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Occupy Wall Street: 1st Birthday

September 19, 2012

Some notes I took on the ground:

9:44AM, Broadway & Morris:

Blond guy says on mic check that cops rushed in & grabbed 2 of us while we were making speech on mic about Bank of America’s predatory lending to students, and how WNYC-FM didn’t cover Occupy Wall Street protests live that morning because Bank of America was a sponsor.  One escaped with our help.  [Edit: I was the one who gave that speech.  I was in my car earlier that morning looking for a parking space, trying to find information on the radio about what was going on, getting increasingly frustrated about both.  I’ve since realized that WNYC-FM did report 0n it later that day; I saw online some good twitter updates and an inaccurate, biased article.]  As we’re saying this, cops rush in & grab another one.  All we were doing was standing on sidewalk.  Conclusion: they inflict violence to shut us up.  (Same reason they block people with cameras from getting close.)

10AM, Bowling Green:

Woman in biz attire asks what connection is between Museum of American Indian & US Bankruptcy Court [the buildings we were in front of], & why we are here.  Answer: here, the Lenape Nation told the Dutch, “We are the stewards of the isle of Mannahatta, you can use the land for $24.”  The Dutch built a wall (now Wall St) to keep them out.  Carved up the commons.  Said they owned the land, but how can anyone own the land, the water, the sky?  Indigenous people were displaced, stolen from.  WHO IS IN DEBT TO WHO?


Reverend Billy: “The 1% wants climate change.”  Talking about Spectra pipeline, which is full of fracked gas and goes across Hudson River by Gansevoort under a playground site.  Needs to be a site of resistance, “a new Tahrir.”  “They want to kill us.”  Ain’t that the truth.

11-ish AM, Battery Park: 2 people in an affinity group got engaged today!

2:33PM, West/Albany:

We are trying to walk in a group to Zucotti where 1,000 people are already.  Cops try to separate us at intersection, pull people out of crowd & arrest at random.  At intersections they can use “blocking traffic” as an excuse, but they were doing the same thing at park next to marina, where we started, where all we were doing was standing in a group.

3:24PM, Zuccotti: Cops go into park to steal big styrofoam thing from guy & pull him out of park.  At least 10 people videotape them.  NLG [National Lawyers Guild] people watch.

Some memories I didn’t get a chance to write down:

We had a Popular Assembly that evening in Zuccotti Park.  The park was chock full of people, some at the Popular Assembly, some at an impromptu drum circle, some meditating at the Tree of Life, which a few people had put flowers and precious stones next to.  The park looked beautiful, the way it used to.  At the Popular Assembly, people gave recaps of what had went down earlier that day.  One guy I remember, he was from Occupy LA and had come to NY alone.  He had gotten arrested earlier in the day and had just gotten out.  He had been afraid to get arrested because none of his friends would be there with him in NY, but he was happy now because the jail support at Occupy Wall Street was “close to none”–he meant second to none, I asked him about this is private after his speech on the human mic and he told me they’d had pizza, cigarettes…he felt supported, basically.  This matters because what we are doing is risky.  We are shouting out loud things that are scary to think about, facts about how unequal, how Third World really, this country has become.  We risk getting arrested, physically assaulted by police, having our stuff stolen or damaged by same, being laughed at, ignored, told endless times to “get a job” and it does get tiring to have to constantly counter this lie by showing your resume and saying “you hire me then”, talking about your shitty job with not enough hours/pay to live on or the freelance work you’re barely surviving on, the college courses which you hope will get you career success down the road but which you’re going deep into debt to take, and really why don’t all the traders down here get a job that actually benefits humanity, instead of profiting from reckless speculation and sometimes outright fraud?  Those of us from out of town take a financial risk with the gas money we spend coming here.  It’s worth it, for two reasons: because OWS seems to offer the best chance available of really changing the world for the better, and because over here you are loved.  I remember getting sick one evening at OWS, back when we still had the camp.  I went to the medic tent, they gave me anti-nausea pills and aromatherapy and let me sit in the tent until morning.  On September 17th people exhorted people over and over to do jail support, to be there for our brothers and sisters after the shouting, to be there waiting for them so they’d know they weren’t alone.

At one point during the early afternoon, we marched past a fancy restaurant.  A waitress smiled at us and pumped her fist.  The diners looked embarrassed.

The human mic is used pretty much all the time; all you have to do is shout “mic check” and everyone around you will repeat and listen to whatever you say.  Another reason OWS is worth the risk.  Such a contrast from the working world, where the boss makes the decisions, or from the rest of the political world, where the public figures give the speeches and the rest of us are only supposed to “support” one or the other of them.

I felt that day, after all was said and done, that it was impossible to make an immediate assessment of whether or not our actions succeeded.  We had a lot of people there making a lot of good points, but the mainstream media had already written us off as irrelevant and they weren’t going to change that story unless we did something violent, in which case we’d be written off as domestic “terrorists”.  Our tactics successfully baffled the police, which was great, but as fascist as the NYPD are, this movement isn’t actually about putting one over on the police.  I guess the real question would be, did we change the debate?  It sounds like a nebulous goal but it isn’t, it just means that the stuff we talk about gets talked about seriously by those in power and put at least partially into action.  It isn’t the entire goal, because achieving our entire goal would mean that the term “those in power” would lose its meaning, because those in power would be everybody.  But it’s a good start.

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