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Occupy Wall Street Is Now Three Months Young: Protests Mark Anniversary

Posted: 12/18/11 06:22 PM ET
New York, December 17 2001: Saturday marked the third month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. It was also Bradley Manning’s birthday. It was one of those days that confirmed the validity of the chant: “All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street”.

Ok, maybe, it wasn’t a whole week but Saturday felt like a week in one day.

The plan for the day, as announced, was to gather at Duarte Park at 6th Avenue and Canal Street to attempt a RE-Occupation of vacant land owned by Trinity Church, more of a real estate company than a house of worship.

For a few weeks, the Occupy Movement had been demanding that the church allow the movement to take “sanctuary” on that land. There were earlier protests and even a hunger strike that made page one of the New York Times.

Police in riot gear had ousted the occupiers the last time they tried to take over the space a few weeks back, and, since then, there has been a rancorous standoff between a Church that is supported by many fat cat one-percenters and OWS’s volunteer non-violent army of outrage.

The Church has repeatedly turned the movement down, despite support for the OWS demands from many clergy in New York and the most famous Episcopal priest in the world, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu. (Tutu sent OWS a supportive message but, then later sent the Church a disclaimer of any attempt on his part to sanction violence.)

No doubt church lawyers were expressing worries about financial liability should there be any claims, but many of the their trustees had political objections. They are Wall Streeters, including, a Vice President of Brookfield Properties, the owner of the “public” Zuccotti Park that had been the Movement’s home until they were unceremoniously and violently ejected by police in the dark of night.

Trinity Church may be there to serve God, but the defense of their real estate portfolio seems to come before their pretensions at social justice.

The gathering at Duarte Park was predictably surrounded by cops, some in riot gear, while what looked like the Zuccotti Park alumni association roamed around on a sliver of a City Park next to the unholy Trinity site.

At least half of the crowd, which grew as the day progressed, appeared to be covering the other half with still or video cameras and tape recorders. The press was out in force too, no doubt hoping for a bloody confrontation. Pacifica Radio outlet WBAI was broadcasting live and its programming was played back at the crowd on boom boxes.

The librarians of the People’s Library were on hand with a few boxes of newly donated books, but, despite the rhetoric, the scene seemed tired except for those who were dancing around or looking for action.

A few activists and clergy were arrested for climbing over the fence while others tried, but failed, to knock it down. (There were more than 50 arrests Saturday)

I was pretty discouraged by the relatively small turnout and the focus on getting to occupy a new tiny land base in an area with no real pedestrian traffic nearby, instead of finding more ways to reach out to mainstream America.

Saturday was a big Xmas Shopping day. While tens of thousands of New Yorkers were flocking to stores in Times and Herald Square. I thought that if you want to hit at economic power, you should be Occupying Macy’s or Toys ‘R’ Us.

All the stores were putting on new sales after Black Friday turned out to be a relative bust. Why not a march by Occupy Santas?

It all seemed unpromising when announced concerts at the park by Lou Reed and others didn’t seem to materialize, or at least I missed them.

But I left too soon.

Unknown to me, the movement then launched a previously unscheduled march but, at the last minute changed its direction and headed uptown, catching the police unaware.

The Live Stream people went with them so what happened next was shown on the Internet. One of the live streamers was busted but kept his camera-computer going from inside a police paddy wagon.)

At one point, I saw coverage by three cameras. One view, in ironic counter-point, covered several cops defending the statue of the Bull on an empty Wall Street traffic junction. No one there was bullish. Bullshit anyone?

The cops attacked as the activists marched up Seventh Avenue at 29th Street, arresting some for marching when they should be walking, a crime that may soon be punishable by the crazed new NDAA measure treating the homeland as a battlefield.

The crowd then broke into smaller guerilla-style groups, darting in and out of various streets, and ending up in a packed Times Square on a Saturday night at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

This march was spontaneous, powered by the power of surprise. The police actually chased some out of towners out of Times Square to try to cut them off at the pass, but failed.

Before the men in Blue, led by men in White, could reassert their version of Law and Order, and while shoppers and tourists watched, the occupiers began “mic-checking,” with individual after individual shouting out “Why I Occupy,” and offering personal statements and testimony that were repeated several times.

In this way, individual members of the movement, from every class, color and gender, spoke with eloquence about their reasons for protesting — personal reasons and social reasons, national reasons and global reasons, economic reasons and political reasons reached out to thousands.

They had to electrify whoever was watching, their passion and sincerity was there for all to see.

I watched the Live Stream of the event on a computer in Harlem and was moved, at some points, to tears by how articulate and reasonable they were. They later left the square and returned to Zuccotti Park for a late-night General Assembly meeting.

Not only was this the best show on Broadway on the “Great White Way” for that hour, but it proved the correctness of a political claim, asserted in one of the OWS signs written after the police raided Zuccotti Park.

It reads: “It’s So Not Over.”

News Dissector Danny Schechter has been covering the Occupy movement for his News blog and other websites including Al Jazeera. He has collected his reporting into a new book, available next week, with a preface by writer Greg Palast.



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About laura

bleedingheartyankeeliberal - I should have a t-shirt made. I'm hugely indebted to the Teamsters for being able to live among the 1%. Before the last of us lucky ones become extinct, I'm volunteering with the LAUSD's Collective Bargaining Education Project. I'd actually like to get a little 'press' for the program. I believe 'Union' needs to be the word on the street. I'm talking high school kids.
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One Response to The Latest

  1. stanchaz says:

    Re Occupy & Trinity Church: You don’t need to be religious to understand -and embrace- the idea that “Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” But many of the 1%, in blind greed and endless schemes, have forgotten this. They have closed their eyes to what the word “society” should really mean, what it can mean. But due to Occupy Wall Street, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING. Instead of demanding m-o-r-e budget cuts -to be borne by the middle class and poor- we are FINALLY focusing on the shameful bleeding that the poor and middle class has endured, for all too long. Instead of talking about even m-o-r-e cuts in the taxes of millionaires….we are now talking about fairness and justice – about an economy and a political system that is increasingly run for the rich, and by the rich. Instead of talking about LESS government, we are talking about a government that WORKS FOR ALL OF US, not just a favored few. Thank you OWS, for reminding us that people -ordinary working people- really DO matter, and for helping open our eyes to what’s going on in this country, and why. The attempt by OWS to occupy Duarte Square (the empty lot owned by Trinity Church) is much more than a plea for sanctuary. For like Zuccotti Park, it’s an attempt to carve out a protected space, a living conscience for the city, amid the repression. A refuge…in a city where control-freaks would sweep us under the rug, and out of the way. In a city where they would pen us in, and permit us to death. In a city that tells us to “move on, move on”….. you don’t belong, you don’t count, you don’t have a right to be here…don’t assemble, don’t block the street, don’t trespass, don’t EXIST! They would deny us, deny our lives, deny our very futures. IF WE LET THEM. But OWS responds, both in word and in DEED: it says we’ve had ENOUGH – we BELONG, we STAND our ground, and we DO matter! This IS our land, and we want it BACK! The word OCCUPY…says it all! That’s why OWS has captured our imagination. That’s why a living breathing OCCUPIED public space is important for OWS. Like Lady Liberty’s never extinguished torch that burns in our harbor, OWS needs to have a concrete, persistent, in-your-face presence.. continually remind us of what we’ve lost, of what we are, and what we can be; a protected place to affirm, to illuminate, to defy…and to inspire. Trinity Church, with its oft-proclaimed ideals (and its huge land holdings), should look deep into its collective soul, do the right thing, and help OWS secure a sanctuary. Not merely a space of refuge but one of hope, non-violent change, and compassion. And dare I say: a space of love – love of country, love of your fellow man and woman, love for the poor and oppressed. Can thoughtful Christians argue with these simple Christian / human values? For if Christ were physically with us today, as He was 2000 years ago, He would be among the FIRST to climb those fences, and occupy Trinity’s Duarte Square. Of this I am certain. Let us pray that Trinity Church -and others -hear the call, and respond. For the old ways are not working….