First Person with OWS Protester Lucas Vazquez

Make text smaller Make text larger

Ringing in the three-month anniversary of OWS

Dec. 17 marked the three-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. As a birthday present, I and others in the movement sought to re-occupy another public space, Duarte Square, at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Canal Street-just to clarify, Duarte Square is both a publicly owned triangular sidewalk and an enclosed lot to the west, which is privately owned by Trinity Church. We had planned a very festive day full of music, balloons, energy, dancing, songs and food to celebrate the seeds that were planted three months before, which have sprouted into a national movement.

At around 3 p.m., on the march around the square, people told me to stick close to the crowd in order to hide a ladder from sight of the police. The officers were mostly outside the fence, guarding its perimeter. But my group was able to reach a part of the fence without police in front of it. The ladder was erected for people to climb into Duarte Square, the new public space we would liberate. [Ed. note: Trinity Square's portion of Duarte Square is currently closed to the public for the season.]

The first person to climb into the square was a retired bishop [Episcopal Bishop George E. Packard]. It was such an ironic image to see a bishop reclaiming a public space that Trinity Church had refused to allow Occupy Wall Street to use for an occupation.

As more people continued to climb into the park, other protestors successfully ripped the fence out from the bottom to create an entrance. Roughly 200 people, including myself, remained in the square until police began to charge inside, when many escaped through the newly made hole in the fence. I was on the periphery, watching as the 50 or so protestors who had bravely stayed inside were arrested for trespassing on "private property."

In the middle of the excitement, I couldn't help but notice the symbolic potential of this moment. It was the 99 percent succeeding at doing away with an unnecessary fence that symbolized the 1 percent. Our success lay in realizing our potential as the majority in this struggle, those who suffer from economic, social and cultural oppression.

We marched uptown to the house of Trinity Church's owner to protest the hostility toward our genuine intentions to reclaim a public space. We marched with enthusiasm and energy by taking to the streets and stopping traffic. Such militancy clearly arose from ordinary people-from city council members to teachers to radicals to the unemployed-engaging in direct action. You could hear chants like "A-Anti-Anti-Capitalista" and "Bloomberg beware, Zuccotti Park is everywhere" from blocks away.

We proved to the world that we are willing to spend the night in jail, climb fences, take the streets and escalate to build momentum and solidarity for a newly born movement that seeks to achieve justice for the 99 percent.

Disclaimer: Lucas Vazquez is not an official spokesperson for Occupy Wall St.


The Fight Over Duarte Square

By Marissa Maier

While Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopalian church located in Lower Manhattan, provided early support like blankets and places to rest for Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters, the faith organization now finds itself at odds with members of the movement.

Since OWS was evicted from its previous home in Zuccotti Park in mid-November, the protesters are now calling to set up an encampment on a triangular piece of property owned by the Episcopalian Diocese in Soho. They attempted to occupy the space on the three-month anniversary of OWS this Saturday, Dec. 17. The property in question, Duarte Square, is a small, empty plot bordered by 6th Avenue, Sullivan, Grand and Canal streets.

"Vast resources sit unused while people are in need-in need of homes, schools, jobs and public places to gather and empower communities," members of the movement noted in a press release before Saturday's "Re-Occupy" event. "This vacant lot [Trinity Wall Street's portion of Duarte Square] has sat empty for the past 3 years and is not slated for development for at least another year, similar to the hundreds of bank-owned, foreclosed homes in East New York."

In a statement, the rector of Trinity Church, the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, noted that the church still holds the ideological values of the movement dear and pointed out that Duarte Square isn't equipped with the facilities to accommodate an encampment, especially in the winter months.

"OWS protestors call out for social and economic justice; Trinity has been supporting these goals for more than 300 years. The protestors say they want to improve housing and economic development; Trinity is actively engaged in such efforts in the poorest neighborhoods in New York City and, indeed, around the world," Cooper wrote.

"We do not, however, believe that erecting a tent city at Duarte Square enhances their mission or ours," he continued. "In good conscience and faith, we strongly believe to do so would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious. We will continue to provide places of refuge and the responsible use of our facilities in the Wall Street area."

Protestors marching up 6th Avenue from Duarte Square in celebration of their three-month anniversary on Saturday, Dec. 16. PHOTO BY pamela drew

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters