Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps: Battling Bankers and Super Villains on Wall Street




"Occupy Wall Street shifts from protest to policy phase," wrote Michael Hilzik in the Los Angeles Times on October 12, 2011.  This was certainly the case the last few weeks with the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS), as it lurched from street protest to policy proposals and back again, with street theatrics, parties and debates propelling media coverage escalating like the tents now filling the city in Zuccotti Park. The movement established a critique while policy makers drafted alternatives, and regular people pushed back on anti-worker, union busting, bank favoring, predatory lending policies from Ohio to New York.  The inside outside strategy looked more and more effective.   And the scary monsters organizing their tea parties started to look less and less relevant.  



Much of the picture is of a movement of regular people who have chosen to stop being obedient, docile bodies to a form of capitalism consuming communities, expanding inequalities, and foreclosing homes without recourse. In the midst of the Indian Independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi pointed out that if the millions of Indians decided to end their obedience to a hundred thousand British running the country, their government would fail.  And he was right.  Today, more and more of the 99 % are realizing they have little to gain by sitting idle, suffering through the worst economic crisis since the Depression, while the 1% continue to expand the our Gilded era like chasm between rich and poor.  Today, more and more have decided to stop being obedient to a system which does not have their best interests in mind.  
The last few weeks have moved faster than I can imagine or write about the ins and outs of OWS.  As protest nears its two month anniversary, the following are a few highlights from a weekly journal of the occupation.


Great picture of an OWS protester who has chosen to stop being obedient by Sharon Rosenzwieg.

October 24
I joined hundreds of homeless advocates speaking out at Union Square about the conditions of the shelters and the unmet needs of homeless street youth, forty percent of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.  As the winter approaches and the streets get colder, the difficulties faced by street youth only become more pronounced.  Yet, the city continues to push these youth to the periphery of the city and the already dwindling social safety net.  If one wonders why so many social outsiders meander to Zuccotti Park, they would be well advised to recognize that service cuts have real consequences, starting first with their impact on fragile bodies, left to cope as best they can on the cold, harsh concrete streets.  The structural violence of the city takes many forms. This includes physical and psychological attacks as well as neglect and deprivation.  Those in Zuccotti Park are struggling to cope with these forces as best they can.  The issue of safety would only become more pronounced as winter neared.

Join  us at Bartini this Tuesday to help. 



For those with the time or inclination, the group I support for New Alternatives for LGBT Youth is having a fundraiser this Tuesday at Bartini.  Please join us!

October 25
Education activists, parents, and OWS folks joined forces to put a little direct action into the debate about NY Public Schools usually controlled by the Mayor and his deputies.  Part of the vitality of OWS is its utilization of direct action to disrupt oppressive mechanisms of every day.  The OWS zap of the New York Department of Education meeting would not be the last time OWS aligned itself with the ambitions of regular people to take greater control of their own lives and power.

October 26
The people's hero by Peter S. 
Sylvia Rivera Law Project met at Zuccotti Park on Wednesday night Zuccotti Park to hold a training on  creating a safe space for trans folks and social outsiders.  As the teach in was taking shape, a group of healthcare activists from the OWS working group Healthcare for the 99% left for a rally in midtown.  Organizing by Healthcare Now, the group marched past health insurance providers, including Wellpoint, moving north toward the West Village, where they met neighborhood activists from ACT UP  at the now defunct St Vincent’s Hospital, put out of business by skyrocketing healthcare costs, mismanagement, and an untenable for profit healthcare system.  Just feet from the meeting space where ACT UP first organized around the health care crisis, people talked about the dangers of the loss of a neighborhood emergency room. The crsisis exposed so many of the cavernous gaps in our healthcare system.   Katie Robins, of Health Care Now, called St. Vincent’s a casualty of a for-profit health care system.  A press release for the action declared:
Another example of Quinn's lack of leadership. by Peter S. 

Wall Street’s control of health care is exposed in a march/speak-out today that starts at the offices of Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a subsidiary of WellPoint, the largest publicly-traded health insurance company. We are gathering at Liberty Square at 3pm and marching at 4:30pm!
Empire is housed across the street from the OWS encampment in the same building as Brookfield Properties, the multinational that owns Liberty Square (formerly Zuccotti Park). WellPoint’s CEO, Angela Braley, was compensated $13.1 million dollars last year.
Other targets include WellCare, the for-profit company that administers Medicaid and Medicare Advantage programs in New York and other states, currently being investigated for illegally siphoning $400-$600 million from programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The march will end at St Vincent’s Hospital in the West Village, closed earlier this year due to bankruptcy, and seen as a casualty of profit-driven insurers. There are now no hospitals on the West side below 57th St.

“We need a healthcare system that meets human needs, not the insurance company’s bottom line,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal of Physicians for a National Health Program. “People can’t get care they need because of unaffordable co-pays and deductibles that line the pockets of insurance CEOs and shareholders.”

“I have a health insurance plan with a $15,000 deductible, so our family has to ration healthcare,” said Katie Robbins of Healthcare-NOW! NYC. “We have to get Wall Street out of our healthcare system.”

The march was initiated by an OWS Working Group called Healthcare for the 99%, which is composed of healthcare workers and people who seek to end inequality in our healthcare system and our society.


October 27th
            The following day, a student leader from my college and involved with OWS attended a chapter meeting of the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing City University employers.  Pushing the union to back its rhetoric with action, he asked the Union to back this resolution.  I forwarded the motion, which was seconded and passed by the floor.  For many of us, OWS seemed to mirror the union’s agenda, including a push for the governor to maintain a millionaire’s tax.  

            Later that day, the whole delegate assembly of the PSC passed the following resolution:

RESOLUTION:
PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS/CUNY SUPPORTS OCCUPY WALL STREET
Whereas: The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, the union representing 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York, strongly opposes the imposition of further economic austerity on our university and the working-class and middle-class populations it serves, and continues to campaign for equitable distribution of wealth and progressive taxation.
Occupy Wall Street has brilliantly focused national and world attention on these issues by naming Wall Street as the source of the economic injustice and by challenging limits on the use of public space through an occupation.
Occupy Wall Street—organized at a moment at which income inequality in the U.S. is greater than at any time since the eve of the Depression, in the state with the greatest income inequality in the country and the city with the greatest income inequality in the state—has dared to question the primacy of the finance industry in American political and economic life. In doing so, OWS has shown how the political imagination can be expanded and social vision renewed.
And in little more than a month, OWS has changed public discourse and may be beginning to change public policy. Largely because of OWS, political officials, the corporate median and the class whose interests they represent have been forced to address the radical inequality in this country, creating an opening for unions, community groups and others to press with new urgency for long-standing economic justice demands.
By claiming public space for a public purpose, OWS has increased the freedom for all of us to take political action. Remaining confrontational but non-violent, OWS has exposed the criminalization of peaceful protest in this city and created a space for all of us to exercise our right to speak up and act up.
And by reimagining the public square, OWS has also highlighted the importance of education. Education is everywhere at Zuccotti Park, with protesters educating each other, creating a free lending-library, developing working-groups to examine political questions, and initiating a free “nomadic university” to bring college to the people of New York, in the boroughs and streets where they live.

While it is too soon to know what political movements will grow from OWS, it is already clear that OWS has changed the political landscape, not least because of its ability to find common cause between progressive activists and organized labor and to recognize contributions of students as essential to political change. CUNY students were among the original OWS group and have continued to take important roles in its development, always pressing for more public funding for CUNY.
And whereas:
The PSC was among the first labor unions to show support for OWS, with our members volunteering their time, and the union offering support through organizing members at demonstrations, providing space for meetings and other assistance.
Be it resolved:
That the PSC commends Occupy Wall Street for its nerve and imagination, for its refusal to accept the unacceptable and its willingness to explore new forms of political organization and protest. The PSC will continue to work with OWS—organizing members, as appropriate, in support; helping wherever appropriate to develop its “nomadic university”; and offering material and financial support as determined by the PSC executive council. 

PSC would move support the November 17th, 2011.

October 28
I started getting texts Thursday night about the banking action scheduled for the next day.

#OWS action alert!

Join thousands of 99%ers to hand deliver 6000 angry letters to evil bank CEOs at their HQ’s. 
Meet at Bryant Park at 12:30. 

Close to midnight, I got a text from a friend making pirate boats on bikes who planned for the pirates to join the action the next day.  All week long I had heard about the plans by a coalition ranging from Jobs for Justice to the Yes Men, VOCAL to New York Coalition for Change organizing to target the banks.  The moral heart of the movement is grievance that the banks ruined this economy with wreckless speculation.  While regular people were hustling to pay rents, the bankers created derivative swops which ignited the foreclosure crisis robbing people of their homes.  Yet, the bankers were bailed out, “socializing losses and privatizing gains.” 

Throughout the city, different groups planned to take to the streets. The New York Stimulus Alliance planned to dress as Robin Hoods to call for a financial speculation tax.   A press statement for their action explained:

Friday, Robin hoods and a band of Merry Men and women from National People's Action will demand Wall Street pay their fair share of taxes and get our money back from the 1%. The group is calling for the implementation of a Financial Speculation Tax and the extension of New York's Millionaire's Tax.
A Robin Hood tax is a tax on financial speculation that would generate $1.3 trillion dollars across the world to reinvested in people, job creation, greening and rebuilding our roads and bridges, and lifting millions out of poverty and hunger. It is a small tax, less that one quarter of one percent would generate enough money to fund every social and environmental program in the world. At home, a Financial Speculation Tax – an even more modest version of the Robin Hood Tax - would generate more than $170 billion annually and could have the added benefit of cutting down on the speculative activity on Wall Street. While in New York, allowing the Millionaire's Tax to expire will cost New York State an estimated $5 billion needed to protect schools, healthcare services and get New Yorkers back to work
On October 29th, people across the world will take action and demand that our leaders immediately impose a 1% #ROBINHOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades.
Here at home, the group of 30 Robin Hoods will start their day at noon by leading training on the Robin Hood Tax at Occupy Wall Street in Liberty Square at Zucotti Park. From there they will make their way to three locations in the financial district.
11:30am – Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Square at Zucotti Park – Robin Hoods will gather a Band of Merry Women and Men through training on the Financial Speculation Tax
12:30pm - A Big Bank Branch where they will ask them to pay their fair share and get our money back
1:00pm – New York Stock Exchange; Robin Hood and the Band of Merry Women and Men will direct the ire of the 99% at this major financial institution.

The next day, the pirates would meet at 11 AM the next morning at ABC No Rio, a squat turned community arts center in the Lower East Side.  Arriving, my friend was mounting a wood cardboard bound frame to his bicycle.  Decorated like a boat, these bike structures would serve as boat bikes, we’d ride up the “boat lanes” to the Bryant Park.  With few talking points in mind but a pirate accents, eye patches, and plastic swords, we screamed “Bankers walk the plank” with our pirate accents, visited a few banks, including Chase, Bank of American and Citibank, the notorious institution which set off the 1975 fiscal crisis in the city in the first place when the stopped selling NYC bonds and the city unable to pay its bills.  Recall, those heady days back in 1975:
In many areas of the city, the fiscal crisis and subsequent austerity era never really ended. This seemed to be on many people’s minds on October 28thThroughout the actions, regular people spoke about the burdens placed upon them by foreclosures, speculative lending, and banking fees.  Few of the banks would show any interest in listening to the grievances of the activists.  In response, the activists spoke through media, sharing their stories with the Keith Olberman show, as well as the business press.  Others folded letters into paper airplanes and flew them directly into the buildings where the bankers met.  While we received almost fifty press hits for the action, I was particularly proud of the headline in Business Week: “We’ve seen a lot of protests, But Occupy Wall Street’s March on Bank of American was by far the most hilarious.” More than merely getting media, the actions have also taken to pushing for creative reactions by banks feeling the heat.  For example, shortly after the action, Bank of America announced it was dropping its unpopular plan to charge debit card fees for customers

Later that night, many of us who had been taking part of the action on the banks reconverged at C-Squat, a squat in the Lower East Side to celebrate Halloween with Times Up!  Punk bands played on one side of the space while dance music pumped out of the other side, creating a topsy-turvy carnival like vibe all evening long.


The author Peter s. and Caroline S. at the super fun XUP Halloween Party at C Squat. Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh.

October 29th
The next morning I dragged myself up and out into the streets to teach an early morning organizing class.  OWS has been the source of any number of opportunities of engage, ask questions, and connect historic and current struggles for a public commons for everyone. In a workshop on organizing targets, I reviewed some of the photos from the action the day before.  Half way through the class, I noticed snow flakes filling the sky of Brooklyn.  Snowflakes in October?  All Saturday long it would snow and   rain   I wondered how everyone was fairing in Zuccotti Park. 

As it turns out, the structural violence of the street was actually finding its way into the park along with the elements.  Early that morning rape occur in the park.  Police would later scold her for staying in the park, noting she had it coming to her.  The debate about safety in the space would rightfully continue for much of the next week, as other allegations increased, along with the tents and hoards of crowds to the space.  If the movement could not take care of its own, it was hard to imagine it creating a better world for anyone else.
I did not hear about the event for another week.  But over time, more and more of those in the space would become preoccupied with discussions of safety, security, crime and surveillance.

October 30
The following day, I rode down to the square and heard the drums once again.  The sun was out and space felt alive with energy.  The snow storm felt like an anomaly.   Members of Times UP! were out with their bikes using peddle power to charge the generators, used to replace the gas powered generators confiscated by the police the previous Friday. 

Great picture of an OWS activist by Sharon Rosenzwieg.

Throughout the day, Keegan took interviews with the Times, the Raw Story, and the Gothamist.
In the meantime, those in the sustainability committee transported waste by bike up to the Lower East Side to be composted in a community gardens.  While some have described this space as an image of a post-apocalyptic city, others imaged it as a vast generator of ideas.  The dynamic element of the movement is that it is an experiment in democracy and ideas, thinking, creating, trial and error.  This feeling of trying to create something from new is both fascinating and vexing; it can be completely encouraging and frustrating, simultaneously.  But this spirit of innovation is part of what is charging the movement. It is the light pushing this forward.

Church toward Broadway, a group of fifteen singers sang along to some of the Civil Rights freedom songs, which charged and helped a one of our most dynamic movements cope with the difficulties of the struggle against segregation. As the group finished “We Shall Overcome” I asked if we could sing, “This Little Light.”  And sang we did.  “This little 99, I’m gonna let it shine,” I called out, as we echoed in a call and response just as we had done with Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie a few weeks earlier.  “Right here in this par,” we called.  “I’m gonna let it shine.”  Traditional verses, “All around the world” mixed with new variations, “Here in New York City. I’m gonna let it shine.”  As more and more sang along.  Rather than museum pieces, the freedom songs as living entities capable of powering movement after movement. 
Later in the afternoon, Angela Davis paid a visit to OWS.  “You are reinventing our political universe,” she explained on the human mic.  “You have renewed our collective passion.  You have reminded us that it is still possible to build vibrant communities of resistance.”  It certainly felt like it that afternoon.

October 31
Monday morning, I had heard about a street performance scheduled between: “Superhero’s vs. Wall Showdown.” 

SUPERHEROES vs. WALL ST SHOWDOWN!
Calling all superheroes! It's time to join the fight against corporatesupervillainy!
Monday, October 31, 10am
A team of down-but-not-out Superheroes will be confronting a legion ofcorporate supervillains!
Pick a side, come in costume, and join the battle!

The Master of Degrees battles the Student Loan Ranger!
Unemployed Man fights off The Outsourcerer!
Wondermother combats The Pink Slip!
Get into the action!

INFO:

Date: Monday, October 31
Time: ~10AM
Location: It's a secret. You'll have to get involved beforehand to find out.
Note: We will also be having a Working Class Superheroes march as part of theparade. Contact us to get involved.

GET INVOLVED!
Send us an email at occupyheroes@gmail.comto get complete information.

EVENT GUIDELINES:
This is a chance to have fun, but most importantly a chance to communicate ourmessage to the public and media, so..
Come up with an original, clever, clear concept for your hero or villaincostume.
Make sure it speaks to the issues of our movement, around economic justice orinjustice.
Arm yourself with 1-2 talking points, factoids or snappy lines ready for themedia.
We will help you through it!
WE ARE THE HEROES WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!
WE ARE THE 99%. 

This author as supervillain thumbing off OWS superheros. Photo by Huey P. Long


I arrived around 9:15 AM and walked around the space, stumbling into some friends dressed as Billionaires and superheroes at the corner of Church and Liberty.  Mike, who was pulling everyone together, had helped organize similar street theatrics during the WTO meetings in Cancun in 2003Many have argued this movement is an extension of this politics, connected by history, as well as the shadow of ground zero.  I asked Mike what characters they still needed filled and, of course, they needed more villains.  So I put on my suit, some eye gear, a billionaire top hat, and was directed over to the “Slot Exchange.” This was a giant sixteen foot high cardboard box with giant hands lurching out to gulp up all the people and assets it could find.  Styled like Vegas slot machine, in the shape of the NY Stock Exchange, the contraption was emblazed with the words “WE BET YOUR LIFE.”   My job would hold up one of the arms as “Slot’ machine like “Exchange” while Unemployed Man and his friends raged against him.  That morning we brought our cast of comic characters down to the Stock Exchange where we battle with the super villains of Wall Street.  


Photo E. Dunand 
Photo by B. Derballa, wired magazine

November 2
A rally was scheduled in solidarity with Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran wounded in police fire in Oakland.  Veterans converged with OWS at 5 PM at Zuccotti Park. Many had been supporting the movement for weeks.  With little to come home to and a VA system crumbling, homelessness among veterans has only become more of an issue.  The recent HBO documentary Wartorn has struck a powerful chord in its depiction of the struggle of veterans who come home to find little support.  Many are unable to cope.  Others do the best they can.  And today some have joined a movement to create something better.   This is part of why the attack on Scott Olsen is so devastating.

November 2, the movement moved forward, as an amoeba of thousands moved up Broadway out of the park, chanting all the way:

            One, I still can’t hear you.
            Two, a little bit louder.
            Three, we want justice for Scott Olsen

            We are unstoppable
Another world is possible.

From Oakland to NYC
No police brutality

The Rude Mechanical Orchestra played “We Shall Overcome.”  And we moved past city hall East to One Police Plaza.  The only other times I have ever been in One Police Plaza was to pick up confiscated materials from the Republican National Convention back in 2004.  I remember walking around the space with the sun shining in my face after my first night in the tombs in 1998, after another police crackdown on a protest.  Those trips to get my stuff at there back in 2004 left a complete feeling of isolation.  This time, I was with a huge crowd of activists, challenging the system which supports the freedom for police to move without impunity.

OWS at one police plaza by Brennan Cavanaugh


With the human mic echoing in three waves, we repeated:
            “We are the 99%.
            The 1% is watching
            We are here because the police attacked us.

            To them, this is a building.
            To people of color, this is a tomb.
            Here lies Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Anthony Baez…
            This has been a tomb for hundreds.
The speak out finished with a call for solidarity among all people attacked by the police. 

            Leaving the event, I rode West to the West Village where Greg Smithsimon, McKenzie Wark, and myself had arranged for a reading at the Brecht Forum called: The Beaches Beneath the Streets: The Situationists, Street Activism, and Public Space.
This year, two books were published under the name. The Beach Beneath the Street or Streets. Both owe a great dept to the history of Situationism. The authors of these two works will discuss the legacy of both historic and current efforts to reclaim streets for affect and care, rather than simple means of necessity. Focusing on the liberating promise of public space, The Beach Beneath the Street[s]: The Situationists, Street Activism, and Public Space examines the activist struggles of New York communities – queer youth of color, gardeners, cyclists, and anti-gentrification activists – as they transform streets, piers, and vacant lots into everyday sites for autonomy and imagination. Join McKenzie, Shepard and Smithsonian as they bring to light contests over urban space, public spaces which demonstrate the tension between resistance, repression, and shifting control of public space.


Fantastic art work and comics of the Situationists in the streets of Paris by from Wark's Beach Beneath the Streets.

Throughout the evening, we talked about the links between the politics of urban space, social movements and the links between Situationism and OWS.  When one thinks of the Situationist tactice of detournement, the reordering of urban space, the occupation is an ideal example.  Here, regular people took  the once bland space at Zuccotti Park and turned it into the small city.  McKenzie talked about the street ethnography of the Situationists, the spaces they loved in Paris, the ways the group found places to create, hang out, and even have sex all in public.  Here, the labyrinthian streets of Paris became the stuff of art.  Before reading about Situationism, I never thought about cities as mutable, or of public space as something which we could all influence.  Yet, with Situationism those views changed.  Throughout the event, several participants talked about the idea of using other bonus plazas in town for alternative purposes, all while expanding the movement.  Activists from Times Up! who helped us reclaim so many public spaces were on hand for the reading, as well as supporters from the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, ACT UP, and OWS itself.  Through my interactions with them through the years, I’ve been able to create my own life and world in the public spaces, caverns, pubs, gardens, bike lanes, and streets of New York City.  Social movements, after all,  are fundamentally about public space.  From Zuccotti Square to People’s Park to the community gardens, movements find inspiration in a place to meet, organize, share stories, break isolation, dance, plan, build mutual aid, and create a bit of care and civil society in an otherwise tough alienating world.   

As our conversations continued, I thought about the Diggers, a group of landless commoners, who claimed St. George’s Hill, outside of London, as their own in 1649.  “The symbolism of taking back as common land what had been enclosed (i.e., privatized) overshadowed the negligible material value of planting corn in barren soil,” notes Steve Duncombe, one of the founders of New York’s chapter of Reclaim the Streets, which was heavily influenced by the Situationists.  “But what these outcasts of Cromwell’s New Model Army did hold dear was the community created in their act of resistance; it was a scale model of the universal brotherhood they demanded in the future.”  Simultaneously building community and rejecting the status of wealth and consumption, the Diggers, “conjured up a new universe.”  


In occupying a space downtown, OWS has helped us reimagine what the space can be – our own public commons, our own Tarir Square.  Comrades from Cairo wrote an open letter of support to those in the OWS movement in which they commented on the possibilities of transforming space and by extension social relations.  “Discover new ways to use these spaces, discover new ways to hold on to them and never give them up again. Resist fiercely when you are under attack, but otherwise take pleasure in what you are doing, let it be easy, fun even. We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.”

November 3
Activists arrested on September 24th had their first court date.  Arriving at court for these moments is always inspiring.  It is a reminder of how many people are willing to put their bodies on the line for the movement and for social justice every day.  To review, the movement had appeared quiet but the pepper spray of activists changed the dynamic. After a march up Broadway up to Union Square the march started to slow and my friend Brennan Cavanaugh was arrested for photographing the event.  I joined Brennan at court that morning, watching my former attorney legal hero Martin Stolar, David Rankin, and Wylie M. Stecklow handle the cases.  His arrest was Cavanaugh’s first day at OWS.  He later explained to me how he joined the movement.  He’d heard about the call on Adbusters and witnessed the first general assemblies in Tompkins Square park.  “35 people standing around the park.  I was told that was the Occupy Group,” recalled Cavanaugh.  In the early weeks of the movement, OWS was taking twice daily marches to and from the Stock Exchange. “I thought that was interesting,” recalled Cavanaugh.  Not usually a protest person Cavanaugh was photographing the action as hundreds marched north to Union Square and back to the Square, shouting “All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street.”  Marching on 12th and University, he saw orange netting and heard it slap down on the sidewalk.  And the arrests started by plain clothes officers, including the young OWS activist who was pepper sprayed.  “They were grabbing people like fish,” recalled another friend.  The afternoon ordeal would include sitting in a bus for three hours before they were eventually brought to One Police Plaza, where they were released early the next morning.  Cavanaugh got to know more and more people from the movement.  Sitting at the Tombs, Cavanaugh noticed a 1999 sticker declaring “Reclaim the Streets, Critical Mass Rocks” Times Up! New York sticker, still there from 1999.  “I was let out with three people from my arresting group.  After that I was down with the movement.  I was arrested with the grannies.”  One of the grannies was also in court last week.


Brennan and Catherine  both became active with the sustainability committee. 



Cavanaugh pointed out the police have helped do favors for the movement in several ways.  First, they pushed activists out of the city park they could control at Bowling Green into the publically owned private space known as Zuccotti Park whey they stay overnight starting September 17; they  pepper sprayed a Caucasian woman creating a Bull Conner image of police brutality on September 24th; and they took out the gas powered generators on the park on October 28th, inspiring Times Up! to bring in the peddle powered generators.  The resilience of the movement to come up with innovative solutions to these threats is an ongoing source of creativity.

Back in court, Stolar addressed the arrestees noting that they had been charged with disorderly conduct, which is a violation, like a parking ticket.   They had two options, to take an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal which is an accommodation.  The other alternative would be to take a take cases to trial by filing a “motion to dismiss in the interest of justice.  Those are your options,” Stolar explained, adding. “Oh and the third option is to plead guilty, which I do not recommend.”  He laughed along with everyone else in the room.  A master of this process, Stolar would motion to have all the charges dropped against the 91 people on the grounds that the complaint was “insufficient.”  It charged arrestees with “blocking vehicular traffic on the sidewalk.”  I would have thought the city would drop the cases at that ridiculous point, as they have many times in the past.  But the judge was not budging, instead giving court dates for those who wanted them on December 1, regardless of whether there was evidence to change anyone for “blocking vehicular traffic” on the sidewalk.   Walking out of court Cavanaugh and I talked about the ongoing case.  The process is the punishment when dealing with the NYPD.  So, even if they do not have a case against you, those who want justice have to be ready to go and go and go to court. 
Arriving home after the action, I received the following rather post from the OWS list serve.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

**
Friends, allies, and troublemakers,

I heard through a back-channel (which I did not seek nor cultivate) from a
very highly-placed person in the Mayor's office that they are losing
patience with the status quo VERY quickly. This person was rather blunt and
without giving me any sort of firm timeline nonetheless made it clear that
the city has a plan, the resources, and will likely mobilize very soon
(tonight? early next week? I don't exactly know) to either clear the
occupation entirely, or remove 99% of the infrastructure currently in the
park (all the tents, sleeping bags, etc.—the plan 3 weeks ago for
Brookfield's 'cleaning').

This communication from the Mayor's office has gone to other power brokers
I'm in touch with and is being echoed and affirmed by various local elected
officials, as well as the Public Advocate's office. Press are starting to
hear ruminations too. It seems the letter
<
http://empire.wnyc.org/2011/11/speaker-silver-sends-letter-to-bloomberg-re-occupy-wall-street/>from
Assembly speaker Silver and colleagues may have brought the (political)
situation to a tipping point.

At this point, the combination of various implicit and damn-near-explicit
warnings has me so I wouldn't be surprised if they came in 4am tomorrow
morning. I believe we should be prepared for that.

I haven't been well plugged into contingency planning for this nor has
there been much discussion amongst this group with reports from DA affinity
groups and whoever is lately working on tactical contingency planning for a
raid. I would like to suggest that the discussion be brought to the fore
rather urgently.

Parallel to this, I have been given the suggestion that the only way to
delay the seemingly inevitable is visible, highly-touted progress on some
of the basic things that have consumed too much of my and many others'
time, including:

 - locating bathrooms for use by occupiers overnight and spreading the
 word that any public urination or defecation will risk police action
  - curbing the drumming (yes, really, the additional 2 afternoonhours
 beyond what the community board's resolution called for remains a
 significant sticking point, despite the drummers' effective
self-regulation)
 - highlighting and touting our security and community watch system

Beyond that, we gotta just figure out how to pivot—and fast—to whatever's
next in the wake of a Liberty Square raid.



It is never easy holding together an occupation.  While the Beach discussion at the Brecht forum provided a bit of a high about the movement.  The prospect that we were about to be kicked out, only added to the almost daily ebb and flow of the movement and occupation.  Without a space, the movement would surely fade, many would conclude.  It is vital that OWS be able to occupy this particular space-- within the Financial District, in close proximity to Wall Street.  In doing so, the movement is insisting that Wall Street itself is _public_space_ -- that we have as right to walk down it, and walk past the Stock Exchange as we protest, as any banker or broker does.   With this in mind, those in the movement would plan to defy the city, dig in, erect tents, bring in bike powered generators and plan to stay for a while, even if that meant coping with another confrontation with the city.  In the meantime, another round of actions was planned. 

November 5

Saturday was national bank transfer day.  Times Up! members had spent the previous Tuesday making bull heads and other props to plant on our bikes for our “Running of the Bills ride” scheduled to start at Noon.  We’d all meet at the Astor Place Cube at Astor and Lafayette.  The facebook invitation for the ride stated:

Saturday, Nov. 5th is Bank Transfer Day when thousands of  people will withdraw their money and be freed from corrupt big banks and  leave unsustainable, risky investments and horrible environmental policies  behind them.

 When Reagan "turned the bull loose", he sentenced Americans to
 an economy run amok by corporate greed.
 Now, we are waking up and getting the banks' dirty hands out of our pockets.

 We  want to help get the word out.
 With  bikes transformed into golden Wall St Bulls, we're gonna turn the tables and  run the bulls out of this town, pass out flyers with info about friendly  non-profit credit unions, etc. and
 meet  up with another exciting bank action!

 Ride  will meet at Astor Place cube
 leaves  12pm sharp
 It's  great if half the riders don't have bulls on their bicycles so you can chase  the Wall St bulls.
 Wear  white with red sash and red bandana
 
Arriving at Astor Place for a Times Up! ride is always one of the happy moments of my day and week.  Hugs and greetings abound as we surround ourselves and our bikes with props, colors, and the sounds of dance music.  Our ride would have to be fast and effective, as it was to join Reverend Billy’s bank exorcism planned at Bank of America at Union Square at 1 PM.  Dressed in red and white, with capes galore and bull heads adorning our bikes, we headed down town to run the bull out of town.  Passing out flyers imploring people to move their money out of the big banks into community based credit unions, we zigged and zagged downtown, talking with people, dancing and taking in the scene.  Passing Zuccootti Park, we zoomed down to the bull.  I jumped over the barricades to wave him away with my red cape.  Monica gave him a good spanking, before the police jumped in and told us we had to leave.  “I just had to give that bull a good spanking,” she would note. We zipped back up town. While some of us were with the bull, Peter stopped at Wall Street to take in an add scene at Wall Street of a riot seemingly unfolding in front of our eyes as police clashed with demonstrators running forward and police high fiving each other.  The image of police and protesters clashing on Wall Street resembled the scene from October 14th in the same space.  Only later would be find out the day’s conflict  was a staged scene from a movie shoot.  We all know art imitates life, but sometimes, actually a lot these days, it is hard to tell the difference.  More and more, we live in a city of film sets, where Technicolor blurs today’s reality with magic reality.  The line between the two feels less and less secure.
XUP running the bull out of town by Erik M. 

Up at Union Square Reverend Billy and the Choir met in front of a Bank of America, where they cheered for those who had made the decision to pull their money out of banks, celebrating, singing, and sharing stories of people willing to pull their money out of the big banks and transfer it into credit unions.  We sang “Oh when the banks get out of town” to the tune of “When the Saints Come Marching In” with some clapping and everyone dancing. “I want to liberate my money, when the banks get out of town.”  By the end of Bank Transfer day, people had moved some $4 billion dollars out of the big banks and into credit unions.  And there was every indication the banks were starting to sweat it. Many are more than aware that regular people do have options.     



The rev making a run on the bank by Kate C!

      
All week, activists would target the bull on Wall Street.  By Wednesday, a group of clowns was arrested taking similar action on the Wall Street Bull. A press statement from the Yes Lab explained:

Photo by Yes Lab!

Earlier today, a small group of Occupy Wall Street activists engaged in a near-successful corrida against the Wall Street Bull.
The incident began when two clowns, Hannah Morgan and Louis Jargow, scaled the steel barricades protecting the landmark. The clowns began spanking and climbing the beast as well as playing the harmonica, traditional ways of coaxing a bull into anger in preparation for a Castilian corrida, or bullfight.
Within seconds, police officers grabbed both clowns by their colorful shirts and wrestled one of them (Jargow) to the ground. The other (Morgan) continued to play the harmonica until an officer removed it from her mouth.
With the officers thus occupied, a matador in full traje de luces leapt onto the hood of the patrol vehicle parked in front of the bull and boldly presented his blood-red cape to the beast.
"I wondered whether I, neophyte matador, could bring down this behemoth, world-famous for charging towards profit while trampling underfoot the average worker," said the OWS activist/torero whose first fight this was. "Come what may, I knew I must try."
Police officers took no notice of the matador, occupied as they were with the clowns.
"This bull has ruined millions of lives!" wailed clown Jargow as he lay on the ground face-down. "Yet he and his accomplices have been rewarded with billions of our tax dollars—and we, here to put a stop to it all, are thrown to the ground. ¡Un esc√°ndalo!"
Both clowns were charged with disorderly conduct and released an hour later; they returned to Zuccotti Park to great fanfare. The Wall Street bull continues to rage.

Clown arrest by the Yes Lab!


I loved the Quixote quality struggle against the elusive windmills taking place against the bulls. Creative responses would proliferate from the movement throughout the week.  So would discussion as to where this whole thing was going.

November 8, 9, 10 and 11

General assembly.  It is important to note that those at OWS have endured great hardship just to maintain the space. This part of their civil disobedience.  Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh.


Tuesday, the Clarion, our union newspaper released its November edition, with several articles on OWS, including one by this writer.  The ever prescient, labor icon Stanley Aronowitz    published a small article in the paper praising the movement and quietly pointing out if OWS wanted to be more than a glorious memory, it would be well served to consider ways to engage with Unions, working people who cannot take part in the general assemblies, and even political processes. Movements, afterall, benefit from long and short term goals. In other words, is this a movement or a moment?  Much of the question was taken up by the general assembly as well as throughout the park. 
Many would ask:
Where do you see the #Occupy movement going?
What do you think will come next?
or
What is the purpose for occupying public space (parks, plazas, etc.)?
Is there a strategic role for creating public encampment(s) in our struggle?
or
How do we build the bridges between our community and the world as it is? How are we going to engage with the old system?

I rode over to take in the GA on Tuesday night.  Walking around the space and listening to the conversations, I was inspired again.  On other recent visits, I had been acutely aware of the challenges of organizing a movement and occupation.  Tent space was becoming real estate.  The line for food was daunting.  And sadly, the drums were not playing on Sunday and I missed the celebratory quality which had been there on other days.  Tuesday, the magic felt back in the air as people talked and shared ideas. OWS is a space which is building on previous occupations, such as those by squatters, trans activists, global justice veterans, trade unionists, environmentalists and the list goes on.   Talking with friends about safety, security, and how this movement can connect with labor I felt more inspired we could make inroads.  Already my union, the PSC, is supporting OWS, yet for some the question is how much?  Environmental movements, which have jumped into the fold with the sustainability and media committees, feel more simpatico with the movement. 

Walking home with a friend from garden and direct action circles, we circled the park, taking in the intense security and police surrounding the space.  Overlooking Ground Zero, my friend pointed out that things had rarely stayed this hot during the Global Justice years a decade prior. Convergences would end and we would go back to everyday life left unchanged by the weekend’s protest, which might as well have been a trip to Burning Man.  They released a lot of steam, but the system stayed in the same.  Still, battles for living wages and global AIDS drugs were on the ascent.

“We lost a lot of ground after 9/11…” my friend pointed out.  “We’re making up for it now….”
Few have an answer to the lingering question: Is it a movement of a moment? Regardless of what it is, OWS is growing and taking on more and more targets, bridging a praxis divide rarely engaged by the global justice movement.  From zaps at Board of Education meetings to solidarity with foreclosure actions, OWS is both a local and a global movement simultaneously.

 My friend Ken pointed out a sign from OWS the other day.  “This is fucked up bullshit,” it declared.  “That’s all the movement has to say,” he noted.  “Let the policy people build the policy proposals from there.  They love that.”  While it sounds vague, it is a sentiment with a strong degree of resonance.  My students are in my policy and organizing classes are talking about this, calling for laws to overturn “corporate greed.”  

Others, such as Occupy Brooklyn are calling for a Sunday rally and March to Evict Corporate Greed! , Community Actions in local neighborhoods, and a General Assembly at Metrotech. Occupy Brooklyn is a movement of Brooklynites organizing in  solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.From Canarsie to Cobble Hill, Bay Ridge to Brownsville, the 99% are uniting against greed and corruption in our nation and neighborhoods.  We're dismantling social barriers that have turned neighbors into strangers.
We're rethinking how we live, learn, and work together, and building 
communities that are fairer and more just.”

In the meanwhile, victories were stacking up.  Voters in Ohio rejected a Wisconsin style assault on collective bargaining and workers.  And environmentalists have engaged in weeks of direct action, could celebrate a near victory with the Keystonexl Tarsands pipeline postponed.  And  president calling for a thorough review of the whole project.  Direct action gets the goods.  As for now the national conversation has shifted.  And those who support the needs of the 1% over those of the 99 have been put on notice.  As Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party puts it:
What a difference 60 days can make.

On September 17, a few dozen protesters set up camp at a park in Lower Manhattan. Despite being pepper sprayed, threatened, arrested and snowed on, the group keeps growing. Hundreds of similar groups have sprung up in cities across the nation.  

The impact they’re having on the national dialogue is spectacular. A few months ago, politicians and pundits seemed dead-set  on leaving the 99% to silently suffer the impact of the worst recession of our lives, while the 1% skipped away with impunity. The growing movement has focused attention on the Wall Street banks and their enablers who caused the meltdown in the first place.

The protest remains under threat of eviction. To celebrate the two month birthday of Occupy Wall Street, thousands of supporters will gather on November 17th (a week from today) in New York City’s Foley Square to demand that the bankers who crashed the global economy in 2008 be held accountable.

Since the economic collapse, Americans have wanted answers. How were the big banks allowed to get away with such risky behavior? Did Wall Street traders and hedge fund managers break the law? When will these people be held accountable?
Next Thursday, the movement will celebrate its two year anniversary with direct action folks collaborating with unions putting out a call of action.

Next Thursday, thousands of ordinary people will converge on Foley Square to stand with Occupy Wall Street and demand answers. A massive rally in New York -- just blocks from the financial centers where the economic collapse happened -- will send a strong message to government and industry that we want answers.

On November 17th, Join the 99% 

Resist austerity. Reclaim the economy. Recreate our democracy.

Wall Street- 7:00 am: RESIST austerity! SHUT DOWN WALL STREET 
Enough of this economy that divides us - it's time for an economy that works for all. We will gather at 7:00 a.m., before the ring of the Trading Floor Bell, to confront Wall Street with the stories of people on the frontlines of economic injustice. There, before the Stock Exchange, we will exchange stories rather than stocks.

All Five Boroughs- 2:30 pm: RECLAIM our democracy! OCCUPY THE SUBWAYS 

Throughout the boroughs, we will gather at 7 central subway hubs, to listen to a singular story from one of our hardest-hit and most inspirational neighbors.
Bronx: Fordham Rd, and 3rd Ave/138th
Brooklyn: Broadway Junction, and Borough Hall
Queens: Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave, and Jamaica Center Parsons Archer
Manhattan: 125th st, and Union Square
Staten Island: St George/Staten Island Ferry

Then we will take our own stories to the trains, using the "People's Mic". We will rise up from the underground to join thousands of others gathered in the light of day, at Foley Square.

Foley square- 5 pm-: RECREATE our economy! TAKE THE SQUARE 
Across the country, our infrastructure is falling apart; our bridges, our roads, our public transit systems are in a state of disrepair. Enough! It's time to revitalize our economy with the creation of local jobs which serve our country as a whole! At 4:00 pm, we celebrate with tens of thousands of people as we gather at Foley square, march to our bridges and demand that we get back to work! The celebration will culminate in a festival of light as we mark the two-month anniversary of the #occupy movement!

Take a sick day, come out from the darkness surrounding Wall Street and into the light!

Resist austerity. Rebuild the economy. Reclaim our democracy

November 17th, join the 99%!



Happy two month anniversary OWS.  Thank you for reminding us, we don’t have to wait for heros.  We can be them ourselves.  We can take action and create solutions ourselves.  See you on the streets.  

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