(Photo: The Christian Post/Stoyan Zaimov)
NEW YORK – For most, the Occupy Wall Street Movement came and went without the significant change to America's system some had hoped to achieve. But those still occupying in New York, in front of a church that found itself at the center of the controversy, have said that their fight continues – Thanksgiving Day and beyond.
Outside Trinity Church, the Episcopalian Lower Manhattan church that refused to give shelter to Occupy protestors when they were removed from Zuccotti Park last year, merely a block away, a number of protesters still sit on the sidewalk, with signs reminding pedestrians that the Occupy spirit is still alive, and that Trinity should answer for why it closed its doors to the needy in times of trouble.
The Christian Post interviewed one of the main people behind the movement, Ed Mortimer, a street medic who has been with Occupy Wall Street since October 1, 2011, and who runs a blog documenting almost on a daily basis what goes on outside Trinity Church.
"I was arrested for trespassing in December, because I went inside (Zuccotti Park) when I saw people were injured, and I climbed underneath the fence," Mortimer began in his earlier interview with CP on Nov. 20. "I went in to help them, and got arrested."
The medic says that the New York Police Department have committed a number of crimes against the occupiers that have gone unpunished – including verbal insults, beatings, taking food and clothing, breaking laptops, cell phones, causing sleep deprivation through sidewalk hosings and drilling holes in the scaffolding above so that protesters have no protection from the rain, among other offenses.
"The NYPD has stolen my property five times. I've only gotten any of it back the last time, and over half of it was destroyed – and I'm talking about the medical equipment. It looked like it had been thrown on the floor and stepped on – so I can no longer use it," Mortimer explained.
He said that when he asked them why they destroyed his equipment, the NYPD said that they were looking for a bomb. "They have arrested and searched me four times – never have they found anything illegal, let alone a bomb. They know I am a medic, they have called me a medic since the first day – but this is part of the harassment we have been getting."
Occupy's mission right now is to force the resignation of Trinity Church's rector, the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper. The rector, who heads the world's richest Anglican parish with over $1 billion in Manhattan real estate, has been accused of lavish overspending even by former directors of Trinity. He is also the one who made the decision not to allow the church to provide shelter to Occupiers.
"We're going to stay here until Cooper is fired or steps down. There has been word that he will not be here much longer, but we heard that about three months ago ,too," Mortimer continues.
"They tell the people that we are homeless and are sleeping in shelters, but that is not the case. Some of us are homeless, that's why we can stay here 24/7 – we don't have a job or a family to get back to, but that is just part of Occupy."
Trinity Church declined an offer for an interview by CP, and they have tried to distance themselves from the Occupy controversy – despite the camp of protesters and their signs sitting just feet away from the church.
Most recently, the church decided to cancel a Halloween event for kids after they cited "escalating illegal and abusive" activities stemming from the camp, describing them as a danger to safety.
"This week, a long-time maintenance superintendent at Trinity was the victim of an assault as he was attempting to perform the morning cleaning of the sidewalk areas affected by the camp. There have been nine arrests related to the camp since it began," the church claimed.
"Cancelling a beloved family event is not a decision taken lightly. Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents."
As for any exchange of goodwill during Thanksgiving Day coming from the church, Mortimer said: "Not that I've heard. Not at all."
Still, Occupy and Trinity Church did join together to some extent when they helped out with the recovery process for victims of Hurricane Sandy, the largest storm to hit the tri-state area in recorded history. But for now, the standstill between the camp and the church continues.