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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Trinity Church is cancelling its annual Halloween celebration.
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A post on the church’s website says the “decision was made out of an abundance of caution as we continue to face safety issues arising from the sidewalk camp in front of Trinity Church.”
A group called “Occupy Trinity Wall Street Church” – which labels itself as “An action of Occupy Wall Street” – set up a makeshift camp on the sidewalk in front of the church.
Last December, Trinity Church told Occupy protesters evicted from Zuccotti Park they couldn’t stay at Duarte Square, which is owned by Trinity Church. The NYPD said 49 Occupy protesters were arrested attempting to scale a chain-link fence or crawl under it in order to gain access to the property.
“They broke into the Duarte property. We said ‘no.’ They’re just angry about it, I guess,” Linda Hanick of Trinity Church told CBSNewYork.com.
The camp started in front of the church in June.
“By mutual agreement reached by consensus… of those occupying the sidewalk we decided to occupy until James Cooper is fired or steps down,” Occupy Trinity Wall Street Church says in a message on their site.
“It started as an Occupy Wall Street protest but we have seen it devolve into a situation of people with a variety of causes,” Hanick said. “Young homeless people have attached themselves to the camp. These young people are resistive to any kind of housing placement or social outreach.”
The protesters are supplied by individual donors who bring food and supplies. Several dozen of the protesters – about 28-50, Hanick estimated – are set up on the sidewalk outside the church.
“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,” Rev. Dr. James Cooper wrote in the post on the site. “There have been nine arrests related to the camp since it began.”
The church is required by law to clean the sidewalk in front of its property. They send out three workers each day with a power hose and garbage cans. Some of the protesters move, some don’t.
“Some get rowdy,” Hanick said.
Nearby police step in in those circumstances.
Hanick said a week ago one of the workers was approached by a young protester who blasted him in the ear with a loud air horn. The worker, Hanick said, was traumatized and was put under medical care. The protester was arrested, Hanick said.
“The hard part was that [the protester] was back on the campus the next day, and so was the employee,” Hanick said.
The church said some 1,200 people attended last year’s Halloween celebration and that it’s been held for the last eight years.
“It’s a popular event for the community, but given the conditions… we felt it was not a safe environment,” Hanick said.
DNAinfo.com reported that an Occupy Wall Street organizer was unaware of the arrest.
“This is a loss for the children,” organizer Dana Balicki told DNAinfo. “We’ve always worked really hard to maintain good relations with Trinity, but it’s always been difficult. This isn’t surprising coming from Cooper.”
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