This is that “just 10 degrees warmer please” time of year, when the long, gray drudgery of March starts to crack into early Spring. People are sick of it – you know it’s April in New York when it gets just a hair above 60 degrees, and the sidewalk cafes are packed with bundled-up diners pretending not to shiver. But as the flowers begin to appear, first tentatively, then explosively, we know sweet May is not long off.
These are some photos tracing the end of Winter and the first baby steps of Spring. Near the bottom are pictures of the almost-complete 1 World Trade Center
It’s been an unprecedented week of an unprecedented movement. The ideology of Occupy Wall Street is nothing new, but the methods- applying a leaderless, direct consensus democracy – have not been seen on this planet since ancient Athens. Most revolutionary though, is that this is a truly global movement: technologically coordinated in ways that were impossible even just 5 years ago.
In just two months, an experiment of a handful of people, in a small park, has reached massive proportions. On November 17, in a global “Day of Action”, tens of thousands took the streets in cities across the world. On the West of the U.S., bridges were disrupted, and buildings were occupied throughout the country.
Here’s how I witnessed this historic week from the streets of the movement’s cradle in Lower Manhattan:
November 14 –
Over the past week or so, I’d noticed a growing presence of extremist “fringe” elements at the encampment- More and more overly sloganistic rabble-rousers, some darkly unhinged. The core of the park was definitely still exuberant, focused on pioneering new ways of thinking and acting. The kitchen and library were larger and more organized than ever, there was now a more fully equipped first-aid tent; and there were open forums tackling an ever-expanding array of important issues. I was concerned that the extreme contingent would only serve to distract from the optimism, and might turn-off much of the “99%” for whom the movement is supposed to include.
As I walked from Zuccotti Park during the evening rush, there was a feeling of foreboding in the air – an increased police presence on the surrounding streets, command-post trailers that had not be there before, and a greater number of undercovers. During the night, of course, the encampment was forcibly evicted from the park. In a way, it was a good thing- the park had become a bit too insular and was perhaps starting to stagnate. It seemed to be a step in the right direction to turn the park into a symbol and to start a broader dialogue with the 99%
November 15 –
The morning after the eviction of Zuccotti Park. A group marched to a park privately owned by Trinity Church (one of NY’s oldest parishes) and attempted to take it- climbing over a wall and unlocking the gates. The pastor and clergy from the church arrived, negotiated, and, in the end, denied access. Most left the park. Others stayed and tried to barricade the gate with benches. Very quickly after, riot police moved in and arrested the remaining protesters, with their usual finesse.
Afterwards, everybody converged back to Zuccotti Park, which was barricaded by police. Protesters surrounded the square until evening, when the court ruled that the park should be reopened, under the condition that no one set up structures or sleep there.
November 17 –
Definitely the biggest day of the global movement, with coordinated protests around the world – Bridges shut down, buildings taken, crowds turning out en masse.
NYC, as the movement’s birthplace, was the center of the action. The goal of the morning was to shut down the New York Stock Exchange, or at least to disrupt it. By some accounts the opening bell was delayed by 15 minutes. Police barricaded the entire surrounding area, cutting off marchers and dividing them. Despite the failure of the NYSE takeover, business was disrupted throughout the Financial District. Small, colonial streets shut down, and Lower Broadway crippled. Multiple marches throughout the area were trying to keep one step ahead of the police, whose presence was a bit stretched. Many office workers watched from lobbies and windows – a few shouting taunts, but many applauding and holding signs of support. Finally, the protest turned its attention to taking back Zuccotti Park.
In a triumphant scene, the park was stormed and the barricades torn down. Riot police moved in, but protesters used the barricades to push them back. They eventually had to back down. Emboldened, the protest again marched down Broadway to Wall Street, which was entirely blocked with multiple barricades. The scene on the protected side of the police line was eerily silent, considering that it is one of the epicenters of the global economy. There was a something of a stand-off in front of the iconic Trinity Church. For a moment, it seemed that there might be a rush on the police guarding Wall Street. Eventually, however, the marchers went back to Zuccotti. The police returned in triple strength, and surrounded the park, but did not attempt to clear it. However, there were a number of police beatings on the periphery. At any chance they were able to, the police unleashed their violence on countless, shameful incidents.
Things calmed as a light rain started to fall around lunch time.
The biggest triumph of the day, undeniably, was in the evening, when up to 40,000 turned out in Foley Square for a mass rally and march over the Brooklyn Bridge, from which messages were projected onto skyscrapers.
October 11, 2011
Now in its 4th week, the Occupy Wall Street movement has picked up tremendous steam, despite inattention from most of the nation’s media. The movement has inspired similar occupation protests around the world, in more than 600 cities. Each one is bound by a realization that all governments must answer to the people, the common people who labor for their living and pay the taxes that keep society running.
On Saturday, October 15th, 662 cities around the globe will protest in a day of solidarity against the corrupt economic and political practices of their governments. In NYC, this day will include rallies in Lower Manhattan and Washington Square Park; and a mass march on Times Square. <a href=”http://15october.net/” rel=”nofollow”>15october.net/</a>
Today, #OccupyWallStreet led a march through the Upper East Side of Manhattan, home to some of the richest and most corrupted people on Earth. Along the way, the demonstration stopped and chanted in front of the homes of selected billionaires, including Rupert Murdoch, and other leaders of business who benefited from federal bailouts on the people’s dime.
It seemed media was there from all over the world, from Japan to Italy. There was a lot of positive energy in the march, and there were no notable confrontations with the police.
Two chants stuck out:
“We are the 99%!” – which has become the movement’s battlecry
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” – aimed, obviously, at the rich CEO’s who live in the neighborhood
Along the way, many bystanders paused, and expressed their support. They far outnumbered the scoffers…
A similar thing happened in 1884, in Chicago – though that was a bit more sinister. On Thanksgiving Day, protesters marched past the mansions of the robber barons on Prairie Avenue.
”On Thanksgiving Day 1884 the anarchists [of Chicago] unveiled their new symbol. The black flag of hunger and death joined the red flag of social change. Playing the anthem of the French revolution, the Marseillaise, they began a march which took them past Potter Palmer’s elegant hotel, the Palmer House. Then on to the Prairie Avenue mansions of the capitalists who had “deprived them,” their leaflets said, “of every blessing during the past year.” “Every worker, every tramp must be on hand to express their thanks in a befitting manner….
…And they’re going up and they’re ringing the doorbells. And of course nobody’s answering the doors. But they’re screaming that they want bread or power. There’d just never been a direct demonstration quite like that…”
Many more pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157627754699192/with/6238183718/
Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square sits at the edge of what was 19th century New York’s most notorious neighborhood, the Five Points – setting of Martin Scorsese’s 2002 Gangs of New York
Yesterday something extraordinary happened there. A march of thousands (up to 50,000 by some estimates) rallied at the square to express their discontent with a broken system – a system in which common people are charged with funding the caprices of the extravagantly rich. A system with an ever-increasing disdain for the citizens in its care. A system in which basic American rights are being trampled upon. We’ve been seeing in the previous weeks that people are beginning to realize that the “system” is OUR system. We pay the taxes, we support the economy, we contribute to the services that are meant to make a society work. When an apathetic population comes to, and realizes that it is meant to lead a country instead of blindly follow a select few, great things can happen.
Three weeks ago, a few inspired individuals took over a small park in the Financial District and set up a model society – with cooperative medical services, food contributions, security, a media center, and decision making by consensus. The usual happened: snide references to “over-privileged, over-educated, short-sighted hippies” etc. etc. The past week, however, has blown this stereotype straight out of the water:
Perhaps a society run for the people and by the people is not just a stale 235 year old catchphrase. Because- as it turns out, the “fringe” settlement at Zuccotti Park has amassed support from far and wide.
Yesterday, at Foley Square, we saw representatives from almost every major union imaginable – postal workers, teachers, laborers, nurses, marines, and the transit workers (Who are said to have decided to stop donating buses for mass arrests by the NYPD). Occupations have begun in cities across the country. – In solidarity, students have walked out of schools and colleges.
Yesterday’s march was the biggest yet of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was peaceful- full of anger, but also of optimism. Unlike at the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday, and Union Square the week before, the police, for the most part, kept themselves in check- Though after much of the crowd had dissipated, they unleashed their typical brutishness once again, this time flailing wildly with batons, and later bragging about it:
Naturally the city and police department would like to avoid investigating this like the plague. But enough outcry may change that:
1st Precinct: +1 (212) 334-0611
NYPD Switchboard: +1 (646) 610-5000
NYPD Central Booking: +1 (212) 374-3921
NYPD Internal Affairs: +1 (212) 741-8401
Mayor Bloomberg: +1 (212) NEW-YORK or +1 (212) 374-392
HOWEVER – The experience for the vast majority of people in the march was positive. “Good vibes”. The national Occupy Wall Street movement is not only about poverty or the disadvantaged, it is about all of us– working, middle, and even upper-middle class – the 99% of us whose pursuit of the American Dream slips further and further from our reach, not by our lack of effort or where-with-all, but by a government that has wrenched it from our grasp.