Occupy protesters facing trial for breaking into church lot
A dozen Occupy Wall Street protesters and clergy members are set to go on trial Monday for breaking into a church-owned lot in SoHo during a demonstration in December.
Hundreds gathered at Trinity Wall Street's vacant Duarte Square on Dec. 17, hoping to find a new home after the city evicted the protesters from Zuccotti Park. Sixty-five were arrested for tearing though a fence and entering the lot against the church's wishes.
More than two-thirds of those who were charged accepted deals to avoid jail time, but those expected in court today wanted to go to trial instead. The group includes retired Bishop George E. Packard, who was photographed climbing a ladder over the lot's fence.
Since December, the protesters have been frustrated with Trinity for not letting them use the space and for pressing charges, even though church officials have repeatedly said they agree with OWS' message.
"Trinity had an opportunity to offer sanctuary to the occupiers," said Gideon Oliver of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing the protesters. "Every time the protesters came knocking on the church's door, they've called the police."
In a statement, Trinity Rector James H. Cooper said the church is "not seeking retribution or punishment" against the protesters, but said they "consistently refused" to accept the DA's offer, which would have spared them jail time.
The protesters face up to 90 days on the misdemeanor trespass charges if convicted. A spokeswoman for the DA declined to comment on the case.
"Trinity has welcomed and continues to welcome OWS members, like all members of its community, to its facilities in the Wall Street area," Cooper said. "However, Trinity unequivocally does not support the seizure of private property."