Occupy Wall Street protesters in Duarte Square in lower Manhattan.
Updated at 7:45 p.m. ET
NEW YORK, NY -- A festive and celebratory mood quickly turned tense and angry Saturday as New York police arrested about 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters at a church-owned lot demonstrators had hoped to use as a camp site.
A dozen or so protesters climbed a wooden ladder into the fenced lot at Duarte Square, witnesses said. One of them was George E. Packard, an Occupy Wall Street supporter and retired Episcopal bishop to the Armed Forces and Chaplaincies, according to J.A. Myerson, a writer with Truthout.
Andrew Burton / Reuters
Retired Episcopal bishop George E. Packard (left), who is affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, climbs a ladder Saturday to church-owned land near Juan Pablo Duarte Square during a march in New York as anti-Wall Street protesters tried to establish a new encampment.
Several hundred people gathered across the street, where dozens of police tried to clear sidewalks as people shouted and screamed at them. After the arrests, a few hundred protesters made a blocks-long, late-afternoon march to the church rectory chanting, "For every eviction another occupation" and "Bloomberg beware, Zuccotti Park is everywhere." They later headed uptown to Times Square.
Legal sources say about 50 people were arrested, though the NYPD press office said late Saturday they did not have the arrest tally and protesters were still being arrested.
"This whole occupation has been a lesson in freedom for me," said Ashley Perry, 24, who traveled from her home in Tampa, Fla., to support her New York counterparts. "If you still think that you have your First Amendment rights, go out and try to express them… and see how long it takes for someone to come and shut you down -- it will happen quickly."
Earlier in the day, demonstrators played drums, cymbals and trombones, held group meetings and waved signs with a variety of messages -- "Disobedience is civil" and "Sorry to inconvenience your apathy" -- as they marked the completion of three months with a major direct action that they hoped would give them a new home as authorities continue to shutter camps nationwide.
Retired Episcopal bishop George E. Packard, right in purple robe, sits among other detained protesters in the Trinity Church lot on Saturday.
Protesters -- flanked by police officers -- coalesced on the nearly half-acre plot about one mile northwest of their former camp at Zuccotti Park. But their potential new landlord at Duarte Square, Trinity Church, voiced strong opposition.
"We do not ... believe that erecting a tent city at Duarte Square enhances their mission or ours," The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, said in a statement Saturday and posted to the church website. "The vacant lot has no facilities to sustain a winter encampment. In good conscience and faith, we strongly believe to do so would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy, and potentially injurious. We will continue to provide places of refuge and the responsible use of our facilities in the Wall Street area."
Linda Hanick, a spokeswoman for the church, said earlier this week that their position would not change and on Friday, a statement from the city's bishop sided with Trinity.
Under the banner of "Re-Occupy," the protesters said more than 1,400 people -- elders of the civil rights movement, prominent artists, faith leaders and community members -- would help them try and set up camp. The total numbers were not known, though several hundred people appeared to have joined the effort, with people being photographed at the "99% photobooth," while others danced around musicians and chanted, "Occupy." A group of hunger strikers with a sign reading "Day 15" also gathered at the site.
A man poses with a sign for the '99% photo booth.'
"I'm just loving seeing everybody from Zuccotti Park and it really puts an exclamation point on the (question) that's been asked today so many times, 'Do you guys need a space?' ... and the answer is, 'yes.' When you walk around and see the familiar faces and the kindred spirits and the unification of effort, then you realize yes we do need a space so that we can all be together and function as whole as a group and move forward, no doubt," said Thorin Caristo, a 37-year-old protester who is part of an independent livestream team.
Occupy Wall Street said in a statement ahead of the day: "Outdoor public space plays a crucial role in this civic process and encourages open, transparent organizing in our movement, unbeholden to a broken political system. As we saw in Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park), outdoor space invites people to listen, speak, share, learn, and act. It is a source of inspiration and empowerment."
Trinity Church has provided the protesters with meeting rooms and use of their neighborhood center, but rejected an earlier attempt on Nov. 15 by the protesters to move into the Duarte Square lot. The church's operations include an Episcopal parish, a commercial realty business and a grant-making organization.
Protesters create balloons of protest at Duarte Square on Saturday.
"Here's a extremely wealthy church ... that can choose between its real estate empire and its conscience. This would be a big help to social justice organizing," Bill Dobbs, of the public relations working group, said Friday.
Dobbs said the movement had suffered a "setback" with the loss of its camp, but the organizing and protests had continued. Still, "it sure is helpful to have … a center of gravity," he added.
One of the former leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society, Todd Gitlin, said that if the protesters didn't get the site, it was not a big deal, noting that Occupy Wall Street had become a more organized structure since it began with events going on continuously: "I think it's always a mistake to judge very much from what happens on a particular day."
Gitlin noted the movement currently "stands on the sidewalks."
"It's in the process of adjusting to two things: Number one, the loss of camps, and number two, we stand on the brink of an election year," Gitlin, a professor of sociology and journalism, said standing near the fence encircling the proposed new camp. "The eviction means that what was already a major tendency in the movement is even more prominent now, namely decentralism. It's dispersed. Lots of things are going on all the time."
Occupy think tank working group meets at Duarte Square in lower Manhattan as part of their bid to set up a new camp.
Not all protesters agreed with how the day's actions came about, noting that an affinity group (one that shares the values and opinions of the movement), "kind of did this without the real consent of Occupy Wall Street," said Jason Harris, who had lived in the movement's Zuccotti Park encampment.
"A lot of people in Occupy Wall Street ... think that it sets a dangerous precedent that affinity groups can use the name, idea and basically assume sponsorship by Occupy Wall Street to do basically things that they decide they think that they need to do, which aren't necessarily in the best interests logistically" of the movement, said Harris, a university student in public policy, adding that Trinity Church had been a "bit of an ally" to the group. "Although this is wonderful, I'm afraid of how kind of autonomous actions by affinity groups within OWS could potentially damage Occupy Wall Street."
Another protester, Tim Taylor, a student and former Marine from Seattle aged in his 40s, said he was a little disappointed in the turnout.
"It’s going to take a huge impact and that impact is basically the volume of people, to see you know Manhattan filled with 50,000, 100,000, 150,000 people and to disrupt an average person’s moment in the day … then you start to make an impact," he said as protesters marched to the city’s midtown neighborhood, passing by police with orange mesh used to kettle demonstrators. "But it shows promise that, you know, it’s a young organization that’s only been around for three months … and it’s spread around the country, if not even around the world. ...
"Nothing is ever easy and nothing is ever quick," he added. "You have to put in an effort and you have to work for it, and this group shows that they’re willing to do that."