theories about its parish vestry, which they allege holds over 10 billion dollars in real estate assets.
But Trinity’s 1 percenters had no one to blame for their troubles but themselves. This was a church where at its “May Day Teach-In,” the Rev. Dr. James Forbes said that, “The Occupy Movement is a light from above through the people from below.”
The Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones, a priest for pastoral care at Trinity, spoke on “The Gospel of Occupy Wall Street” and also used occupation as a metaphor for divinity.
“Recently, I completed a book, The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark. It is not a political manifesto or propaganda, but a lens for us to see how God occupies humanity in new ways,” the Reverend Bozzuti-Jones preached.
“In the book, Barack says, ‘Blessed are those who live a preferential love for the poor…. Blessed are those who die before their time because they are poor. Woe to those who advocate solving the economic woes [by putting burdens] on the backs of the poor. They advocate balancing the debt by cutting the social programs and refusing to tax the richest in the country.‘”
When you elevate a social protest movement as divinely inspired and endorse occupation as a heavenly tactic, it becomes awkward when you then have to tell the occupiers that they can’t have your land because it belongs to you and not to them. Trinity had been willing to associate with OWS to give it an air of spiritual activism. In return for all the positive publicity about its clergy grappling with social issues, it would give OWS leaders access to its meeting rooms and a shot at the toilets. It wouldn’t however give them Duarte Square.
Occupy Wall Street has never gotten over the betrayal, but it’s more likely that OWS just smelled an easier target. Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Trinity has lots of money and was a lot more willing to cater to the community organizers of Zuccotti Park than their neighbors in the financial district were. Left-wing groups are expert shakedown artists, and the hunger strikes and assaults on Duarte Square were intended to shake down some of that money under the threat of negative publicity. But if Trinity sent along any money, it wasn’t visible in the OWS laundry bucket, which seemed to have just about enough money to run a few dirty OWS t-shirts through the wash.
OWS may have also been looking to the future. Wall Street is slowly dribbling out of New York City. What September 11 couldn’t do, the Obama economy has. The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama means massive unemployment and low confidence in the economy, but the Gospel of Michael Bloomberg means more regulations and higher taxes.
Continuing down, past the sad tattered remnants of Occupy Trinity, Broadway unwinds itself down to the river where the Dutch once planted their flag for a while, where the gun batteries of Fort Amsterdam tried and failed to hold off the English, and down to Bowling Green Park, the first official park in the city, dating back to 1686, where the rebellious colonists pulled down a statue of King George and melted him down for ammunition.
At the edge of the water, you can see Newark, once a powerhouse city, now a local version of Detroit. What separates Newark from New York, besides the Hudson River and several letters, is Wall Street and a handful of relic industries, like magazine publishing, with a limited future.
On the river, which flows both ways, a dirty barge spewing fumes tows a load of garbage marked for recycling. In the distance, the Statue of Liberty, a faint green stick figure, stretches out her hand with the once-golden lamp. And a few miles away, on top of an artsy building in the Village, a statue of Vladimir Lenin stands on the roof. The statue was imported after the fall of the USSR by a radical professor, who was also one of the building’s investors. The bank has since foreclosed on the building, but Vladimir still stands there, one hand raised ominously toward Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty.
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