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In fact, he assured them, the 99 percent movement will soon return in a big way with demonstrations and events that will, once again, make the whole world stand up and take notice.
“There are plans in place that I am not at liberty to share,” he told the political club members at their meeting two weeks ago. “This spring I really think there is going to be shock and awe. There’s going to be so many of us, and no one’s going to be able to look away.
“May 1 will be a big day,” he said. “It’s always a big day — but they’re really going to be going for shock and awe.”
There’s no shortage of O.W.S. supporters out there, he said. But he acknowledged that police evicting the encampment from Zuccotti Park in November was a real blow to the movement as a vibrant forum for ideas and change.
“There was a desperate need — there still is: That forum has got to have physical space,” he said. “It’s tactic. It’s metaphor.
“We now have a very lazy media,” he explained. “Zuccotti was a very easy place for the media to come down and ‘do the story.’ Post-having the space, post-Zuccotti Park, the movement really suffers.”
Although the Occupiers have been dispersed, they’re still committed, he said.
“A lot of people who were in the park are around the world — sort of spreading the word,” he said.
Since last fall, Ellick, 37, has been the leader of Occupy Faith NYC, a coalition of progressive New York City churches supporting O.W.S. Originally from Seattle, he has had a couple of past lives. He was formerly a public finance analyst for infrastructure projects, such as bridges and the like. For about six years he was a Buddhist monk. His understanding of economics and his spirituality seem to have meshed perfectly in his current calling as the “Priest of O.W.S.”
Early on, with the Zuccotti encampment constantly at risk of eviction, he and others realized a fallback was needed.
“A lot of pastors started thinking this has to be organized out of churches,” he noted, a belief that only grew stronger after the protesters’ ouster from the Lower Manhattan park.
He told V.I.D. that he and a few others initially broached the idea of Occupy trying to get Trinity Real Estate’s Duarte Square space, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., for the movement’s second home — dubbed “Occupy 2.0.” Trinity Real Estate is the real estate arm of Trinity Church. Trinity is one of Downtown Manhattan’s biggest property owners.
“We suggested that space to the movement,” he said. “We actually thought we had this brilliant idea, that they’ll actually give it.”
Ellick said they had waivers all written up for Trinity to indemnify it in case anything happened in the fenced-in triangle during the hoped-for encampment.
“And then Trinity didn’t budge,” he said.
Yet, Ellick said, he wasn’t totally sold on the idea of physically taking the space and thought it was best to ask for Trinity’s permission. Yet he didn’t think it was right to back down, either.
“The question was: Was it smart to go after a church?” he noted. “There was a lot of split about whether it was smart to go after Trinity.”
He admitted he wavered back and forth on the issue, though ultimately supported the Occupiers when they resolved to “take the space.” The occupation on Sat., Dec. 17, was short-lived; after being led over the chain-link fence by a retired Episcopal bishop and a group of hunger strikers, the protesters were quickly arrested by police. There hasn’t been another effort to take the Duarte Square lot since.
A few weeks ago, there was what Ellick described as a “little pop-up Occupy” in Washington Square Park. In a trademark of theirs, the Occupiers even served free meals. But the event was marred by a bit of violence. At one point, rocks or bottles were thrown, he noted with disappointment.
“That’s the way this will die,” he warned.
Judson Church on Washington Square South will be holding “Occupy Salons” on Saturday evenings, another way to help the uprooted movement coalesce, he added.
Clearly, the Occupy slogans and mentality have permeated the culture, he said.
“It’s like ‘Occupy iTunes’ and ‘Occupy TV,’ ” he noted. “You hear it now at City Council hearings — people say, ‘We are the 99 percent.’ ”
Yet, the movement still keeps its distance from politics, he indicated.
“You will not see Occupy Wall Street endorse Obama,” he assured. “The movement has a position that we’re not going to endorse a mainstream political candidate.”
Similarly, despite many people wondering why the movement doesn’t narrow its focus, he said, there’s a fear that would dilute the powerful inclusiveness of O.W.S. Yet, at another point, he said, the movement is “getting to the point of specific asks.”
One thing they are definitely working on right now is being able to rapidly summon protesters in enormous numbers.
For example, he said, “If there’s going to be a rally about N.Y.U. expansion — we’re trying to build our responsiveness core better, so that maybe they can quickly bring 1,000 people.”
Brad Hoylman is chairperson of Community Board 2 and, wearing his other hat, the Village’s Democratic district leader and a V.I.D. member. He noted to Ellick that he had met with Reverend James Cooper, Trinity’s rector. Hoylman and some other C.B. 2 members had favored Trinity letting Occupy use the Duarte lot.
“I was summoned to Rector Cooper’s office,” Hoylman said. “I went to see him in his 30th-floor, wood-paneled office off of Wall St. His message was: ‘Stay out of our business. This is a real estate transaction. Don’t you respect that right?’ ” Hoylman added that Cooper was “a nice guy, but… .”
However, Ellick indicated that the push for the Hudson Square lot might be over for good.
“The headline was ‘Occupy Wall Street fights Church,’ and that’s not good,” Ellick explained. “After Dec. 17, we decided, publicly, not to make it a big point. We’re backing off on the public front,” he said of the quest for the Duarte space. Nevertheless, he said, some of them are still “privately organizing” toward this end, and, he held out, “Maybe it could happen.”
Linda Jacobson, another V.I.D. member, said she marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, but, well, just doesn’t get O.W.S., even when her daughter tries to explain it to her.
“I can’t get a handle on Occupy Wall Street,” she said. “Is there an ‘Occupy for Dummies’?”
Ellick paused for a moment and gathered himself, then explained that the answer is twofold.
“First, reform the democracy,” he said. “Second, right now, show — create — what we want America to look like.”
As for what America looks like right now, sadly, it’s quite clear, he said: “It’s a broken system of government run by the rich.”
He invited the V.I.D. members — some of whom had previously helped out down at Zuccotti Park during the encampment — to join the movement. Each one of them could bring his or her own issues and causes and add them into the O.W.S. mix, he said.
“Hopefully, we will see all of you come out as Occupiers,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.”