On Church and State: the case of Mark Adams.
The Anglican Church is the established religion in the UK, meaning that it is the official religion of the country. Formed by Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church in 1531, it has long been known as “the establishment at prayer.” In New York City, Trinity Wall Street is the Episcopal church on Wall Street, part of the Anglican Church. For nine months it has tried to pretend that it supports Occupy Wall Street, without ever doing too much to alienate Wall Street. Now it’s clear that Trinity is truly Anglican, siding with state over populace.
For the charges it has leveled against OWS activists have lead to eight convictions, including that of retired Bishop George Packard. Shockingly, OWS stalwart Mark Adams has been sentenced to 45 days in jail on Rikers Island. His offense? Gaining access to a patch of open land, known as Duarte Square on December 17, 2011, which is owned by Trinity Wall St based on a 1705 land deed. Because he allegedly used cutters on the fence, Mark was charged with possessing burglary tools. So keen was the judge to endorse this concept that he sentenced Adams to 15 days more than the prosecution asked for.
Mark is a non-violence activist and person of color, who is homeless by choice as a form of protest. As a result he has a long black beard, like many a Brooklynite, but which may have activated the anti-Islam reflex in downtown Manhattan. In short, he makes the perfect target for punitive action in Bloombergistan.
Trinity is no ordinary church. It is a major landowner managing 6 million square feet of real estate in Hudson Square and distributes millions in philanthropic grants to nonprofits around the world. However, since the Reverend James Cooper has been in charge, the church has moved away from helping the poor, closing its homeless drop-in center in 2009, and towards a twee PBS view of the church. One indication of the change is that Trinity overspent its music program by $800,000 while donating only $2.7 million to international philanthropy.
Cooper has taken good care of himself, however, making:
demands for a $5.5 million SoHo townhouse, an allowance for his Florida condo, trips around the world including an African safari and a fat salary.
To be precise, Cooper gets a $1.3 million compensation package, including a salary of $346,391 and deferred compensation of $507,940, plus over $115,000 a year “housing allowance” to cover his other place in Florida.
Half the church’s board of directors has resigned in the past six months in disgust at a variety of policies implemented by Cooper, such as:
lavishly overspending church funds on Bach concerts and other events, and planning an opulent overhaul of the church’s office space at 68-74 Trinity Place rather than focusing on his ministry and helping the poor.
In light of all this, it comes as no surprise to read Cooper opine in relation to the convictions:
Seizure? Adams, Packard and the others simply climbed the fence to walk onto land marked with a sign saying “open to the public.”
If Adams and others hoped to start a new encampment there, it would be consistent with the “stated goals” of OWS to do so. It says, “Occupy Wall Street,” not “write a genteel letter to the editor about Wall Street.” But Trinity had only wanted to gain the veneer of progressive activism, not back it up with actions and Cooper has now remade the church in Wall Street’s image.
Alas, poor Occupy. The state is against it, the church is now against it. Some local press have wasted no time with the usual “Occupy is over” pieces. Someone forgot to tell OWS. A 45 day vigil began today outside Trinity. Bishop Packer was there.
There was music.
Because Occupy is not about church or state. It’s about mutual aid, about a different way of being there for each other. It doesn’t win or lose.