Our outrage has an ethical source and our solutions must be ethically rooted. ~Quote from activist at #Occupy Wall Street, worthy of Ghandi (from Jack Johnson)
(Peter Tosh, posted by Gabriele Kreichgauer)
It’s hard not to think of Henry Miller’s Cosmo-Demonic Telegraph agency traipsing through the Bowery just before the break of dawn. The sounds of China Town waking from its slumbers, delivery trucks plying their way down Canal street, wailing and clanking with brake squeals and engines trembling in morning fog…. it’s like the sound of Charon delivering souls to Hades through the land of the dead. Or almost.
I’m looking for a place called Zuccotti park which is reputed to have live souls. In fact, the place has been rechristened Liberty park by its newest residents, a disparate band of activists, anarchists, socialists and general do gooders who have spent the last two days here, protesting Wall Street’s and America’s sleepy compliance with a Capitalist system that they argue is sorely in need of radical reform. They call themselves ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and outside of their exceptional demands—not just one, but many, which we’ll get to—they don’t look so out of the ordinary for a downtown New York City park, around the corner from Washington Square and Soho. In fact, not unsurprisingly, most of the folks here hail from the New York area; but not all. Some come from surprisingly far distances. Belgium. Italy. Spain. California. Austria. They’re from all sorts of demographics as well. In fact, I’d wager they are a better representation of America than our congress: black, white, Asian, Indian, male, female, gay, straight, young, old, businessmen, students. For awhile, I even marched with an ex-Wall Street trader. All share a single desire to do something about the toxic mix of Wall Street money and American politics.
“I’m 22 and I’ve got over 25,000 dollars of students loans and no job prospects. My life has ended before it’s even begun in this system.” He stands next to a sign that reads: “Do you feel the trickle down?”
“My mom and dad lost their house and we’ve been living with grandma—it’s six of us in a two bedroom one bathroom house.” She wears ear muffs in the shape of a bear to keep warm on the cold concrete of the park where the activists sleep. Beside her a sign reads: “End Corporate Personhood.”
But for every hard luck story—and there were many—equal numbers camped here out of a desire to effect change, to make a stand in history, a demarcation, the beginning of the end.
“This system – what we’re doing now–is not sustainable”
“If we don’t start the change, who will. If not us, who? If not now, when?”
They talk about throwing their bodies into the machinery of finance. They talk about Tahrir square. They talk about finally making a difference. Demands are as concrete as re-enact Glass Steagall, a law that stiffly regulated exotic financial products, or as simple as ‘forgive student loans’ or ‘get money out of politics’….
The owner of the Zuccotti property has given permission for the activists to stay there so long as they keep it clean. And so they do. They sleep on cardboard and thin blankets, some have sleeping bags but not all and it’s going to become increasingly necessary. Breakfast is served from a center table which is a re-engineered park bench for the purpose of serving up the food donated from local pizzerias and vendors. (For those interested in contributing to their food supply, check out this link: https://www.wepay.com/donate/99275) They hold general assemblies of various breakout committees where actions and demands are determined. Since the city cut their electrical power, they’ve developed a kind of call and response to make sure everyone stays informed of group decisions. When I arrived, a committee leader was standing in the early morning cold and talking about the coming march. “Okay everyone listen up!”
And his words were dutifully repeated so that everyone in the area could hear what he was saying…”Okay everyone listen up!”
“We’re going to hear reports from our media committee. Would the media committee please come forward.“
There’s a media committee, a medical committee, a street theater committee, a food committee (https://www.wepay.com/donate/99275). Each committee works by consensus with its members which make recommendations to the general assembly which, in turn, is a consensus decision making body. The information is transmitted and– despite the elaborate –and sometimes hilarious– moments involved with all the repetition– the information is conveyed. These people are sincere as a heart attack, and well organized too. In fact, an activist from Spain suggested that their organization was well in advance of anything their Spanish counterparts had.
Although estimates as high as 20,000 ranged for their numbers during the initial Saturday occupation, these have since dwindled to about 350 or fewer. The weather will turn colder and the NYPD—already edgy—will surely take out their frustrations sooner rather than later. Four protestors were arrested today on what are frivolous grounds (one was arrested for wearing a V for Vendetta mask ON TOP of her head)…but, for the time, there seems to be a grudging set of guidelines to ensure peaceful protests. While marching, if the protestors continue to move so that people ultimately can get to work –albeit getting an earful along the way– the NYPD has promised not to make arrests. Barricades have been set up all around Wall Street so that protestors and workers are herded like cattle through the canyon maze of Wall Street, past Trinity church and George Washington’s statue that stands at the front steps of the Federal Building, overlooking it all. …More later.
And then more people started to comment, report their experiences, ask questions and share updated information.
Stephanie Rodriguez: They only call it class warfare when we fight back. #takewallstreet #occupywallstreet
People get on board! Please share!!! They are doing this for all of us!!
Mike Harrell: At the Wall St. protest today. Maybe a couple of thousand people. Day 5 of camping in Zucotti Park for many of them. They are young, and informed (and tired) but many seem intent on staying with it. Typically there is a morning march to the Stock Exchange, which inconveniences the Wall St. workers arriving for work, and a second march at the end of the day when the traders are going home. Throughout the day are “general assemblies” at which speakers must speak without amplification, due, I presume, to noise and permit issues. Consequently the crowd repeats in unison what is being said in a kind of call and response that I associate with church. The mood is calm, peaceful, and steadfast. There are “committees” for food, sanitation, medical care, legal assistance, and the media. I don’t know what will come of it, but I’m happy to see there are people among us who think the time has come for action.
Scott Price: I assume none of this will make the news since the protesters are not old and white and dressed in cut-rate colonial outfits and sporting signs with pictures of the president with a bone through his nose… Oh and funded by secretive billionaires… The revolution may not be televised, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be on!
Beca Fulcher: Once again Corporate Media, at the behest of our Corporatist Government, has blocked all coverage on this protest against Wall Street.
Bill Altice: We’ll do the reporting — share it and pass it along.
Sportscar Workshops: Oh come on, there is nobody protesting up there or we would have seen it on the news. The news papers would have printed much about it, if it was true. And those Photoshop pictures you sent, well, it just couldn’t be true. We have a free press, brought to us by K street.
Harry Kollatz Jr.: Protests are good to wrap commercials around provided that they are happening in other countries among people we’re not sure whose side we should be on. The reporting makes one thing clear: one man’s protestor is another man’s dirty hippie freak who doesn’t deserve coverage, except for scorn. If it was Tea Partiers out there, damn right there’d be wall-to-wall coverage.
The gyrations on Wall Street serve as our economic daytime serial with its dramatic mood swings making for good television. Meanwhile, converging on the Manhattan financial district are people actually affected by layoffs and rising costs. They’re demanding another way of doing things. Peaceful protests don’t make for good television unless the camera can pan back to show an ocean of faces, or, if it all suddenly goes bad.
Jack Johnson: Marginalization is easy. Just squint and sneer. But what gives me faith–at least in the short term–these young people are sincere. And they’re practicing passive resistance, which is not easy in the face of some of the ugly intimidation coming from the NYPD. They had some real weight lifters out there they other day-(-must be their special ‘punch hippies’ shock troops.) But these activists handled it well, shouting, yes, but no violence, no return of blows even as they were being punched (and they were punched often and unjustly). The media has to become us, however. Because I’m convinced the major networks are afraid of coverage because it will increase protests, fire the flames if you will….You’ll like this–I actually interviewed a CNN reporter who was in the march with me–young girl in her 20s. She refused to answer my questions. Didn’t say why she was there, why there was no coverage. Nothing. She wasn’t taking notes. She was just walking with the crowd keeping her head down.The only reason I knew she was with CNN –I saw her press tags. My assumption is she was a scout, keeping the newsroom filled in without having to do actual reportage. She didn’t look especially happy.
Mike Harrell: I think any claim that the protest is not to be taken seriously is refuted by the enormous police presence at the site. The powers that be know the potential–they’ve seen it unleashed lately in the Mideast and North Africa. Mayor Bloomberg warned of unrest a week or so ago.
John Marshall: The right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution includes the right to protest. It is bad enough that people’s economic freedom is under assault, it is inexcusable, dangerous and Un-American that their right to protest is also under attack. If the press is going to shirk its responsibility to cover Occupy Wall Street, then citizens will do what they’ve been doing – covering it anyway. What does it say about a country when the press and the police are afraid of the very people they are sworn to protect?
Yesterday, my wife was coming out of a movie theater and found herself in the middle of screaming protesters, many of them young women, who had just been maced by the police. She was able to capture much of what was going on with her iPhone, in still pictures and video. The clip speaks for itself.
Kevin Zeese: They are all leaders. They are stepping forward in the pre-history stage. A year from now as these types of protests grow we will look back and recognize their leadership more clearly.
Mugsy Lunsford: I kept thinking of the similarity to the classic Greek Chorus as I watched the live stream. I have had serious concerns about this country in the past, (I spent the night we invaded Iraq glued to the TV, screaming NO and crying, because I always believed we were the ones who protected people against aggressive invaders, yet there we were, invading a country that had not attacked us) but have never been this completely disheartened before. I’m torn between concern for those protestors and pride in their perseverance. Wish I had money, time, or clout and could help in some way, but I’m way down at the bottom of the 99%.
Leslie Joy Little: Maybe part of the problem is that no one working on Wall Street is affected by the protest. They weren’t elected, and thus are not worried about re-election, so what do they care if the majority of Americans think they and the whole system are messed up? They’re doing very well, and I doubt they went into the world of high fiance because they wanted to improve the lives of average Americans. The change has to come from our elected officials, who make the laws – and bailouts – that allow Wall Street to run this country.
Jack Johnson: Interesting point. I agree the change has to come from Washington DC ultimately, but the focus of the protest is, of course, symbolic. In one of the most densely populated sectors of one of the most densely populated cities of the world, 2000+ protestors have been camping out for 6 days directly interfering with Wall Street traders ability to get to work and ‘do their job’….such as it is. Yet the coverage approaches a complete freeze out? The problem is the media at this point. Their pulling the same nonsense with the tar sands protest in DC. It will be international media that ultimately reveals how utterly supine our media is, or, how utterly unimaginative and caught in an internal loop of their own so called editorial priorities without any real connection to the world that exists outside of their 8th floor offices.
Melody Ann Cartwright: And conservatives label the media “liberal!” Ha. Then I guess, thar goes dat LIBERAL media again! Aaack!
Tim Sullivan: Just listened to a call in show on NPR. When a caller asked why there was no coverage of the protest on wall street, none of the guest would answer. Instead they talked about their extensive coverage of wall street since 2008. One panelist did mention in an off hand way of “some folks protesting”.
Mugsy Lunsford: if nothing else good comes from #occupywallstreet but “the people’s mic,” that will at least be an advancement for civil society and basic human communication, despite its ancient echoes.
Stephen Wilson: I like all of this. The NY Times published a mocking piece about this – how dare these uncouth hippies.
Mike Harrell: What Ms. Bellafante’s piece ignores is the real mistrust of Wall St. that is present, not only in these “shiftless hippies,” but also across much of the rest of the country.
Jack Johnson: –I just read that piece: Ginia Bellafante wrote it; really a masterpiece of snarky put down. No mention of the committees, the general assembly, the people’s microphone, the hours and hours of discussion on the corruption of Wall Street money influencing politicians. I spent a day interviewing folks there– The topics of discussion ranged from re-enacting Glass-Steagall to Reagan’s reprehensible Tax Reform Act of 1986. One lady had done a paper on it and we sat there and discussed such ‘soft’ information as the implication of the top tax rate being lowered by nearly 23% from 50% to 28% while the bottom rate was raised by only 4% from 11% to 15%. I talked with a marching Wall Street Trader who very cheerfully described the cynical attitude with which his comrades would view the protests–“They’ll probably try to figure out a way to make money on it. Some kind of short…” With him talking to a small crowd of ‘ignorant protestors’ there was a lively discussion on the need to firewall insurance products from financial products and why a credit default swap is such an egregiously bad idea. These protestors knew far, far more about the financial system than your average ‘middle class’ American (what’s left of them), probably more than most members of the tea party coalition elected to our House and, I’d wager, more than Ginia Bellafante who has somehow managed to file a report almost completely devoid of reporting.
Beth Stanford Tubb: Yup. I seriously value the info gotten from my friends and community more than anything I see on TV, etc. It reminds me of how, in the Little House books, Laura Ingall’s dad would go hang out on the front porch of the General Store to exchange info and ideas.
Jay Tubb: I think people should come before profits. Fight the Power. “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.” – Thomas Jefferson
Patrick M Arthur: Just got back from the Occupation tonight…crowds were bigger than the night before and were joined by another group rallying against Troy Davis’ execution. Two arrests and some injuries but the movement remained peaceful and strong. We aren’t going anywhere!
Mike Harrell: Yeah, the numbers are hard to estimate–people go away to shower and take a break, and then they come back, so the crowd ebbs and flows. Today there were several women protesting topless, which undoubtedly increased the crowd, though not necessarily for the right reasons. Friday, “Critical Mass,” the bike advocacy group, rides, so it will be interesting to see if some energy is derived from that. I’m impressed by the participants efforts to promote non-violence, and to react appropriately when arrests are being made (there were a couple when I was there).
Jack Johnson: Yep, more old farts would help — and it wouldn’t hurt to get a high profile politician to speak positively of this ‘Democracy in action.’ One thing, which Mike noted and I saw too was the organized fashion with which they have arranged themselves, committees flowing into a general assembly etc… Using consensus decision making throughout. In a real sense, and not just a slogan, this is what Democracy looks like.
(Here’s one of my favorites.)
Nonamer: the thing is
And last, but not to be missed:
Patrick M Arthur: Occupation We Can Believe In
Standing in the center of Liberty Plaza feels like surfing the pulse of a rising American moment. In this place, halfway between where Washington gave his first Inaugural address to a new and uncertain nation and where the Twin Towers once stood and fell on a single day, there is an overwhelming sense of purpose. A primal national charge runs beneath this ground, coursing from below the thick Manhattan bedrock and jumping to the rhythm of the drumbeats lined up along Broadway. At any minute, facing any direction, you can close your eyes and hear the orgasmic howls of a new Democracy in the throes of wild conception, proud voices of passion and conviction not heard from American masses in over forty years. Being in the middle of the frenzy can get you lost in an endless cascade of emotion–exuberance, frustration, defiance, empathy, confusion, patriotism–but as you absorb the chaos, you begin to understand the drive, to see the beginnings of a sustainable movement and finally must start to wonder. Is this what it was like to be in Philadelphia all those years ago, witnessing another small group of passionate radicals boldly voice ideas that might very quickly grow to revolutionize a tyrannical world?
The Occupation began on September 17, twenty-eleven with thousands marching on Wall Street in what many called a ‘Day of Rage’. Inspired by mass uprisings in cities such as Madrid, Cairo and Madison, protesters came because our own political and economic systems have corrupted themselves beyond repair, marginalizing the people’s voice and stealing back the prosperity created by the hands of Americans’ hard labor. Judging by the reality at ground level, the United States in our hearts has become an unrecognizable mess. A ‘superpower’ where seventy million live without sustainable means, where the largest impoverished group is comprised of children, where more citizens are needlessly incarcerated than anywhere else in the free world and all at a time when there can no longer be any doubt that our public servants willfully abandoned the 99% long ago for far more profitable employers. Despite all the justification in the world, there is actually little rage to be found here at Liberty Plaza and there is an astonishing lack of fear from a movement resiliently aware that it is staring blindly into the unforgiving gaze of world history. Over a week later, any apprehension or anger haunting the frigid night air has long been exorcized by the brazen unity of purpose.
Some people believe that we are here to bring down the crooked politico-economic paradigm that feeds on the willing consent to be swallowed by it, but the truth is well known, that this old idea will soon collapse under its own obscene mass, hyper-inflated with the worst kind deadly greed. What the Occupy movement is actually working to achieve is a principled state of humane solidarity, an evolved Democracy for a new millennium of enlightened thought, an alternate social haven where no one must live in fear of the imminent corporate black hole suddenly consuming everything they have left.
The Occupation has dug in and it is growing, here in New York City and in major cities across the continent. It began one historic day in September and will continue to flower until the time finally arrives when such dissent is unnecessary. With every new voice heard crying out from lower Manhattan, that time moves closer. In every new dawn breaking over the skyline, true hope shines brighter and with every waking breath our communal voice, the music of humanities’ strongest force, grows even more powerful than the night before. We humans have no control over our Fate, the circumstances surrounding our births and deaths, but we do wield incredible power over our own Destiny—the times and places we choose to make our lives worthwhile and the accomplishments that others will remember after our wakes have passed. Use this vibrant American moment to shape your own destiny, come witness the Occupation from the very center of Liberty Plaza, contribute your considerable voice and experience for yourself what it feels like when the world truly begins to change.