NYC: November 2011 Archives

Nov 12: outside of Princeton someone stops their car to offer food to the marchers on their way to D.C.

The march from Occupy Wall Street in New York has now arrived in D.C. I expect we will be hearing more from them, although the holiday no one can escape in this country may be responsible for a small delay.

Several days ago NYCmarch2DC posted this long account covering five days of their march from Liberty Park in New York to McPherson Square in Washington D.C. The text had been, as they wrote, "composed by multiple marchers and so contains distinctly different writing styles", but it isn't the different styles which the reader will notice; it's the immediacy and intensity of the different emotional notes struck - from very high to very low - in this very candid narrative of their experiences as they marched between Trenton, New Jersey and Havre de Grace, Maryland.

I should point out that the section of the journal I'm talking about includes the moment in Philadelphia when they learned that the police had destroyed the encampment in Liberty Park. I remember reading earlier, on November 17, this tweet from @NYCmarch2DC: "The majority of us from #OWS are refugees. You can see it in our eyes. We are sad, grieving and hurt. We lost our homes while we were away."

When I first clicked onto the NYCmarch2DC site for what would have been the latest account of the march it was very late at night, and as I started I wasn't sure I wanted to read very far; soon I was pretty sure I'd be going through to the end, but not so sure I wanted to share it with anyone else (it was not entirely an upbeat story); finally, and now sitting on the edge of my seat, I decided that I absolutely had to show it to anyone whom I might persuade to read it. It's that good, and that powerful.

It's like Occupy Wall Street itself.

The strength of its simple odyssean prose, generated by some not-so-ordinary people who represent just one modest segment of the one of the most remarkable movements in modern history, will survive both as a document of a great moment and an inspiration for many more.

UPDATE 11/24/11: NYCmarch2DC, continuing the account of the march all the way to its conclusion, has just uploaded this entry, covering the march from Havre de Gras to D.C.

A footnote: I was educated as an historian in the old century, and I've worried for many years about how that profession was going to cope with our modern distaste for letter writing. I don't worry about it any more; we have the internet.


[image by Stephanie Keith from Flickr]


I love Occupy.

Along with thousands of others I was in Union Square on Thursday afternoon. There I was struck by the minimalism of the sentiment expressed by the sign shown at the top (and also the color, of course), and I snapped a picture of it before it was clear to me that it was only a part of the message. When the marcher passed I got the other side; it wasn't until I was home that I read the smaller lettering at the bottom.


But a really smart demonstration, one with even the faintest smell of revolution, is just not complete without a sign in French.


The text is from a longer slogan, "On ne revendiquera rien, on ne demandera rien. On prendra, on occupera" (We will beg for nothing. We will ask for nothing. We will take, we will occupy). It made its first appearance during the May 1968 student protests in France.

I think it's safe to assume that the fact that I was in the midst of a huge crowd of ebullient NYU students had something to do with the erudition displayed on both placards - and maybe with the colors as well.

the scary warning-light trailer parked on lower Broadway at the edge of Liberty Park almost says it all

I rushed downtown on Tuesday afternoon when I learned via Twitter that at around 3 o'clock the New York State Supreme Court was expected to announce its verdict on whether, or how, Occupy Wall Street would be able to resume its occupation of Liberty Park. It had been unliberated by the NYPD barely 12 hours earlier.

I needn't have hurried, for it was more than two hours later that the decision was finally announced. At about that same moment I was on my way back home in order to fulfill at least two obligations almost totally unrelated to what has absorbed almost all of my attention for more than two months.

In the interim I managed to snap these photographs. This is what democracy looks like, although there are also some sad representations of the police state we haven't yet quashed.

Meanwhile, today (Thursday) is going to be very big, all around the country.


Liberty Park inside out, "un-liberated" for approximately 16 hours

torture bracelets by the score

anybody see a terrorist around here?

he carried the pillow as a protective cushion (cops have rammed billy clubs into stomachs)

and copters too (I couldn't see the markings); three here, but I spotted six right away

this too is what democracy looks like

It's beginning to feel like I'm stalking Glenn Greenwald. I was in DUMBO Sunday night at Powerhouse Books hoping to hear he and Matt Taibbi speak. Matt was there, and he was terrific, but it was announced that Glenn had had to cancel the appearance to check out a heart irregularity. I did buy his new book.

While Greenwald's "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful" has just now been published, and was completed before #OccupyWallStreet began, it's argument, expressed within the title itself, is fundamental to understanding both the origin of the protests and their growing strength.

Glenn was also scheduled to talk with people from Occupy Wall Street on Monday evening, and that morning he had tweeted that he was sorry for all the medical drama and "Everything's great now," so I headed downtown to the venue, the atrium at 60 Wall Street. Soon after I arrived I learned that he had extended his apologies that he could not be there that night. I hope he gets some deserved rest, and is soon back in good form.

UPDATE: Greenwald has resumed tweeting.

I lingered for a while before going home. While I talked to people I gathered that there was agreement that the crowd that evening was somewhat larger than usual, perhaps partly in expectation of a respected visitor.

The dry, warm, well-lighted atrium [and Wi-Fi too?] became an unofficial annex to Liberty Park over the last few weeks, especially as the population of the original camp zoomed.

As far as the real estate itself is concerned, the 60 Wall "atrium" is one of those weird New York City public/private spaces. While I was both living and working at the tip of Manhattan in the mid-80's, and as I watched their huge, silly and graceless post-modern tower headquarters going up I wondered what J.P. Morgan was going to do with what looked like way too much lobby space. Then, in the incestuous pattern of bank holdings which has become all-too-familiar over the last decades, its ownership moved from Morgan to Morgan Chase, to Deutsche Bank and then to something called "Paramount Group Inc.". But for over 20 years the four-story atrium "park" with its waterfalls, seating areas and palm trees remained underutilized even during the neighborhood's "banking hours", and it looked completely dead by 6 o'clock. I had never actually used it myself, and I don't think I had even entered the space before this fall.

When I arrived there last night it was definitely being put to use. There were different-sized groups of all sorts of people in conversations or more formal meetings; a few individuals were sitting at computers, and there were several film crews recording and interviewing in different parts of the atrium. Almost everyone appeared to be associated with Occupy. I did spot one tired-looking middle-aged man - probably not #Occupy - finishing a sandwich while sitting at one of the tables; a year ago he might have been the only warm body in the place, outside of the guard or the attendant.

Last night I tweeted (thinking about their very different architectures) that, if Liberty Park was Occupy NYC's messy 19th-century New York, 60 Wall Street was its 20th-century L.A. I should have added that it's an L.A. as free of commercial advertising as the park itself, and that there is at least one more divergence from the common image of Southern California: The atrium is a microcosm.

The two Downtown locations are both in fact Los Angeles and New York City as real urban spaces, whose interactions are face-to-face. See Joanne McNeill's essay "Occupy the Internet" first published in n+1's Occupy! An OWS-Inspired Gazette

The occupation is a gesture against the isolating experience of the screen-mediated online world. A need to experience the world for one's self, to communicate with more than text. So many email threads and conversations over SMS go on, ceaselessly, over points that can be made instantly face-to-face. The "human mic" is not so tedious in comparison.


occupiers, media people, and passersby, together with one unidentified blond-haired, spiffy guy in a pin-stripe suit (perhaps, although improbably, representing the NYPD), quickly surrounded police and firemen on Friday afternoon; the combined city units were shutting down a food vendor on what appeared to be specious cause; the vendor is known to the community and has been sympathetic to its needs

On Friday afternoon I visited the occupiers in Liberty Square. I stayed for a few hours, talking to friends and strangers, and I came back with the images in this annotated photo album.

Incidentally, on Friday night Occupy Wall Street tweeted: "The man who changed Tunisia's history was a street vendor. Police seized his goods". The tweet included this link for the story of the origin of the movement which is now being called "Occupy".


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