By Jen Waller and Thomas Hintze
On Monday, June 18, seven Occupy Wall Street protesters were convicted for trespassing on property allegedly owned by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal church and powerful Lower Manhattan landlord, during an action on December 17 of last year. An eighth defendant, Mark Adams, was convicted of trespassing, attempted criminal mischief and attempted possession of burglary tools. Adams is Occupy Wall Street’s first activist convicted and sentenced to jail time in a group trial. …
Throughout the trial and the lead-up to it, questions swirled about the extent of Trinity’s cooperation with the prosecution and, by extension, the repression of the Occupy movement. While Rev. James Cooper, Trinity’s rector, has stressed his efforts in urging the District Attorney’s Office to offer non-criminal dispositions to defendants, his participation was necessary for the trial to go forward. While testifying, Cooper noted that civil disobedience was important to the fabric of protest movements, but he did not support it in this instance. He has also repeatedly cited the church’s support for many of the Occupy movement’s basic objectives.
Yet Trinity’s involvement with the apparatus of repression appears to precede December 17. On the morning of November 15, after the eviction of Zuccotti Park, Katie Davison, an Occupy activist and filmmaker, attended a meeting with members of Trinity’s leadership. “As the meeting finished up,” she remembers, “I lingered for a moment in conversation with Linda Hannick, the public relations director for Trinity. We were discussing the eviction and we had shown the clergy pictures of the violence we had witnessed at the hands of the police just hours before.”
Davison continues, “There was a break in the conversation, and Linda leaned forward and said just above a whisper, ‘So, you didn’t know they were coming?’ ‘No,’ I responded. She stared back at me, apparently surprised. I guess she had known all along.”