Read Ben Doernberg’s Storify report for more details on journalists being arrested, attacked and in every way possible, prevented from reporting on the operation to evict Occupy Wall Street.
After being evicted from Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street released this statement: We are a global movement that is reclaiming our humanity and our future. We have stepped into a revitalizing civic process, realizing that we cannot fix our crises isolated from one another. We need collective action, and we need civic space. We are creating that civic space.
To occupy is to embody the spirit of liberation that we wish to manifest in our society. It is to exercise our freedom to assemble. We are creating space for community, values, ideas, and a level of meaningful dialogue that is absent in the present discourse.
Liberated space is breaking free of isolation, breaking down the walls that literally and figuratively separate us from one another. It is a new focus on community, trust, love and hope. We occupy to create a vision of equality, liberty and social justice onto the blank paving stones of public parks, in the silent hallways of abandoned schools, banks, and beyond. Public space plays a crucial role in this civic process and encourages open, transparent organizing in our movement. As we have seen in Liberty Square, outdoor space invites people to listen, speak, share, learn, and act.
Last night, billionaire Michael Bloomberg sent a massive police force to evict members of the public from Liberty Square—home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months. People who were part of a dynamic civic process were beaten and pepper-sprayed, their personal property destroyed.
Supporters of this rapidly growing movement were mobilized in the middle of the night, making phone calls, taking the streets en masse, and planning next steps. Americans and people around the world are appalled at Bloomberg’s treatment of people who peacefully assemble. We are appalled, but not deterred. Liberty Square was dispersed, but its spirit not defeated. Today we are stronger than we were yesterday. Tomorrow we will be stronger still. We are breaking free of the fear that constricts and confines us. We occupy to liberate.
We move forward in the grand tradition of the transformative social movements that have defined American history. We stand on the shoulders of those who have struggled before us, and we pick up where others have left off. We are creating a better society for us all.
Occupy Wall Street has renewed a sense of hope. It has revived a belief in community and awakened a revolutionary spirit too long silenced. Join us as we liberate space and build a movement. 9 a.m. Tuesday morning at Sixth Avenue and Canal we continue.
The Associated Press reports: Hundreds of police officers in riot gear raided Zuccotti Park early Tuesday, evicting dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters from what has become the epicenter of the worldwide movement protesting corporate greed and economic inequality.
Hours later, the National Lawyers Guild obtained a court order allowing Occupy Wall Street protesters to return with tents to the park. The guild said the injunction prevents the city from enforcing park rules on Occupy Wall Street protesters.
At a morning news conference at City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city knew about the court order but had not seen it and would go to court to fight it. He said the city wants to protect people’s rights, but if a choice must be made, it will protect public safety.
About 70 people were arrested overnight, including some who chained themselves together, while officers cleared the park so that sanitation crews could clean it.
By 9 a.m., the park was power-washed clean. Police in riot gear still ringed the public space, waiting for orders to reopen it.
The city told protesters at the two-month-old encampment they could come back after the cleaning, but under new tougher rules, including no tents, sleeping bags or tarps, which would effectively put an end to the encampment if enforced.
Michael Moore: Dozens of Occupys across US raided this weekend-& now NYC- Planned & coordinated by the Dept. of Homeland Security? Did O give green light?
@C0d3Fr0sty: Guy on local New York TV station “This is not about #occupywallstreet to me, I’m a capitalist. This is about freedom now.”
Occupy Wall Street: Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park), home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months and birthplace of the 99% movement that has spread across the country and around the world, is presently being evicted by a large police force in full riot gear.
We will reoccupy!
3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.
3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in
3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police
3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.
3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon
3:08 a.m. heard on livestream: “they’re bringing in the hoses.”
3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square
2:55 a.m. NYC council-member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.
2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen
2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5,000 donated books in dumpster.
2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed
2:38 a.m. 400-500 marching north to Foley Square
2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down
2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.
2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times
2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square
2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square
2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed — reports of at least one reporter sprayed
2:03 a.m. Massive Police Presence at Canal and Broadway
1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.
1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.
1:34 a.m. CBS News Helicopter Livestream
1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.
1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.
1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.
1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting “This is what a police state looks like.”
1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.
1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.
Call 311 if you’re in the NYC area.
NYPD 1st Precinct: 212.334.0611
NYPD Central Booking: 718.875.6303
NYPD Internal Affairs: 212.487.7350
City Hall: 212.788.3058
Justin Elliot reports: Last week, the first Occupy Wall Street TV ad began airing on channels including Fox News and ESPN:
The airtime was paid for through a crowd-sourced funding service, which has raised about $13,000 so far. The ad was created by freelance director David Sauvage, who shot footage on location in Zuccotti Park during the early weeks of the protest. The spot even ran during the O’Reilly Factor on some cable providers one night last week, according to Sauvage.
The ad was not endorsed by the general assembly at Zuccotti Park, the official governing body for Occupy Wall Street in New York; rather, like much of the work around Occupy, it was created as an affinity project by a supporter of the movement.
Sauvage’s bread and butter is corporate commercial work; ironically, his most recent project before the Occupy Wall Street ad was a commercial for the Wall Street Journal.
Megan Robertson, a digital producer for DylanRatigan.com, reports: At Thursday’s General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street in New York, a resolution was passed to allocate $29,000 to pay to send approximately 20 “OWS Ambassadors” to act as international observers in the Egyptian elections.
The Movement Building group of OWS brought this up to the GA after being contacted by a representative of a coalition of Egyptian civil society monitors, inviting the NY occupation to send representatives to help observe the elections.
While we don’t yet know what this means for Occupy Wall Street, it’s certainly a bold move — and one that could play out in several ways once they land in Egypt.
“It sounds like a brilliant move, in terms of Egyptian politics,” says Dr. Nathan Brown, professor of political science at George Washington University, and expert on Egyptian government and politics.
“Here’s the problem. Election monitoring in Egypt has always been a big issue. The country under the authoritarian regime has always been hostile to any kind of international monitoring role. After the revolution, essentially what the Egyptians brought in was a system of judicial monitoring of the elections. The judges themselves are not really interested in any international monitoring, and military rulers have been hostile to it as well,” says Dr. Borwn.
Strong nationalist sentiment within Egypt will also play a role, but could be a positive one.
“The world monitoring, in Arabic, can also mean”oversight” or “control.” “Monitors” sound like people who are coming in to take over. Now, there’s some sort of nationalist pride that can be set off — Egyptians may see it as, well, we’re teaching the Americans for a change. It can play into that very easily,” says Dr. Brown. “It’s a good political move because its an effective way to have a retort to the nationalist argument against monitoring.”
As far as the purpose of international monitors at the elections, they may not be able to play a huge role, but can still have an effect. “They can probably do a lot of seeing and watching the general atmosphere, but as far as being inside the polling places, there won’t be a lot of role for them. What groups of international monitors do, though, is provide a very effective cover for domestic monitoring efforts,” Dr. Brown explained.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes: I have a solution for the problem of bankers who take risks that threaten the general public: Eliminate bonuses.
More than three years since the global financial crisis started, financial institutions are still blowing themselves up. The latest, MF Global, filed for bankruptcy protection last week after its chief executive, Jon S. Corzine, made risky investments in European bonds. So far, lenders and shareholders have been paying the price, not taxpayers. But it is only a matter of time before private risk-taking leads to another giant bailout like the ones the United States was forced to provide in 2008.
The promise of “no more bailouts,” enshrined in last year’s Wall Street reform law, is just that — a promise. The financiers (and their lawyers) will always stay one step ahead of the regulators. No one really knows what will happen the next time a giant bank goes bust because of its misunderstanding of risk.
Instead, it’s time for a fundamental reform: Any person who works for a company that, regardless of its current financial health, would require a taxpayer-financed bailout if it failed should not get a bonus, ever. In fact, all pay at systemically important financial institutions — big banks, but also some insurance companies and even huge hedge funds — should be strictly regulated.
Critics like the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators decry the bonus system for its lack of fairness and its contribution to widening inequality. But the greater problem is that it provides an incentive to take risks. The asymmetric nature of the bonus (an incentive for success without a corresponding disincentive for failure) causes hidden risks to accumulate in the financial system and become a catalyst for disaster. This violates the fundamental rules of capitalism; Adam Smith himself was wary of the effect of limiting liability, a bedrock principle of the modern corporation.
Bonuses are particularly dangerous because they invite bankers to game the system by hiding the risks of rare and hard-to-predict but consequential blow-ups, which I have called “black swan” events. The meltdown in the United States subprime mortgage market, which set off the global financial crisis, is only the latest example of such disasters.
BY BEN LORBER
At about midnight Palestinian time, all was quiet on the Mediterranean Sea. All reports coming from the Tahrir and Saoirse indicated that the two unidentified (possibly Israeli) ships and planes, which had been trailing the humanitarian vessels an hour before, had receded into the distance, and posed no immediate threat. The international activists aboard the Canadian and Irish vessels announced they were heading off to sleep, as journalist Hassan Ghani, aboard the Canadian Tahrir, tweeted that “I remember these feelings a year ago onboard the Mavi Marmara; the tension but also the hope of reaching Gaza the next morning”. Folks eyeing the Twitter-sphere found themselves “praying that this is not the calm before the storm”, and encouraging the 27 crew members to “stay steady in your tracks and strong in your minds”.
In the midst of this calm, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement posted a surprising and exhilarating tweet:
Moments later, the Twitter representative of the Canada Boat to Gaza posted an appreciative response, “We are thrilled to receive the support of #OccupyWallStreet Looks like only the 1% support the Israeli blockade of Gaza.” The Twitter-sphere flared up with expressions of praise and affirmation, proving that the 99% naturally link the struggle for the Occupation of Wall Street with the struggle against the Occupation of Palestine as two facets of a single universal liberation struggle.
Approximately four hours later, however, Occupy Wall Street’s tweet mysteriously disappeared from its home page on Twitter. The Twitter-sphere was instantly taken aback — “didn’t realize #OWS is non-political!!” remarked one tweeter, while another insisted that “If #OWS can not support #FreedomWaves and #Gaza then they should not compare themselves to #ArabSpring or #Tahrir.” The Canada Boat to Gaza, who earlier had nodded in satisfaction, now, shook its head in disappointment, offering, in the face of Occupy Wall Street’s fear of involving itself in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a few words by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Many tweeps asked “Why did @OccupyWallSt delete a tweet showing solidarity with #FreedomWaves?” or “@OccupyWallSt Did you seriously delete the tweet supporting #FreedomWaves WHY?” The closest official answer came from Daniel Sieradski, a new media activist who has been central to the OccupyJudaism activities. Sieradski explained, the “#FreedomWaves tweet was unauthorized, did not have reflect #OWS community consensus and was subsequently deleted.” He added, “#OWS does not have a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and “#OWS is a consensus based movement. The GA has never discussed the I/P issue & even if it did, it would never reach consensus.” Sieradski acknowledged he was not speaking as a spokesperson from Occupy Wall Street but he had “heard what happened from people close to it.” I was not able to receive an official explanation from the Occupy Wall Street movement about why tweet being deleted.
As the controversy blazed across Twitter, it opened a space for the 99% to express the obvious connections between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the global dominance of the 1% — “#OWS is inseparable from #Palestine. 1% funding Israeli settlements and extremist settlers? Priceless.”; “#OWS is inseparable from#Gaza. The 1% diverts resources from the 99% by Israel’s blockading and shelling 100% of Gaza”; “The Tear Gas used in #Oakland is the same tear gas used in#Palestine, when protesters demonstrate non violently”, to cite a few among the myriad examples. Not everyone on twitter was upset however. The tweeter ‘Fatima600’, who had been using this racist name to fire verbal attacks at the flotilla throughout the night, responded, “They are tired of having their movement hijacked!!!!! I love you #OWS!!!!”
Hours later, @OccupyFortWorth expressed its support for Freedom Waves for Gaza — “Our support for #Gaza and #Freedomwaves is limitless. It emanates and echoes from the deepest purest regions of our heart. Love. Solidarity”, asserting, in contrast to #OccupyWallSt’s hesitancy, that “we don’t mind losing followers who are uncritical or unwilling to engage the issues (Or who are reflexively pro-Zionist.)”.
Ben Lorber is an American activist with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank and a journalist with the Alternative Information Center in Bethlehem. Visit his blog at freepaly.wordpress.com.
This post originally appeared at Mondoweiss and is reposted here with permission.
Bill Moyers says: The great American experience in creating a different future together — this “voluntary union for the common good” – has been flummoxed by a growing sense of political impotence — what the historian Lawrence Goodwyn has described as a mass resignation of people who believe “the dogma of democracy” on a superficial public level but who no longer believe it privately. There has been, he writes, a decline in what people think they have a political right to aspire to — a decline of individual self-respect on the part of millions of people.
You can understand why that is. We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to produce the policies favored by a majority of Americans. We speak, we write, we advocate — and those in power, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, turn deaf ears and blind eyes to our deepest aspirations. We petition, we plead, we even pray — yet the Earth that is our commons and should be passed on in good condition to coming generations, continues to be despoiled. We invoke the strain in our national DNA that attests to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as the produce of political equality — yet private wealth multiplies even as public goods are beggared.
And the property qualifications for federal office that the framers of the Constitution expressly feared as an unseemly “veneration for wealth” are now openly in force and the common denominator of public office, including for our judges, is a common deference to cash.
So if belief in the “the dogma of democracy” seems only skin deep, there are reasons for it.
During the great prairie revolt that swept the plains a century after the Constitution was ratified, the populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease explained “Wall Street owns the country. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us, and the political speakers mislead us,” because, she said, “money rules.”
That was 1890. And those agrarian populists were boiling over with anger that the corporations, banks and government were conniving to deprive everyday people of their livelihood. They should see us now.
John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup, and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they will fill it. That’s now the norm, and they get away with it.
Barack Obama criticizes bankers as fat cats, then invites them to dine at a pricy New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person. And that’s the norm. And they get away with it.
As we speak, the president has raised more money from banks, hedge funds, and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Let’s name it for what it is: democratic deviancy defined downward. Politics today — and there are honorable men and women in it — but politics today is little more than money laundering and the trafficking of power and policy, fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.
Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is occupied is no mystery — reporters keep scratching their heads and asking, “Why are you here?” But it’s as clear as the crash of 2008: they are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied America.
Bill Black writes: Bob Ivry, Hugh Son and Christine Harper have written an article that needs to be read by everyone interested in the financial crisis. The article (available here) is entitled: BofA Said to Split Regulators Over Moving Merrill Derivatives to Bank Unit. The thrust of their story is that Bank of America’s holding company, BAC, has directed the transfer of a large number of troubled financial derivatives from its Merrill Lynch subsidiary to the federally insured bank Bank of America (BofA). The story reports that the Federal Reserve supported the transfer and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) opposed it. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism has written an appropriately blistering attack on this outrageous action, which puts the public at substantially increased risk of loss.
I write to add some context, point out additional areas of inappropriate actions, and add a regulatory perspective gained from dealing with analogous efforts by holding companies to foist dangerous affiliate transactions on insured depositories. I’ll begin by adding some historical context to explain how B of A got into this maze of affiliate conflicts. [Continue reading…]
Matt Taibbi writes: I was at an event on the Upper East Side last Friday night when I got to talking with a salesman in the media business. The subject turned to Zucotti Park and Occupy Wall Street, and he was chuckling about something he’d heard on the news.
“I hear [Occupy Wall Street] has a CFO,” he said. “I think that’s funny.”
“Okay, I’ll bite,” I said. “Why is that funny?”
“Well, I heard they’re trying to decide what bank to put their money in,” he said, munching on hors d’oeuvres. “It’s just kind of ironic.”
Oh, Christ, I thought. He’s saying the protesters are hypocrites because they’re using banks. I sighed.
“Listen,” I said, “where else are you going to put three hundred thousand dollars? A shopping bag?”
“Well,” he said, “it’s just, their protests are all about… You know…”
“Dude,” I said. “These people aren’t protesting money. They’re not protesting banking. They’re protesting corruption on Wall Street.”
“Whatever,” he said, shrugging.
These nutty criticisms of the protests are spreading like cancer. Earlier that same day, I’d taped a TV segment on CNN with Will Cain from the National Review, and we got into an argument on the air. Cain and I agreed about a lot of the problems on Wall Street, but when it came to the protesters, we disagreed on one big thing.
Cain said he believed that the protesters are driven by envy of the rich.
“I find the one thing [the protesters] have in common revolves around the human emotions of envy and entitlement,” he said. “What you have is more than what I have, and I’m not happy with my situation.”
Cain seems like a nice enough guy, but I nearly blew my stack when I heard this. When you take into consideration all the theft and fraud and market manipulation and other evil shit Wall Street bankers have been guilty of in the last ten-fifteen years, you have to have balls like church bells to trot out a propaganda line that says the protesters are just jealous of their hard-earned money.
Think about it: there have always been rich and poor people in America, so if this is about jealousy, why the protests now? The idea that masses of people suddenly discovered a deep-seated animus/envy toward the rich – after keeping it strategically hidden for decades – is crazy.
Where was all that class hatred in the Reagan years, when openly dumping on the poor became fashionable? Where was it in the last two decades, when unions disappeared and CEO pay relative to median incomes started to triple and quadruple?
The answer is, it was never there. If anything, just the opposite has been true. Americans for the most part love the rich, even the obnoxious rich. And in recent years, the harder things got, the more we’ve obsessed over the wealth dream. As unemployment skyrocketed, people tuned in in droves to gawk at Evrémonde-heiresses like Paris Hilton, or watch bullies like Donald Trump fire people on TV.
Moreover, the worse the economy got, the more being a millionaire or a billionaire somehow became a qualification for high office, as people flocked to voting booths to support politicians with names like Bloomberg and Rockefeller and Corzine, names that to voters symbolized success and expertise at a time when few people seemed to have answers. At last count, there were 245 millionaires in congress, including 66 in the Senate.
And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that’s just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they’re cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.
Matt Stoller writes: It’s been a little over a month since this bolt of political lightning known as Occupy Wall Street jolted through the political establishment. It’s time to assess just what Occupy Wall Street has gotten done. That it has accomplished a great deal is beyond dispute. Franklin Foer in the New Republic and John Nichols in the Nation have both noted that Occupy Wall Street profoundly challenged President Obama and the Republicans. But what an odd challenge. A few thousand people camped out in parks around the country? Really?
Yet this challenge has completely changed the dominant theme in Washington. Less than a year ago, JP Morgan’s Bill Daley was the glad-handling centrist du jour, praised by everyone from Howard Dean to Bob Reich. The “austerity class,” as Ari Berman so nicely put it, was in control of the debate, with the Tea Party waiting in the wings ready to slash and burn.
Fast forward to October 2011. Obama is increasingly taking on a populist tone and using executive orders to attempt stimulating the economy, with Democrats smacking around Mitt Romney for encouraging foreclosures as a way to clear the market (a policy Obama administration officials like HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan agree with. The centrists are losing, perhaps not power, but certainly the debate. Third Way, the political brain behind this centrist White House and Senate, is one of the few groups warning Democrats away from Occupy Wall Street, but few are listening.
There’s a reason; the themes put out by the protesters are overwhelmingly popular. The poll numbers are out. If Occupy Wall Street were a national candidate for president, it would be blowing away every other candidate on the stage, including Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Fifty-four percent of Americans agree with the protesters, versus 44 percent who think President Obama is doing a good job. Seventy-three percent of Americans want prosecutions for Wall Street executives for the crisis. Seventy-nine percent think the gap between rich and poor is too large. Eighty-six percent say Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much power in Washington. Sixty-eight percent think the rich should pay more in taxes. Twenty-five percent of the public considers itself upset, 45 percent is concerned about the country and 25 percent is downright angry.
That these themes are dominating establishment debates now is somewhat bizarre. It’s not as if people didn’t hate banks in 2008, 2009 or 2010. And when you think about it, camping out in various cities isn’t a particularly radical act, in and of itself. Occupy Wall Street can’t project political power, at least not in any traditional sense. It can’t make decisions about how to relate to the police, or politicians. It is ideologically incoherent. It can’t even stop drum circles from drumming at night, because drummers don’t recognize the legitimacy of the general assemblies that try to cut deals with the neighborhood. There are increasing reports of medical and safety problems in parks around the country. One person at the protests told me the World War I disease called trenchfoot is making an appearance due to damp conditions. The protests are a ball of raw energy, with one basic message: The 1 percent on Wall Street have taken advantage of the 99 percent of the rest of us.
Christopher Ketcham writes: It’s 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, the day Occupy Wall Street went global. The march in Manhattan is twin pronged on 6th Avenue, several blocks long on the east and west sidewalks of the street. It flows as juggernautish and loud and flashing as a flood in a canyon. The police don’t know what to do except keep it on the sidewalk, barricade it off the street with a line of scooters and hundreds of foot cops and dozens of cop vans directed by the dreaded White Shirts. These latter are the captains, the field commanders, feared because in the five weeks the occupiers have been at Zuccotti Park, clawing into the financial district with no intention of departure, the White Shirts have done the most cawing into bullhorns, have seemed the most pissed off about the occupation, and have shown the most willingness to bust heads and punch kids and break out the mace and the pepper spray when faced with the threat of young women.
I get swept in the boiling mass on the east sidewalk next to a man in a white linen suit coat who chews on a cigar and is chiding the cops mercilessly. “What’s next, officers? How about planting season? Time to plant drugs on these people!”
“Keep tawkin,” says a detective.
“Randy Credico,” says the man in the linen suit, turning to me. “Activist, political comedian. Ran against Chuck Schumer in 2010.” A little guy, spry, a cynic who likes to dress up in public as Diogenes, a New Yorker with one of those sinewy New York accents. We shake hands. Then the drums are upon us, the banners—“Revolt” and “Generation Revolution” and “Wall Street: The Enemy of Humanity”—and the shouting: “We! Are! The 99 percent!”
The goal today is the convergence at Times Square, where it’s said 20,000 people are already waiting.
The goal tomorrow is the toppling of the 1 percenters—the Wall Streeters, the socially useless financiers, the bankers, the hedge funders, the derivatives traders, the corporate lawyers, the big-moneyed class that, in a more muscular age of progressivism, say, a hundred years ago, would be denounced as the parasite class. The parasites in New York, at last count in 2007, took for themselves close to 45 percent of all income in the city. Forty-five percent of all income going to roughly 34,000 households. The occupiers know their addresses, and in recent weeks have visited their doors in a most disrespectful manner to make known that the parasite class is not welcome anymore.
That’s a good start, the act of shaming and ridicule. How the toppling of the parasites is functionally to be accomplished, the machinations needed to smash their power and put them on a rocket ship to an airless planet, is as yet unknown. Nor does anyone here much care that it’s unknown. What matters on a day like this is morale, and to find morale means to gather en masse to make a mess of the normal state of affairs—the politics of disruption for its own sake. The Occupy Wall Street movement has collaborators in dozens of cities—Occupy Chicago and Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Seattle—but it is the occupation in New York, the most regressive city in the nation, to which Occupiers nationwide look for inspiration. The enemy is nested in New York, and it is here the battle is to be joined.
Justin Elliot talks to Michael Kazin, professor of history at Georgetown and author of “American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation” about where Occupy Wall Street is heading.
We’re now a month-plus into this. Does Occupy Wall Street remind you of any past movements or does it seem like a fundamentally new type of thing?
This is the first time in a long time, perhaps since the 1930s, that the left — and I think this protest does belong to the left, though a lot of people who are involved in it wouldn’t call themselves that — has focused on economic injustice as a central issue. That is both new and of course harks back to the beginnings of the New Deal. At that time, most activists on the left were primarily targeting economic inequality — in the form of wages, the lack of democracy at work, and resistance by industrial corporations to recognizing unions. What’s obviously different now is that Occupy Wall Street has been put together by people who are proud of being children of the Internet age: with horizontal organization, leaderlessness and consensus decision-making. The main tactic is about hanging out with and learning from one another. There is no sense of how the tactic will lead to either taking political power or having a big share of political power. This movement seems to think from tactic to tactic, rather than tactic to strategy.
Is there precedent for this kind of form and structure?
Many a protest campaign begins this way. The sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counters beginning in February 1960 had an end — desegregation of public facilities — but they weren’t quite sure of where it was going after that. They just thought, “This is a neat tactic that will draw attention.” And it did. That began with four students in Greensboro, N.C. But it soon blossomed, and now their lunch counter is in the Smithsonian. The movement against the Vietnam War also began with very small protests in 1964, and then grew into ones with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. So protests can grow and become catalysts for larger and more diverse movements.
The two examples you just mentioned had obvious, discrete goals they were trying to accomplish. In contrast, Occupy Wall Street has only a broad theme. Are there precedents for this?
There was Coxey’s Army in 1894, which was the first group to march on Washington. They were mostly unemployed people with a vague demand for public jobs. But they were basically just pissed off about the widespread depression of that era, and they were determined to compel Congress and the president to do something. Like Occupy, they did not have a well-worked-out agenda. Historians disagree about what effect the march had. But it certainly dramatized the situation of the poor and the unemployed, much as Occupy Wall Street is trying to do. People marched from around the country on Washington; they took freight trains, and hitchhiked on wagons, and walked a lot, too. It was very dramatic and the press covered it very widely. But the depression continued until 1897.
What can Occupy learn from history about how to sustain itself beyond the initial burst of interest and energy?
I think protests like this have to progress from tactic to strategy if they are going to endure. They have to either start their own organization — as the sit-in movement started SNCC — or link up with other organizations. The problem with that strategy is that what’s gotten people’s attention is the clever, somewhat novel tactic Occupy is using — and the participatory, very small-d democratic nature of it. The next step will inevitably not be that clever and novel. But for it to go anywhere, the Occupiers have to figure out, to some degree, what kind of demands they want to make. That doesn’t mean they need a 12-point program, but maybe a three-point program. They have to figure out what sort of relationship they want to have with existing groups on the left. But with no leaders and everything run by consensus, how do you make these decisions?
What’s more likely to happen — and I think to some extent already is happening — is that this will become a catalyst for other people to do other kinds of things about economic inequality. I think it’s likely that Occupy Wall Street will be seen as a spark. I think it’s unlikely that people are going to stay in the park for month upon month unless they are homeless. Most people eventually will want to get on with their lives. In the end, a tactic, no matter how successful, is just a tactic.
Micah Sifry writes: Overall interest in the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be cresting at the moment, with affiliation through the nearly 500 Facebook pages that we’ve been tracking starting to top out and organic interest in the topic also showing signs of calming down on Google search. At the same time, the movement–which deliberately has avoided appointing leaders and spokespeople–continues to expand its networked base. Nearly 250 of those Facebook groups have at least 1,000 members. Another 70 “Occupy X” Twitter accounts also have at least 1000 followers. And in a fascinating development noticed by Shane Castlen, who is tracking all of these metrics on his CollectiveDisorder.com website, while the main Reddit community for OWS now has more than 10,000 members, a number of local Occupy groups are slowly building their own “subreddits” focused on the news and debates occurring around their own encampments. Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, DC, Orlando, Philadelphia, Seattle, Richmond, Omana, Columbus, South Dakota and Boise are all active there.
Egyptian activists Asmaa Mahfouz and Ahmed Maher visited Zuccotti Park to briefly join Occupy Wall Street on Monday. Thanassis Cambanis writes: People asked about the role of women in the Egyptian uprising, the connections between youth and labor movements, and the importance of social media. Some of the questions were well intended but astonishingly vague: “How do you overthrow a system?” one man asked. Maher politely replied, “It’s easier to overthrow a dictator than an entire system.” He didn’t belabor the point that the Egyptian revolutionaries, so far as they are concerned, have not yet won; they still are fighting their system. Egypt’s military rulers have staged a vicious campaign against Maher’s April 6 movement, accusing them with no evidence of working as American spies and subjecting them to a public inquiry.
The Americans wanted to know how they could help Egypt.
“Get your revolution done. That’s the biggest help you can give us,” Mahfouz said, expressing the hope that America would one day cut off the $1.3 billion yearly payments that sustain Egypt’s military.
She also advised Occupy Wall Street to select its own leaders and craft a simple message “that no one can change.”
On Monday evening at Zuccotti Park, Mahfouz was eager to model the fiery disobedience with which she’s inspired so many Egyptians. “Let’s march!” she said after an hour-long question-and-answer session, grabbing an Egyptian flag and flashing the victory sign with both hands.
A few hundred demonstrators fell in line behind her and Maher, who gamely joined the English chants. The police allowed the march onto Wall Street itself, and at each corner the American leaders consulted an officer about the preferred route. Weary of the somewhat stilted slogans, which lacked the umph and rhythm of Egyptian chants, Mahfouz and Maher taught the crowd the iconic cry of the Arab uprisings: “Al shaab yurid isqat al nizam,” or “The people demand the fall of the regime.” The crowd adopted its own hybrid: “Al shaab yurid isqat Wall Street.”
As they wound back to Zuccotti Park, demonstrators awaited a cue from the police before crossing Broadway. It was too much for Mahfouz. She stopped in the middle of the intersection, stopped traffic, pumped a fist in the air, and demanded the fall of Wall Street. Nervous demonstrators skittered to the sidewalk, leaving Mahfouz with just the cameras and a few dozen stalwarts who seemed willing to accept her invitation to be arrested.