This weekend, Occupy Wall Street is planning to attempt an occupation of Duarte Square, which is owned by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopalian parish downtown. The plans have been in the works for some time; a few people have been holding a hunger strike for almost two weeks to get Trinity to give OWS the space. The planned occupation is meant to coincide with the three-month anniversary of the movement.
Now, South African bishop and activist Desmond Tutu has thrown his hat in the ring, putting out a statement that calls for Trinity to allow the protesters to occupy.
The full statement:
Sisters and Brothers, I greet you in the Name of Our Lord and in the bonds of common friendship and struggle from my homeland of South Africa. I know of your own challenges and of this appeal to Trinity Church for the shelter of a new home and I am with you! May God bless this appeal of yours and may the good people of that noble parish heed your plea, if not for ease of access, then at least for a stay on any violence or arrests.
Yours is a voice for the world not just the neighborhood of Duarte Park. Injustice, unfairness, and the strangle hold of greed which has beset humanity in our times must be answered with a resounding, “No!” You are that answer. I write this to you not many miles away from the houses of the poor in my country. It pains me despite all the progress we have made. You see, the heartbeat of what you are asking for–that those who have too much must wake up to the cries of their brothers and sisters who have so little–beats in me and all South Africans who believe in justice.
Trinity Church is an esteemed and valued old friend of mine; from the earliest days when I was a young Deacon. Theirs was the consistent and supportive voice I heard when no one else supported me or our beloved brother Nelson Mandela. That is why it is especially painful for me to hear of the impasse you are experiencing with the parish. 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–which they live so well in all other ways–but now to do so in this instance…can we not rearrange our affairs for justice sake? Just as history watched as South Africa was reborn in promise and fairness so it is watching you now.
In closing, be assured of my thoughts and prayers, they are with you at this very hour.
God bless you,
Tutu furthered yesterday’s statement today — the latest one equivocates a little more:
I’ve challenged my friends at Trinity on this issue just as I’ve challenged Trinity for the past 35 years in our ongoing friendship. I do this in love, not to harm.
I also now challenge those who disagree with Trinity. My statement is not to be used to justify breaking the law. In a country where all people can vote and Trinity’s door to dialogue is open, it is not necessary to forcibly break into property. Nor is it to reinforce or build higher the barriers between people of faith who seek peace and justice. My deep prayer is that people can work together and I look forward to that conversation.
Trinity Church has said that they won’t allow the occupation to proceed.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 16, 2011