Friendly Cult Looking For Recruits at Occupy Wall Street!

The Village Voice/November 10, 2011

By Rosie Gray

Occupy Wall Street is almost two months old, but last night was the first time the Voice had noticed an odd-looking brown bus parked on Liberty across from Zuccotti Park. It kind of looked like a huge ’70s-style RV. A sign on the door read “Welcome. Please come in!”

We did as suggested and encountered The Twelve Tribes, to our knowledge the first cult (or cult-ish group, at least) that is making an attempt to recruit people at the protest.

Upon entering the cozy wood-paneled bus, an older couple presented the Voice with a plate of brownies. We took one. (No, it wasn’t a pot brownie.) There were about a dozen people on the bus, which looked like someone’s rec room mixed with Frodo’s house. A man named Emmett with a headband and tattooed arms came and sat beside us on one of the soft cushy seats and handed us a cup of tea. (It wasn’t mushroom tea.)

To Emmett’s credit, he waited a full two minutes before handing us literature relating to The Twelve Tribes, a messianic group that traces its origins to early 1970s Tennessee. They live on communes all over the U.S. and Europe. If you’ve ever seen a Yellow Deli or a Common Ground Café, that’s these guys.

“We do everything together,” Emmett, 35, said. “We raise our children together. There’s no self-interest, no leader. We’re kind of like the Amish,” he said, a comparison strengthened by the floor-length skirts and modest blouses the women were wearing.

The group of nine had driven all the way from Tennessee in the bus and were only in the city for a few days. They don’t have an official stance on Occupy Wall Street, according to Emmett. Tonight they’ll be at Madison Square Garden outside the Furthur show. Occupier James Molenda, 32, told the Voice that he recognized the Twelve Tribes from Phish shows he has been to; apparently hanging out at jam band concerts is part of their proselytizing M.O.

Are they looking to have people from Zuccotti join them, we asked? “We don’t use the term ‘join,’” Emmett said with a soft chuckle. “What we always say is, ‘Come for a day or to stay.’” Emmett took the opportunity to hand us another brochure on The Twelve Tribes, this one featuring numerous photos of the group holding hands and dancing in a circle.

As for whether The Twelve Tribes was pulling off a successful recruitment drive at Zuccotti: We did notice a couple protesters hanging out in the bus, though maybe they were just there for the tea and brownies.

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