Despite NYPD Efforts, Wall Street Stays Occupied
By Joe Macaré
In These Times
September 25, 2011
The occupation of Zuccotti Park (a.k.a. Liberty Plaza
Park) in Lower Manhattan, New York City, continues
today, after a Saturday marked by a crackdown from the
New York Police Department.
It is estimated that around 80 people were arrested
during a breakaway protest march, and after handing out
an "eviction notice" the NYPD surrounded the park that
has been used as a campground and staging area. [An
earlier version of this blog post stated in error that
arrests took place "during an apparent attempt to
'evict'" the park.]
The "Occupy Wall Street" protest began on Saturday,
September 17, and was originally prompted by a call from
Adbusters, as described by Patrick Glennon here, for
people to "flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents,
kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for
a few months."
The nature of yesterday's police action has led to
widespread condemnation of alleged police brutality, and
it's hard not to remove the word "allleged" upon viewing
the photos and video footage that has emerged - which
has been enough to make the not-always-political Gawker
take note and use the headline "Cops Tackle, Mace Wall
St. Protesters for No Obvious Reason."
James Fallows at The Atlantic has posted the slowed down
and annotated version of one particularly disturbing
video. His description is chilling:
He walks up; unprovoked he shoots Mace or pepper
spray straight into the eyes of women held inside a
police enclosure; he turns and walks away quickly
(as they scream, wail, and fall to the ground
clawing at their eyes) in a way familiar from hitmen
in crime movies; and he discreetly reholsters his
Those who attend protests that challenge corporate power
and unrestrained capitalism in the U.S. and Europe may
have become used by now to a police response that is
both excessive and untargeted, whether one is an active
participant, an observer or merely a passerby. (I myself
was among those coralled by the Metropolitan Police in
London's Oxford Circus on May Day 2001, and can attest
first-hand to the fact that the 3,000 people kept there
without access to food, water or toilets for seven hours
included at least one pair of bemused and terrified
tourists from continental Europe who had a plane to
catch and who begged in vain to be let past the line of
riot police shields.)
But from all accounts so far, it appears that yesterday
the NYPD, presumably under the edict of Commissioner Ray
Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg, took the policing of such
protests to new and violent levels.
At Waging Nonviolence, Nathan Schneider points out that
the media coverage of the police's actions focuses on a
sensationalistic treatment of violence rather than what
the protests are about:
In an article that recounts as many gory details as
will fit, the Daily News devotes only two short
paragraphs to what the protest is actually about and
what protesters have been doing all this time:
"attempting to draw attention to what they believe
is a dysfunctional economic system that unfairly
benefits corporations and the mega-rich." True, but
too little. The real story for the Daily News, it
seems, is not this unusual kind of protest, or the
political situation which it opposes, but the chance
to have the word "busted" on the cover next to the
cleavage of a woman crying out in pain.
Schneider's piece is well-worth reading in full, as is
his piece at Truthout from Friday, in which he provides
a critique of media coverage and sets the record
straight about what how Occupy Wall Street evolved.
Some reporters come to Liberty Plaza looking for
Adbusters staff, or US Day of Rage members, or
conspiratorial Obama supporters, or hackers from
Anonymous. They're briefly disappointed to find none
of the above. Instead, it's a bunch of people - from
round-the-clock revolutionaries, to curious
tourists, to retirees, to zealous students -
spending most of their time in long meetings about
supplying food, conducting marches, dividing up the
plaza's limited space and what exactly they're there
to do and why. And that's the point. More than
demanding any particular policy proposal, the
occupation is reminding Wall Street what real
democracy looks like: a discussion among people, not
a contest of money.
However, despite Schneider's critcisim of the internet's
role in spreading misinformation, it remains the case
that, as with past protest actions and just about any
activity of real significance that the mainstream media
ignores or distorts, some of the best ways to keep up to
date on Occupy Wall Street are the #occupywallstreet and
#occupywallst Twitter hashtags, and livestreaming video.
See also Kevin Gosztola who has been live-blogging for
FireDogLake from the protests, and the "official" Occupy
Wall Street website.
[moderator: the "official" Occupy Wall Street website
may be found here - https://occupywallst.org/]
Occupying Wall Street
LBO News from Doug Henwood
September 23, 2011
[moderator: to view a dozen accompanying photos and access
link to radio excerpt please use link above]
We-my wife Liza Featherstone and son Ivan Henwood and I-
paid a visit to the Occupy Wall Street protest yesterday
afternoon. Here's an illustrated report. I also did a
segment for my radio show. Audio for that is at the
bottom of this entry.
The big media have largely ignored the OWS protest
(though if you're part of a certain kind of network on
Facebook, you can't miss it). Called first by Adbusters
with only the most minimal agenda, it's taking on a life
of its own, as people trickle in from all over. And I do
mean minimal-the agenda is supposed to evolve
spontaneously. When I talked with one of the organizers
last week, she told me that they merely hoped "to build
the new inside the shell of the old," and though that
sounds seductively wonderful, I'm not sure how robust
such an approach can really be.
Or, to quote the event's Facebook page, named in the
now-ubiquitous hashtag fashion (#OCCUPYWALLSTREET):
we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand
that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would
propel us toward the radical democracy of the future
I don't think that has Lloyd Blankfein trembling in his
shoes. Not that I know what could make him tremble,
aside from a few quarterly losses for Goldman.
When we got to Wall Street, a band of what appeared to
be several hundred were conducting the "closing bell"
march, joining in the traditional observation of the end
of the trading day on the New York Stock Exchange. The
dominant chant was: "Banks got bailed out, we got sold
out." Here's glimpse of what it looked like, from the
corner where George Washington was inaugurated for the
It's not often you see a quote from Ronald Reagan at an
event like this, but the politics of the participants
looked like a mixed bag, a topic I'll return to.
This being New York, a healthy contingent of cops was on
At the corner of Wall and Broadway, things dispersed
some, with some of the crowd (including us) heading
towards the base camp, Zuccotti Park at the corner of
Broadway and Liberty, not far from the "Freedom Tower"
(under construction). Here's what the park looked like
from the Broadway side.
Within, one quickly encountered familiar iconography,
e.g., this U.S. flag with corporate logos in place of
the stars (photo by Ivan Henwood).
Posters promoting the event, exhibiting that Adbusters
style that's a reminder that Judith Butler was so right
to say that you have to inhabit what you parody.
The crowd was a mix of locals and migrants. I chatted
with people who'd come from Missouri and Maine to
express frustration and show solidarity. (They're on the
audio segment.) The woman from Maine was unemployed for
a year and willing to stay as long as anyone else is
there-through January, if that's what it takes. But I
also talked with locals from Brooklyn and Queens.
Onlookers and passers-by were neutral to friendly-there
were no jeers except some aimed for a lone and odious
A celebrity local: the original pie-wielding Yippie Aron
Principles were being worked on in standard "consensus"
fashion, which apparently means writing comments on
pages taped to a wall. (The type is readable if you
click on the pix to enlarge them.)
Signs were being made constantly.
I asked the guy who made the "utopian experiments" sign
what he had in mind. (The interview is on the audio
segment.) He said he wanted to see a rebirth of 1960s-
style "intentional communities," though more
entrepreneurial this time, capable of supporting
themselves through green business and cyberschemes.
Aside from this apostle of green entrepreneuriship, I
overheard others talking about how Wall Street stifled
small business-as if small business didn't pay worse and
support more right-wing politicians than big business.
It was a very mixed bag ideologically. It seems like the
latest iteration of American populism, which hates Wall
Street and internationalization but loves small business
and the local. Of course, livestreaming the proceedings
on the web (see here) depends on a huge technical
infrastructure, but no one thinks about that at these
I was skeptical of this at first, and I still am.
There's no agenda at all. It's mostly about process-
meaning consensus. There's no organization to speak of.
But maybe people will just keep trickling in and it will
grow and persist and something good could come of it.
Word is that some buses will be coming in from Wisconsin
soon. At some point, though, I fear the NYPD will stop
putting up with a semi-permanent occupation of a small
park. I hope not. But if you're listening to this, and
are in a position to head to lower Manhattan, check it
out. Zuccotti Park, at the corner of Broadway and
Give the NYPD something to watch.
Here's the report on the event from my radio show. For
the full show, click here. This is just a six-minute
Protesting in Real America
[moderator: photos included at above link]
So the New York Times published a predictably snide,
critical view of the Occupy Wall Street protests, taking
particular exception to their garb and attitude:
"I've been waiting for this my whole life," Ms.
Tikka, 37, told me.
"This," presumably was the opportunity to air
societal grievances as carnival. Occupy Wall Street,
a diffuse and leaderless convocation of activists
against greed, corporate influence, gross social
inequality and other nasty byproducts of wayward
capitalism not easily extinguishable by street
theater, had hoped to see many thousands join its
protest and encampment, which began Sept. 17.
According to the group, 2,000 marched on the first
day; news outlets estimated that the number was
closer to several hundred.
By Wednesday morning, 100 or so stalwarts were
making the daily, peaceful trek through the
financial district, where their movements were
circumscribed by barricades and a heavy police
presence. (By Saturday, scores of arrests were
I can't help but recollect the slightly different
coverage of our most recent protest movement when it
first burst forth on "tax day" in 2009. Of course, it
was corporate sponsored, so I guess that makes it much
The Web site TaxDayTeaParty.com listed its sponsors,
including FreedomWorks, a group founded by Dick
Armey, the former House majority leader; Top
Conservatives on Twitter; and RFCRadio.com.
The idea for the demonstrations grew in part out of
a blast from Rick Santelli, a CNBC commentator who
on Feb. 19 at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said
that the Obama administration was promoting "bad
behavior" in helping people who were at risk of
losing their homes and that Americans should protest
with a tea party in Chicago.
The main goal as a national organization, said Eric
Odom, the administrator of the Tax Day Tea Party Web
site, "is just to facilitate an environment where a
new movement would be born."
It was hard to determine from the moderate turnout
just how effective the parties would be. In
Philadelphia, a rally in Center City drew about 200
Several hundred people showed up in Lafayette Park
opposite the White House, until the park and parts
of Pennsylvania Avenue were cleared while a robot
retrieved what the Secret Service confirmed was a
box of tea bags. [...] In Austin, Tex., Gov. Rick
Perry energized a crowd of about 1,000 by accusing
the Obama administration of restricting states'
rights and vaguely suggesting that Texas might want
to secede from the union.
In downtown Houston, there were some in the crowd of
2,000 that poured into the Jesse H. Jones Plaza who
also wanted Texas to secede. They were joined by
other conservative groups like anti-abortion
activists, Libertarians and fiscally conservative
Republicans. American flags abounded, along with
hand-painted placards that bore messages like
"Abolish the I.R.S.," "Less Government More Free
Enterprise," "We Miss Reagan" and "Honk if You Are
Upset About Your Tax Dollars Being Spent on Illegal
Aliens." [oh my goodness. You mean conservative
protests mix up their causes too??? Somebody should
organize them properly.]
In Boston, the birthplace of the original tea party,
the protest was on Boston Common, near the State
House. The crowd, initially about 500, grew
throughout the day.
"I'm not happy with the way our government is
managing our taxes," said Jo Ouimete, 54, of
Northampton, Mass., who was holding an umbrella with
an American flag pattern, even though the sun was
shining. The umbrella had a tea pot on top and Red
Rose tea bags hanging from it.
"The American taxpayers are really getting pressed
too hard," Ms. Ouimete said. "We can't live like
this, and our kids can't live like this."
Some participants were dressed in colonial garb,
including Paul Jehle, of the Plymouth Rock
Foundation, who is also a professional Boston tour
guide. Mr. Jehle offered his enthusiastic audience a
history lesson about the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
I suppose the mainstream press could have colorfully
described them as a bunch of cranks making fools of
themselves. But they didn't. Apparently, it all about
what costume you decide to wear. This is apparently
evidence of seriousness:
They seem to have done pretty well for themselves.
The sentence I highlighted in the piece about the Tea
Party is important: "facilitating and environment so a
new movement can be born." Movements don't come nicely
prepackaged, even when they're corporate sponsored. They
need someone to create the political space for a spark
to happen. That's what the Occupy Wall Street people are
The truth is that protests always have an element of
street theater to them and on the left, this happens to
be the theater we produce. (There was plenty of drumming
up in Wisconsin ...) The point is to raise
consciousness, create reaction and see if something
catches. It's not easy to get attention for this sort of
thing, so early protesters tend to be people who are
willing to take risks and make fools of themselves in
ways that the rest of us aren't. It takes a village full
of weirdos to start a protest movement.
So, the fact that these people don't have full power
point presentation of their goals and are asking for all
kinds of disparate things is not cause to shun them.
It's an opportunity to use the moment to draw attention
to the problem (even if there's no fully laid out
solution) and bring more people to the cause.
If anyone else has a better idea, I'm all ears. But
these are the only people doing it.
Meanwhile, the New York Times should be ashamed of
themselves for that trashy piece of journalism. To say
that smug reporter missed the story is an
In slow motion, and with annotation explaining what
is happening, the video seems to show a high-ranking
member of the New York Police Department spraying a
substance - the video says it is Mace or pepper
spray - toward several women who were standing
behind a wall of orange netting. After the spraying,
one woman can be seen dropping to the ground,
screaming in apparent pain.
Those women, who were already corralled behind police
netting and unable to leave, were sprayed right in the
face with mace.
Weirdos maybe. But brave weirdos, indeed.
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