Churches Open Doors to Occupy Wall Street Protesters

By DNAinfo Staff on November 15, 2011 11:24pm

The sanctuary of Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village.
The sanctuary of Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village.
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Facebook/Middle Collegiate Church

By Amy Zimmer and Tom Liddy

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Churches around the borough were opening their doors Tuesday night to Occupy Wall Street protesters — who were left without a place to sleep after police cleared out Zuccotti Park hours earlier.

Among those taking in the anti-greed protesters, who first established a camp in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 17, was Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village, which said Tuesday night it could accommodate about 75 protesters.

"This is what we do," said Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at the East 7th Street house of worship. "It's not new to us."

Lewis said that those who seek shelter could expect a safe, comfortable place to sleep as well as pizza Tuesday evening and bagels in the morning.

"We're going to try to recharge their batteries," she said. "The Gospels have such a clear mandate for how we’re supposed to treat one another."

As of 10:30 p.m., about 10 people had taken advantage of the offer, including a man who had been homeless for six years.

"He said, 'The system is lousy. I hope for a place where people share what they have like you share with us'," Lewis recounted the man saying.

As for the future, she said that the hope is that Occupiers will be allowed to have their tents and sleeping gear back so that they can continue their work.

On the Upper West Side, the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on West 86th Street said that about 50 protesters were expected to spend the night.

"We’re doing it because that's what a church is supposed to do," said Giovanny Mondesir, assistant building manager for the house of worship.

He said that the church had received a list of protesters who planned to spend the night and would close its doors around midnight.

"It’s really not comfortable," said Mondesir of the protesters being evicted from their Lower Manhattan encampment, near the World Trade Center. "They’re trying to do something great for all of us and they're being kicked out."

The church, he said, would offer the protesters sandwiches and likely rice as nourishment during their stay.

A sign at Zuccotti Park tells protesters how to get to the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side for shelter on Nov. 15, 2011.
A sign at Zuccotti Park tells protesters how to get to the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side for shelter on Nov. 15, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

"We’ve been getting a lot of positive remarks, especially about our reverend [James Karpen]," who came up with the idea to house the demonstrators, Mondesir added.

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