Protesters connected with the New York "Occupy Wall Street" (OWS) movement have been accused of theft and even urinating on church property, leading some members of the faith community to regret ever opening their doors to them or even sympathizing with their cause.
Some churches have been welcoming of OWS and have allowed activists to sleep at their property, while others, like Trinity Wall Street Church, have stayed firmly against allowing any such encampments on their grounds – not because they are against the movement, but because of concerns regarding housing relatively large groups of protesters who come from all walks of life and have no clear leadership or code of conduct.
One New York City pastor told a group of about 60 OWS protesters who had been allowed to stay at his West Park Presbyterian Church in Manhattan to take their belongings and leave, after a large bronze basin and a lid from a holy vessel disappeared from the altar, along with the pastor's laptop in an earlier incident.
The Rev. Robert Brashear insinuated that activists he had allowed to sleep at the church behaved worse than crack addicts. "I, in my upset, talked about the fact that even in the 1980s when we had a lot of crack addicts etc. in the neighborhood, and even robbing people in the church, that particular religious symbol had never really been disturbed before," the pastor told CBS News New York.
Brashear explained that he does not actually believe in collective punishment, and the evictions were not about him judging the entire group based on what could have been the actions of one individual. However, he made it clear that he still believes in collective accountability and responsibility. He insisted that protesters could not continue to stay on the church's grounds if church property was in danger.
The response from OWS has apparently been positive – the activists have promised to either find the missing vessel or hire an artisan who would be able to make a replacement, and they have said the pastor will be reimbursed for his $2,400 Apple MacBook as well. Protesters have also reportedly agreed to face the consequences for their actions and said they will look to move out from the church's property within two weeks.
At Park Slope Presbyterian Church, a house of worship in the NYC borough of Brooklyn, officials have revealed that activists have desecrated its property.
Rabbi Chaim Gruber, who had previously announced his solidarity with the OWS movement, claimed that an activist had urinated inside the church, and the urine had come in contact with a cross.
The rabbi posted a long letter on the New York General Assembly website revealing that since the incident and other disagreeable issues within the movement, he has since retracted his support from the group, as he feels it has lost the values he initially respected it for.
The Rev. Robert Brashear and Rabbi Chaim Gruber were unable to be reached for comments at the time of press.