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Occupy Wall Street Friday

Open thread, please add links and comments.

UPDATE Lots of good local coverage on this. It's like the blackout from Pravda and Izvestia gives real reporters a little space. It's not a big story, so there aren't any Big Foots.

1. Nothing so far from Al Jazeera [Hmm...], but here's the BBC. Clearly a stringer's atmosphere piece, but none the worse for that:

The small numbers have not dampened the group's enthusiasm - but the weather has.

"When it rains, people go home," said Luke Richards, one of the few who has been a part of the group from the beginning.

Which matters a lot if you think of this as a protest, but not at all if you think of it as a movement. The word "occupation," signifying permanance, a seige, a continuing seizure of terrain, is well chosen.

On the ground alongside their camp, the group has an array of signs spelling out their disparate goals.

This is a common media reaction, mocked most excellently as "our one demand"). I don't know what it signifies, except yet another systemic #FAIL by our elites: You can make "one demand" in a financial negotiation, I suppose, which is what our elite does all the time, being rentiers or service providers for rentiers, but the essence of a living, organic system -- and even our own political economy can still be said to be living, despite the necrosis at the apex -- is that there is no one goal. The 12 Word Platform, for example, has four policy objectives, and very centrist they are too, but those objectives are proxies for much larger systemic changes that will have to happen if they are to be achieved. For example:

They include "Tax the rich", "Another American against corporate greed" and "Peace".

These are not "disparate." They are inter-connected. Of course, for Big Media stenographer, the inability to recognize connections is a necessary blindness, a deformation professionelle. Still, there's the appetite for a good quote:

Among those the appeal attracted was at least one man there for personal reasons.

"My family was directly affected by the floating interest rate loans that a lot of Wall Street banks extended," said Jay, a 22-year-old dairy worker from Vermont. "They lost their house because of that."

Yep. Good quote.

He has been a part of the protest [occupation] since the beginning, which he hopes will make financial institutions take responsibility.

Though I wonder what quote lurks beneath that paraphrase:

Protesters [Occupiers] chant such slogans as: "Abolish the Fed! Stop building up the debt!"

Oh noes!!! Not ZOMG!!! Teh Debt!!! Kidz, don't go into the haunted house! The (MMT) idea that money is the creation of the the state, and hence should be used for public purpose, seems alien here, though it was not to the Populists. And it's far more radical.

2. Local coverage from The Villager:

Anna Kathryn Sluka, 24, travelled from her home in Muskegon, Michigan, for the occupation. She was arrested earlier Monday for refusing a lawful order and spent several hours in a holding cell before being given a summons and released. “It was not my plan at all,” she said that evening.

“I’m from a town that has the highest unemployment in America. I came for the car workers, ship workers, steel workers who are trying to feed their families,” Sluka, a vegetable farmer, explained.

3. Local coverage from

Just a train ride away from Ridgewood, Wall Street has been inundated with thousands of demonstrators who are calling themselves "the 99 percent" – those who are struggling in the wake of the still-precipitous financial crisis and have organized to protest [Hmm, wrong verb, but what?] corporate greed.

This is important. This article contrasts the perspectives of the occupiers with the perspectives of the commuters into the financial district. (In other words, the paper is doing its job by covering a story that its readership has seen. Locally, news blackouts are much harder to maintain. Manhattan is an awfully big "local." I wonder if there's equivalent coverage from the Connecticut papers?) Here are two from the commuters:

Many Ridgewood residents work in the financial district, and some said this week they were unimpressed with the demonstrations so far.

"They're very unfocused [organic, rhizomic*]. It was difficult to figure out, exactly, what they were protesting [sic] or what issues they had, other than a dislike of corporations in general, which is a bit like saying you don't like people," said Bill Grae, who works in the financial district and also freelances as a photographer for The Ridgewood News. "There are good people and there are bad people. There are good corporations and there are bad corporations. You can't really generalize."

Ah, a Romney voter. Of course you can generalize.

Another Ridgewood resident who works as an insurance broker near Liberty Park, who did not give his name, said he believed protesters [occupiers] were "speaking over each other" and were not yet effective.

"I'm from the 60s, when protests really meant something," [like...] he said. "I don't think that these guys are getting anywhere with their protest [sic]. They think that they're Egypt, that they're Libya. I don't see it."

Well, no, but perhaps you wouldn't. But 20% DISemployment for highly educated young people is, in fact, a lot like Egypt. And the occupiers have debt that students in the 60s do not have. [Making me think that "debt jubilee" could be our equivalent of Arhal!, uniting all walks of life....]

And now the occupiers:

Joe Fionda, who graduated from Ridgewood High School in 2001, said the occupation, which organizers hope will gather as many as 20,000 people for a permanent Tahrir-like long-term protest [which TS was not, since a protest is not long-term, by definition], aims to make the financial industry and politicians more aware of how destructive the economic crisis has been and what they can do to promote improvements in Americans' lives.

"It's about having a presence to show the bankers down there that, yeah, you don't see the problems because they are far away from you, but we're bringing people here so you can see people are upset," Fionda said. "We're bringing it right in front of your faces."

Yes, there's a hard-core group on the square, but other people have to do stuff, they have to live," he said. "You can do both, both be an activist and live your life. I work my job and still manage to do this."

For the long haul, and this is a long haul -- though possibly with good outcomes even in my lifetime, since I'm now a bit more optimistic...

At first, the protests [occupation] seem mostly filled with young people dissatisfied with the debt they've gone into and the lack of jobs available – something Fionda explained was a source of great frustration.

"I was unemployed, and it was horrible. People shouldn't have to go without a job," he said. "They shouldn't have to be begging on the street with a master's degree. Student loans are just out of control, too."

On Sunday night, signs listed the amount of debt people had gone into - in one case, loans of $165,000.

Many of the protesters [occupiers] hailed from New York, but one woman, Kat Sluka, had traveled from Muskegon, Mich., a working-class suburb where, she said, "capitalism deserted us" following the economic downturn.

Sluka is also quoted in the story above, arguing for some media savvy by the occupiers, since they're getting the most quotable to the reporters.

Another, who said his name was Walter, was a construction worker at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11 attacks, and now suffers from an auto-immune lung disease due to the dust and fumes he inhaled. He cannot work, and, with inadequate unemployment insurance and 9/11 first responders' funding coming in, he said he was at the end of his rope.

"I used to work for the system, but now I'm on the other side," Walter said. "I've been denied food stamps and workers' compensation. I live on a double-edged sword every day…. I've had enough of not being listened to."

RL calls me, but I'll return and expand on this. What I'll note for now is the devil's bargain that Big Media offers: The only story that will get covered will be violence. That's because the ruling elite expects violence, has prepared for violence, and enjoys, lusts for violence. There are plenty of people listening. All of these people will go home and talk to their friends and neighbors. That's, again, why long-lived "occupations" have advantages -- they are appropriate to our continental scale; we read in the twitter streams of people coming to Manhattan from other states. If the occupations turn into this generation's "On the Road" that would be interesting....

* * *

Back from RL, so more local coverage.

3. From the local MSN affiliate:

But what they lack in numbers the mostly young protestors [occupiers] have made up for with grit and publicity stunts, including the unusual sight in the financial district of a blonde woman strolling around without more than shoes, panties and the inscription under her breasts: "The naked truth."

And on a day of worldwide financial panic and a 3.5 per cent fall in the Dow Jones index, they feel their point about the irresponsibility of America's financial masters is being proved. [good point]

"It's about the one per cent of the world that controls the 99 per cent. [I remember a discussion here about 1% vs. 10%. They seem to have settled the issue.] That's why this country is screwed. People are finally noticing," said university student Julie Engel, 21.

A round-the-clock protest [occupation, "round-the-clock" by definition] is extremely unusual in lower Manhattan, one of the most heavily policed set of streets on the planet.

A point not often made! The ground of this occupation is very different from any of the great Mediterranean city squares, like Tahrir. A heavily policed maze of narrow canyons must be very difficult, tactically. The crowd, for example, cannot know its own size. And knowing that you're in a huge crowd is an adrenaline rush. Kudos, then, to the occupiers for trying and persisting, because there is much to be learned here, thinking about other downtown areas in the country. (Washington is heavily policed, to be sure, but the very opposite of a maze of canyons.)

Video footage posted on the protesters' [occupiers'] website showed four arrests on Wednesday, but police stood by amiably on Thursday as youths banged drums and tried to interest passersby in earnest, often eloquent lectures.

One young man with a skateboard animatedly explained the gold standard system [hmmm....] to two large New York Police Department officers [#33] , while tourists and local office workers perused a carpet of placards across the sidewalk. ...

Over five days the camp has turned into a commune where decisions are all open to debate and no one is in charge. It's not even clear how long the protestors [occupiers] will try to stay.

Unlikely that "no one is in charge." Tahrir Square looked leaderless at first, but was not (see here throughout). However, leadership was a good deal more fluid than, oh, people of my generation (let alone Mubarak's) are accustomed to.

4. From WNYC:

Others [how many] from all walks of life [the key, but only in numbers] say they heard about the protests [occupation] and came to show their support for an afternoon or more. Chaz Valenza traveled from Philadelphia because his restaurant has been struggling for several years and he wanted to speak out for substantial economic reform.

"We've made it through to this point — I’m afraid of a double-dip recession but I am living on meager scraps. I am behind on my mortgage and we're just hoping that things start to turn around soon."

Yay, SEPTA and NJ Transit (another venue, actually....)

5. Metro on naked girls. Had to happen, I suppose. And more better coverage from Metro:

The Occupy Wall Street movement, now in its sixth day, is largely comprised of college students. Why is this demographic so attracted to this protest [occupation]? Metro spent a night with protestors [occupiers] in Zuccotti park [imagine that!] and spoke to college students about what brings them there.


In the midst of a "student work group," college students sat on the pavement into the early morning hours to discuss what they wanted out of the protest [occupation]. Within minutes, it was clear that each student had very different demands and ideas of what has gone wrong with the current system.

This is the usual trope. "Our one demand..." Then again, the effect is that there are many ideas propagated. That is almost certainly a good thing. Try something!

Students encouraged each other to protect their textbooks [touching...] and notes in a safe spot within the park, reach out to professors [good!] and ask other students to join the protest. [occupation] The protesters [occupiers] acknowledged that there are many different messages floating around the camp, but said they discuss their differences during daily "people's general assemblies."

Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin spent the 1960’s protesting the Vietnam War and corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. He said the protesters [occupiers] would need more than anger to sustain the movement.

Todd Gitlin is a stupid git.

“They may have some sort of sentiment, but that isn’t enough to maintain any momentum or win allies or accomplish anything,” Gitlin said.

Todd Gitlin is a stupid git.

6. A local Indypendent on the people's mic:

Since Justin was arrested yesterday for using a megaphone the GA has adopted a system of self-amplification referred to as the “people’s microphone.” A new speaker begins by testing the volume – “MIKE CHECK!” and everyone within hearing distance echoes in unison: “MIKE CHECK!” People are becoming accustomed to speaking in brief, clear, beats and hearing their words reflected back to them by their peers – a democratic improvement on the megaphone. As one cardboard sign says, REVOLUTION IS EVOLUTION.

Interesting. Of course, I can see how this would go wrong in the hands of a gold bug...

All in all, very heartening. Thanks to all.

* * *

6. More Indymedia:

Around 9 p.m. yet another contingent of supporters arrived at Liberty Plaza, this time from the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) union, which represents more than 20,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York. One professor tweeted she would support the movement “day and night.” Meanwhile, at least a half dozen solidarity rallies were being planned in major American cities, including Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco.


* * *

7. Kudos to FDL for the live blog:

Another speaker, an African-American, let everyone know that the occupation has a lack of diversity ["All walks of life!"] and not many in the hood that he is from know what they are doing. He explained Mayor Bloomberg just cut funding for subsidized housing so 12,000 will be out on streets. Latinos, Asians and blacks are ready to mobilize if the people in Liberty Park just talk about issues they want to talk about, he said. “Too little of us are here because we don’t understand what this is all about,” he added. Then he said, “You all look like a bunch of white kids who just lost their trust funds.” He told the crowd that black people have been having problems with student loans since the civil rights movement.

I have been live blogging Occupy Wall Street since the moment it began. I think the occupation is really coming into its own. The occupation is moving people who have wanted to rebel to finally take action. And, let’s not forget. The NYPD Police Pension fund was raided in NYC when Wall Street bank executives did their “inside job” on America or collapsed. It is not outlandish to suggest a few individuals within the department have no problem with allowing this to continue as long as it can be carefully controlled [#147, hence, #33].

Both comments are very acute. We saw the same thing in WI with the Madison police. Obama and the banksters can have the drones if we can have the local police. (This is one reason why the self-indulgent and romantic cops vs. kids narrative lacks strategic focus, even if it does get covered.)

NOTE * The Tahrir Square messaging became incredibly focused: Their "one demand" was Arhal! [Leave!], of Mubarak. True, the focus enabled "all walks of life" to participate. But the demand evolved in context, and took some years. We aren't, I think, at that point. Where we are now, the disparate demands are a strength, and not a weakness. Bold, persistent experimentation.

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danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Gitlin is right that anger is not enough, but he seems to miss that the demonstration has been an overwhelmingly nonviolent one.

The really interesting thing is the continuing presence. As you highlighted, they aren't used to that there. If they keep it up that's a huge deal - even if the numbers are relatively small.

It could develop into something where those who can stay full time do so, and others show up as they are able. Which would be great.

I tend to go back and forth on nudity. In this case it has definitely drawn attention that otherwise wouldn't have happened, but if it ends up getting dismissed as a publicity stunt then I don't see how it's a good thing. I guess it's all in how it's used. I think PETA's use of it has caused it to be marginalized and dismissed. (YMMV.) I'd hate to see that happen with #ows.

Thanks again for the post and the update.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

"So nice the #NYPD has chosen to Block Wall St rather than let the #OurWallStreet Citizens do it!"

Wonder if there's a good, nonviolent and not-provocative way to reappropriate the effect of the NYPD actions. Hijack narratives, not economies!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Wall Street Protest: Wesleyan Students Head to the City

By the evening of Sept. 20, the number of demonstrators had shrunk to several hundred. However, many protesters, including University students, plan to return to Wall Street to participate again this weekend.

“I think weekend numbers will increase,” Batte said. “There will be Wesleyan students going. But the core group of a few hundred is still there. I don’t think it will fizzle out. They’re settled in, barring some sort of mass arrest.”

Meanwhile on campus, students who went to the demonstration on Sept. 17 have continued the protest on campus. Around 15 students are currently camped out in three tents on Foss Hill in what they are calling “Tent City.” The students residing in the Tent City hope to form a smaller campus version of the protest currently happening on Wall Street.

Submitted by lambert on

Most universities, like Mediterranean cities but unlike most American cities have central squares. So while I welcome the tactic, it's could also be a strategic diversion. The bankster CEO is the enemy, not the college president or the Dean.

Submitted by lambert on

And not protest, protesters, or demonstration, demonstrators.

Bold, persistent experimention.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

here. And some background on the organizers from the article (but read the whole thing, good analysis):

"Meanwhile, quietly, a group of several hundred mainly young activists, artists and students started gathering as a "General Assembly" (GA) - a leaderless, consensus-based decision-making process. They met weekly in public parks, starting on August 2 and continuing until the occupation began, with the intention of building an organizational and tactical framework for the action. It grew out of New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts, which had recently held a three-week occupation near City Hall called "Bloombergville" to protest against austerity measures. They had learned a lot from that and were ready to try something bigger."

Submitted by lambert on

Here's the site: New Yorker's Against Budget Cuts. They were, I think, involved in the Albany Capitol Occupation, which (reading between the lines) wasn't a marked success, far less than Madison (although Madison is a special case, being both a Capitol, a college town, and a lefty college town to boot). So they're learning. Utterly fantastic. I feel happy because things I've been saying, based on thin evidence, turn out to be true on the ground.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

from the Truthout link:

As is now well known, the anti-consumerist group Adbusters made a call on July 13 for an occupation of Wall Street. That and a bit of poster art were the extent of its involvement. Adbusters floated the meme and left the rest to others. The trouble was, though, that most of the others were meme floaters, too.

The internet if is a GREAT way to spread information, but a poor way to move people to action. The October 6th event is being organized by experienced activists, so I have better hopes for it.

It is a measure of how much anger there is out there that the turnout has been as good as it has given the half assed organizing behind it. Although at least they got port-a-potties, so give them some credit.

Submitted by lambert on

I think everything about the terrain is hard: Massive police presence, urban canyons, fractious NY activist community. I don't think it's "half-assed" at all. I don't think it's a party or a rally, but I think that's all to the good. What matters is not the meme-floaters but what happens on the ground. Any group that can get a media center together run by a portable generator... That's really cool.

Again, bold persistent experimentation. Do we really have a metric here? You lose until you win.

Submitted by hipparchia on

The crowd, for example, cannot know its own size. And knowing that you're in a huge crowd is an adrenaline rush.

'huge' is perhaps relative - if your 'small' crowd fills all or even most of the available space, it makes an impression.