Thursday, November 17, 2011

ReOccupying Wall Street

Photo by Todd Heisler, New York Times

At 1 a.m on Tuesday morning, under cover of darkness, New York City cops woke the sleeping masses with foghorns and bright flashing lights and told them they had to clear out of Zuccotti Park, the birthplace two months ago of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They told the tent city of protestors that the park had to be cleaned and anything they did not take with them would be discarded. They told them that when the cleaning was done, they could come back to the park, but only during daylight hours and with no tents or shelter from the cold.

Officials had hoped the cold would have broken up the protests. They hadn't bargained on tents. And this week, they didn't bargain on the occupiers ability to adapt. "I feel like this is a beautiful moment to take back our streets, especially after the eviction," said a 27 year-old woman from Brooklyn. "We need to prove we can exist anywhere. It's gone beyond a single neighborhood. It's really an idea."

It's an idea that has taken root in the places where we hurt. By Tuesday night, occupiers were pouring back into the park. There was drumming and singing and chanting and choruses of "We Shall Overcome." Today, the protestors are holding a Day of Action, with plans to occupy, among other sites, selected subway stations. The movement is not going away. In fact, it's growing every day. 

I was talking with a woman at work yesterday, and she complained that she didn't "get" the protests. What were they trying to achieve? How would they measure success? I suggested that they had already had some success, that their overarching goal was to change the national conversation, to force the media to cover the way 99 percent of us are really living, jobless, homes foreclosed on, inadequate health care, wages insufficient to cover our human needs, our political and health care systems hijacked by the deep pockets of investment companies and insurance giants. 

She observed that the 1 percent are running businesses, and how can we expect them not to try to maximize profits? Yes, I argued, but they should pay their fair share of taxes on those profits, and underwrite health care that is conscionable at the very least. We agreed that the movement would probably continue to grow so long as the ranks of the unemployed continue to balloon in numbers. My friend said, but how do they expect to have any effect, it's so diffuse?

What about last week's elections, I asked her, in which the far right agenda took a drubbing? In Ohio, the effort to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights was defeated. Mississippi upheld a woman's right to choose. In Arizona, the senator who decided people who looked Latino could be stopped at will and asked for their legal papers, was voted out of office. And every morning on the news, I see coverage of an increasingly vibrant Occupy movement. This morning, in fact, the crowds have swelled by some 750 souls. The protestors are forcing a reckoning in the media and at the polls. And yes, I find it thrilling.


  1. What a photo -- the yellow trees like an umbrella, sheltering all those wonderful people.

  2. I'm jealous of Todd Heisler's skills.

  3. Preach it!

    Greg has attended a couple of Occupy protests here in Orlando (I couldn't, I was at work) and we are both tremendously energized by the Occupy movement.

    It really IS thrilling!

  4. I really like the dialogue you have here. In my house the occupy movement is more than frowned upon and I sit on the fence wondering how to counter that b/c I am immediately informed that the majority at these protests are not in dire need but simply present there for the sake of making trouble. What you say here makes so much more sense to me. I love your head.

  5. I did find the elections heartening. Even as a jaded 1960s radical who's seen the protests and demonstrations come and go and yet here we are right back into several wars etc. etc. But, the elections were heartening.

  6. Not as heartening as all that, those elections. What about Mississippi Amendment 27, effectively barring anyone without a driving license (the elderly, the poor, the special needs community) from exercising one of the most basic civil rights? And see,_Initiative_27_(2011)

    Apologies for the anonymous comment, am still trying to figure out blog comments properly.
    Anne (Liestal, Switzerland, 1 hour's drive away form the next occupy site)

  7. I love this movement. I'm so happy, and relieved to hear voices rising, kids being interested in more than Kardashian, Hilton sisters and such.
    Yes, occupy, read, understand, wake up. Hell yeah.

  8. I agree! It's interesting to watch the ways the Occupy movement has changed the national conversation. And now they're forcing increased scrutiny of policing tactics, which is also not a bad thing.

  9. Elizabeth, this photo stopped me in my tracks. those trees. the passion they shelter.

    Mark, me too!

    ellen, we worker bees have to be in the office, but it think we contribute positive energy with our support.

    deirdre, i know a lot of folk who think the movement is just "fringe" and troublemakers. but i really think the core of it is people of conscience, and maybe most of them aren't hurting as badly as some, but i do like that in spite of that, they're out there, raising their voice for those who are so down and out they can't even be in the mix. it's complicated. not perfect. but necessary, i think. i love that you question things. that's all we need really, hearts and minds willing to question, pro and con. oops. i sound like i'm on a soapbox. sorry!

    kristin, i sometimes think of this as harkening back to the 60s, expect the flower child element is not there. these times seem a little gloomier. still the civil disobedience model is being roadtested again, and wow, i'm all for that.

    Anne/Anonymous, i'm so glad you commented. I agree with you that there is so much more to do, so much to focus on, so many erosions to human rights to address. i'm so glad people are paying attention. thanks for the link.

    Miss A, i think that's what's so thrilling to me about Occupy. People seem to be finally WAKING UP.

    Steve, I'm in disbelief at some of the tactics. Did they really sprayed these students with pepper spray? this grandmother? this child? wasn't there another option here? but yes, the national conversation is definitely changing.