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Trinity Church Cancels Halloween, Citing 'Abusive' Occupy Wall Street Camp

By DNAinfo Staff on October 16, 2012 7:20am  | Updated on October 16, 2012 7:35am

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Trinity Church has canceled its popular, long-running Halloween festivities, citing "escalating illegal and abusive activity" related to an Occupy Wall Street-affiliated camp set up in front of the place of worship.

Trinity's Rector Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper wrote Sunday in a statement on the church's website that 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."

Cooper added in his note that a "longtime maintenance superintendent at Trinity was the victim of an assault as he was attempting to clean areas of the sidewalk affected by the camp." 

The sidewalk is publicly owned but privately maintained, like other sidewalks in New York.

Trinity spokeswoman Linda Hanick said that on Thursday, Oct. 11, a person in the encampment put an air horn up to the worker's ear while he was trying to clean and then "blasted" it. The employee was forced to seek medical care as a result, she said.

Police saw the incident unfold and made an arrest, Hanick said. Cooper noted in his statement that there have been nine arrests related to the encampment since it arrived.

An NYPD spokesman was not able to confirm the arrests or the horn-blowing allegations.

Cops released the person involved in the air-horn incident, and that individual is now back in front of the church, Hanick added. 

Though Trinity does not want to cancel the planned movies and organ music — which have drawn crowds of up to 1,200 children over the last seven years — the institution feels it has no choice.

"We're deeply concerned about the safety and sanitation out there in the neighborhood," Hanick said. "We've closed our public bathrooms in the church because of vandalism."

The encampment should not impact other Trinity activities, she added.

"We're committed that this is not going to threaten our ability to do our ministries," Hanick said. "Our Halloween was a special situation because of the masks and young children and candles and darkness." 

Community Board 1 chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes echoed Trinity's concerns.

"We are disappointed that the longstanding Halloween Party, much loved by Downtown children and their families, has to be canceled due to safety concerns pointed out by Trinity Church," she said in an e-mail.

Dana Balicki, an Occupy Wall Street organizer and communications officer, countered that she had not heard anything specific about the alleged assault. 

Balicki did confirm that some OWS participants were camped outside of the church in a related movement called Occupy Trinity, which seeks to highlight alleged wrongdoing in the congregation and on the part of Cooper.

Critics, including Occupy Trinity, have long slammed the rector's allegedly lavish spending habits, claiming that he has used church funds on concerts and fancy office overhauls instead of helping the poor.

"This is a loss for the children," Balicki said. "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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