Behind the scenes of #OccupyWallStreet

Danny Schechter writes:

Back in the 1960s, a gang of Yippies, a politicised arm of the hippies led by the late Abbie Hoffman, wormed their way into the tour of the New York Stock Exchange. While up on the visitors’ gallery, looking down on the trading floors, they threw US legal tender – coins and bills – at the men below who, when they realised what it was, began diving for dollars.

That colourful assault on the money culture took place 40 years ago on August 24, 1967. CNN recently remembered the moment, noting: “Some of the brokers, clerks and stock runners below laughed and waved; others jeered angrily and shook their fists.”

The bills barely had time to land on the ground before guards began removing the group from the building, but news photos had been taken and the Stock Exchange “happening” quickly slid into iconic status.

Once outside, the activists formed a circle, holding hands and chanting “Free! Free!” At one point, Hoffman – an old friend of mine – stood in the centre of the circle and lit the edge of a $5 bill while grinning madly, but an NYSE runner grabbed it from him, stamped on it, and said: “You’re disgusting.”

What disgusts some, inspires others, and that event is now firmly embedded in the legacy of the US left, which may have changed its character, but not its dislike of America’s Mecca of money and symbol of greed.

In the 1920s, the “Street” was bombed by anarchists, but a new non-violent breed today, holding on to the hatred of the wheeling and dealing that drives US capitalism – and perhaps global capitalism – have for the last week staged an encampment a few blocks north of the Exchange as a part of what they call #OccupyWallStreet.

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