South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has stepped into the struggle between Occupy Wall Street protesters and the Trinity Episcopal Wall Street Church, asking the church to allow protesters to use its vacant lot as an encampment.
This Sunday marks the three month anniversary of the Occupy movement, and the South African activist urges Trinity Church to accommodate the protesters to in order to stop arrests and violence. Tutu is just one of many church leaders to side with the controversial movement, calling it a “voice for the world.”
In a letter to OWS, Tutu calls Trinity an “esteemed and valued old friend,” but said it was painful to hear the about the ongoing strife between the church and protesters.
“Sisters and Brothers, I greet you in the Name of Our Lord…I know of your challenges and of this appeal to Trinity Church for the shelter of a new home and I am with you,” he said in the letter.
He continued, “I appeal to them to find a way to help you. I appeal to them to embrace the higher calling of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Over 1,000 church leaders have signed a promise to support the Occupy protesters, according to The Guardian. Earlier this week, more prominent pastors joined the movement to continue what they consider the unfinished legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Due to recent evictions of demonstrators from sites around the city and country, clergy members have opened doors of their churches and their homes, in some cases, to protesters.
Despite a growing standoff between the protesters and Trinity Episcopal Church at Wall Street in New York City, Trinity claims they have done more for protesters than any other institution in the area.
According to reports, Trinity has given protesters meeting rooms and offices for meetings, private discussion, computer use, cell phone charging and bathroom visits.
This defense comes in response to critics like Tutu who think Trinity should let protesters use its Duarte Square lot, located at 6th Avenue and Canal Street. Dr. Rev. James H. Cooper disagrees with those who think Trinity should allow OWS members to camp out in the lot as a matter of conscience.
He claimed it would be wrong, unhealthy, and potentially injurious to open an encampment in the lot. He also complained about protesters who vandalized the church’s property while demanding to use it.
“Calling this an issue of ‘political sanctuary’ is manipulative and blind to reality,” Cooper said. He added, “Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided.”
Less than a month ago, three OWS protesters started a hunger strike in front of Duarte Square in protest of Trinity Church’s stance. On Nov. 17, members of OWS were arrested for trying to make a camp in the lot. Since then, some protesters have focused their efforts on forcing the church to give them the land.
Protesters planned a nonviolent occupation of Duarte Square on Saturday, according to The Spectator. Trinity has threatened to respond with police action. Reports say they may mobilize platoons of police in riot gear.
Trinity Church, which owns a substantial amount of New York real estate, is one of the wealthiest churches in New York. Some OWS supporters believe that the church’s ties to wealthy and prominent Wall Street bankers, media, and real estate executives drive these latest responses to protesters.