On November 15th, 2011, the sacred Occupy Shrine (also named the "The Tree of Life Altar" or "Shrine") of Occupy Wall Street was disrespectfully trashed and destroyed by the Mayor of New York, the NYPD and NY Sanitation Department, with the support of the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigations.
At the North West corner of Zuccotti Park at OWS, Occupiers, numerous religious faiths, community groups, created and maintained a 4-sided, 4-level Sacred Altar Space and Shrine – established for the communal practice of all religious faiths and paths. It was called The Tree of Life – named it's direct location around and at the only surviving tree from the downtown 9-11 attacks on the WTC.
Members of the public and the Occupy Wellness Group organized and maintained 58 days of continuous prayer, twice daily meditation, music, interfaith practices, worship, and community discussion around this shrine. This sacred space was widely visited and photographed by thousands of people of all religious background and faiths to connect and uplift each other in human spirit and unity. It was built in part with the donations of visitors of all faiths, and respectfully up-kept 24 hours a day for 58 days by our Occupy Wellness group. The altar space even has its own Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/OWS-Tree-Of-Life/
This past Monday night moving into Tuesday morning (11.15.2011), the forcible eviction of the Zuccotti Park human encampment was a directly violent and disruptive action sanctioned by the state, city and mayor-ship of New York upon a peaceful movement – without provocation or warning – and to uproot and wipe out an established and progressive community structure and hallowed spiritual grounds. In the process this as an act meant to destroy a support group of motivated individuals, students, young adults, men, women, and dear souls who went to the Liberty Park grounds for refuge, respite, prayer, dialogue and community sanctity. It was also a direct assault on our 1st Amendment rights to religious freedom.
Under cover of night, the NYPD, with the DHS and NY Sanitation Dept up-heaved and trashed people's belongings, all the encampment groups and structures, the free kitchen, the 5,000 books of the library, media... and in the process, they also intentionally destroyed the beautiful sacred altar space that was built with the care and donations of thousands of visitors to the space. Although we have made numerous attempts through the sanitation department to gather back the materials of the Tree of Life Shrine, aside from a couple of small items, the shrine was completely lost, destroyed and trashed.
For many people, these objects were extremely sacred, and we have seen deep emotional hurt and shock the disrespectful trashing of this altar has caused. What we are deeply concerned and hurt about is the total disregard and disrespect the local and nation Government and Police have towards its people; the harassment of peaceful worshipers, the wholesale destruction of human community, and the disrespect of a sacred space and Shrine, as well as the disregard for people's religious freedom to express public worship.
It was an unconscionable, yet, coordinated and condoned action that was handed down from the highest order of our Government – not just by New York's Mayor Bloomberg – but through the DHS, The FBI, and ultimately, our elected leader, President Obama. (see: http://occupyolympia.org/fbi-and-dhs-help-shut-down-occupy-locations/)
The subsequent day, the courts, in deciding upon the legal status of the Park Occupation, reversed a decision made earlier and said that the Occupiers did not demonstrate 1st Amendment Rights to have tents and sleeping bags on site. That may be correct in so far as camping gear goes. However, we strongly believe that our rights were taken away in our expression of religious freedom and unity–whether that be in the shape of a Shrine or established community altar, and as a group establishing a platform of community and worship. It is our moral and constitutional right to establish a place for prayer, and to have a group continue our prayers and meditations on the site where we established a sacred Shrine space for all people.
We call upon you to consider this as a pivotal point of our future together as a people and society. When we cannot maintain or establish a place of worship, prayer, and a platform for expression where we would like to, because the Government and President find our ideas threatening, or our local politicians ignore us, and they supersede our citizen's rights through the direct use of force, harassment and psychological warfare which they normally export against terrorists, then this is a time for us to stand together and say enough is enough!
Our movement is not one of violence or one that is against anyone. We are all the 100% in our eyes, and anything less, is creating a divide. We can only succeed in unity. But we have to be FOR principles and values. We must stand up FOR our rights. Anything less, and all else will fail. We don't believe we have that luxury of standing by without progressive dialogue and community action any longer.
We call upon you personally to take notice of this injustice, and to take the proper actions to help repair and restore the religious freedoms and civil liberties which were forcibly and disrespectfully trampled and taken away from us.