New York's Trinity Church forced to cancel Halloween fest over Occupy Wall Street camp

Occupy Wall Street campers have made Halloween at a church in lower Manhattan simply too scary, church officials told

Citing an “abundance of caution,” the Rev. James Cooper of Trinity Church said the Episcopal parish at Broadway and Wall Street in Manhattan has canceled it popular Halloween activities due to safety issues arising from a sidewalk encampment in front of the place of worship.

“Canceling a beloved family event is not a decision taken lightly,” Cooper said in a statement issued Sunday. “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.”

Linda Hanick, a spokeswoman for Trinity Church, said nine people have been arrested in connection to the encampment in the past two weeks, including a man who was arrested after he put an air horn to the ear of a longtime maintenance superintendent at the church on Oct. 11. The maintenance worker was “traumatized” by the incident, she said.

“The sidewalk is owned by the city, so we don’t have the legal power to remove people from the sidewalk, but it’s our responsibility to clean it,” she said. “We hose down the sidewalk and throw away the trash.”

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Those cleanings, which occur twice daily at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., typically lead to a “tense situation,” Hanick said.

“They will only get up if a white shirt — a lieutenant — is there,” she said. “It becomes a tense situation.”

The unidentified man was arrested and returned to the encampment the following day, said Hanick, adding that church officials have recently installed eight security cameras to monitor activity nearby. Anywhere from 25 to 50 people are camped outside at any given time, she said.

A majority of those in the encampment appear to be homeless people who are resisting placement and have seemingly attached themselves to the Occupy movement, Hanick said.

“We’ve tried to work with them and these people are resistive to it,” said Hanick, adding that roughly 20 people had been camped outside of the church midday Tuesday.

A New York Police Department spokesman said there have been 18 arrests in the vicinity of Trinity Church since the last big “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration on Sept. 17. Aaron Williams, 20, the man who allegedly blasted the air horn in the ear of the church custodian, was charged with assault, menacing and disorderly conduct.

The other 17 arrests, which took place over the past month, were for mainly for disorderly conduct and open container violations. Several of the suspects had been previously arrested at “Occupy” events, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

As a result of the increased activity, Hanick said the church’s long-running festivities, including trick-or-treating in its courtyard and movies for children, will be canceled. No other church activities will be impacted. Last year’s events at the church drew crowds of more than 1,200, Rev. Cooper said.

“We’re determined that this situation is not going to threaten any of our ministries and events and all of the good work we do,” she said. “However, the Halloween event is a little different, with children coming into the church after dark. We just felt that out of an abundance of caution that this was not a friendly, safe environment to hold Halloween activities.”

Hanick said church officials would like to meet with city authorities on the matter.

“The city is aware of the situation,” she said. “We are hopeful for a meeting in the coming weeks.”

Ed Needham, an Occupy Wall Street organizer, said he found it "frankly disingenuous" for the church to cancel its Halloween celebration.

"The arrests that occurred over the past two weeks are the result of ongoing tension with the NYPD," Needham told "There's no danger to anybody."

Needham said he had no information pertaining to the Oct. 11 incident, but said the encampment isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

“We’ll wait and see what happens and hope for the best," he said. "It's truly unfortunate."