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Occupy Wall Street, Day 11

danps's picture

Jeanne Mansfield has a gripping first hand account of the violence over the weekend - including the assault on her. Here's a detail I've noticed over and over again:

The white-shirted cops are shouting at us to get off the street as they corral us onto the sidewalk. One African American man gets on the curb but refuses to be pushed up against the wall of the building; they throw him into the street, and five cops tackle him. As he's being cuffed, a white kid with a video camera asks him "What's your name?! What's your name?!" One of the blue-shirted cops thinks he's too close and gives him a little shove. A white-shirt sees this, grabs the kid and without hesitation billy-clubs him in the stomach.

"What's your name?! What's your name?!" - I've seen that in a lot of video. Folks knew to get arrestees' names before they got led away, presumably to arrange for representation and for inquiry at the precinct. That's some phenomenal organizing. They've really got it together over there.

John Farley has a really nice post on citizen journalism and the sometimes improvised organizing process at the site:

But as we all sat in a jail, I noticed an interesting thing happen.

People began to talk very seriously about organizing in a more cohesive way than they have been. Jailhouse rookies, who had never been arrested or involved in radical political activities, listened attentively as experienced activists spoke about the need to set clear demands in order to rally broader public support for specific outcomes.

The whole article is great.

C. Cryn Johannsen writes about the student debt angle:

Slaughter was asked if he was there because of the student loan debt he owes. He said in an Loop 21 interview via email: "[It's] partly because of crushing student loan debt, but more so to help give voice to history unfolding in Lower Manhattan." Slaughter has been laid off twice in the past year, and like many of the other protesters, he is young and educated, indebted and unemployed.

Danny Schechter does too:

Ten days on, the persistence of the Occupy Wall Street protest is a minor miracle in itself, surprising a cynical media and even activists who weren't sure if they could pull off a sustained attack on financial power. Young people are showing how political they can be - in part, no doubt because so many are out of work and deeply in debt.

I get a little nervous about the student debt angle because 1) it makes it easy to pigeonhole the movement as nothing more than pissed off college kids and 2) it risks making immediate self-interest the dominant theme - which lends itself to an easy response: We've all got problems, boyo; suck it up and get over your precious self. On the other hand (via):

Demonstrations are stronger when protesters are denouncing a target that directly affects them. In 1971, President Nixon's decision to end student deferments sparked a new wave of antiwar protests on campuses around the country. Many believe the lack of a draft severely weakened protests against the Iraq war. In 1932, the Bonus Army was able to gather thousands of veterans to Washington because their cause was not someone else's poverty but their own.

I tend to think the most compelling protesters are the ones who aren't directly affected, because those are the ones best positioned to argue from principle. I'm probably in the minority, though. So hey - whatever gets you off the couch, baby.

Analysis from Anthony DeRosa and David Graeber

While I don't endorse the language in this comment, the sentiment is right on.

As always, drop your links and feedback in the comments!

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MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

Is something that occurred to me too. But I don't see any shame in either, not at all. For the draft was being used to keep an immoral and illegal war going. Student debt is a bit more complicated but at the end of the day, it's become a scam that ensnares young people. They're told that education is the noble--and only way out of a dead end life. The cost of education, even at the state level, is through the roof compared to what it was 30 years ago. Education should be affordable--it is a public good. Young people shouldn't have to choose between a stunted life and mortgaging their whole lives for an education.

Not to mention that all the private student loans, and even some of the government ones, line the pockets of banksters. The student loan rates are far higher than the interest rates or even current mortgage rates.

There was a cool sign I saw the other night at OWS: "Student loan debt's not relieved by bankruptcy, but gambling debt is!"

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

And yeah, if everyone who's struggling under a big debt (student or otherwise) showed up there wouldn't be enough room to hold everyone. So maybe the students get other people thinking about their own debt levels, and whether that's worth a little agitating over.

Submitted by lambert on

Yes?

Is there really anything that's so much better about the university today, as opposed to the university thirty years ago, that makes the debt so great now, when it was not then? No. If anything, the education they get is worse.

Submitted by jawbone on

Prof. Maria "Maki" Haberfeldt, professor of Police Science, in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, was interviewed on a local news segment during All Things Considered on WNYC (about 4:25PM). She seemed to say that NYPD guidelines can be stretched to cover just about any use of pepper spray, especially, she noted, since the young women involved had been protesting without a permit. (Uh, what about collaterally assaulting mere pedestrians? Onlookers?)

Yes, dear citizens, your right to assemble and peaceably address your government about your grievances is dependent on your doing so with a permit from the authorities. Didn't you learn that in Civics class or US history when you studied the Bill of Rights?

OK, down, down rising anger. This professor, who quite possibly teaches officers who wish to rise through the ranks of the New York police, seems to side with the use of force by police if there is any way to excuse it.

If anyone else in the NYC area heard this (I'm not sure it will be in the podcast--I'm pretty sure it was WNYC's, but the NPR women's voices do sound pretty much alike..), please share your reactions. I don't want to be unfair to the professor.

The WNYC host questioning her actually read the NYPD guidelines, which in no way seemed to permit the use of pepper spray as used on Saturday by Lt. Bologna. But the professor talked about how fast a crowd can get out of control and thus it's better to mace people than to use other weapons to maintain control of that crowd. Excessive force can then intimidate the people and prevent the possibility of losing control of the crowd.

Sort of like preventive war, eh?

Or kettling people for practice during the February 2003 anti-Iraq Invasion rally. Well, actually, by creating huge crowds in areas which could be kettled for practice.

Given that on the videos from Saturday I watched it was the police out of control, not the civilians, whether protesters of just pedestrians, I was aghast at what this professor was saying.

But that is how the Powers That Be view their role: Maintain control at all times, lest the non-wealthy underlings gather together, speak together, plan together, and then demand their rights together.