An activist works at the information desk of the OccupyWallStreet encampment at Liberty Plaza, 09/27/11. (photo: Cate Woodruff/Reader Supported News)
29 September 11
Reader Supported News | Report
ith much of the media focused on pepper-spraying police officers rather than what the protesters have to say, perhaps the best way to understand the motives and the people of OccupyWallStreet is to go down there and find out for yourself.
I first visited Liberty Plaza and OccupyWallStreet on the 4th day of the protest. At that time, it was new and vibrating with energy and peaceful determination. The protest was still taking shape.
My second visit was on Tuesday, September 27th - Day 11 of the protest - and the change is striking. Now there is a marked difference in the occupiers - they are more focused and they work in a highly organized way on a myriad of tasks. It feels like a well-run camp, with an outdoor office and a community living area.
They are determined and their efforts prove it. Good examples of this growing sense of commitment come from Patrick Bruner, one of the OccupyWallStreet organizers. I spoke with Patrick in Liberty Plaza.
Despite 11 days of occupation, Patrick remained upbeat and impressed by what has evolved all around him. For example, protesters started out sleeping on cardboard, but now have mattresses and bedding. A de facto media center popped up in the center of the camp, complete with computers, ongoing social networking and video live stream. They have set up information desks, a makeshift cafeteria filled with food donations delivered from both Manhattan restaurants and individual supporters, a small library, suggestion and donation boxes, a sign-making shop, and a communal area where they hold General Assembly meetings. During those meetings, they employ the "human microphone" technique in which every sentence is repeated by the group so those in the back can hear every word. This happens every morning when they plan the day's schedule, share ideas, and voice and hear concerns.
It sounds a lot like democracy.
After surveying the growing encampment, I also had the opportunity to march uptown from Liberty Plaza with OccupyWallStreet participants on Tuesday. The police quickly followed us, calling immediately for reinforcements and carrying a supply of orange nets and handcuffs. They frequently barked out orders, demanding that we get out of the street and back on the sidewalk. Yet, even as paddy wagons rolled along nearby, most cops were good-natured, polite and sometimes even smiled back!
At one point, though, a few senior officers stopped the march. It was a tense moment, as their blaring bullhorns demanded that we turn around and go back. Despite the sudden halt and growing police presence, demonstrators took the opportunity to hold a civil discussion - right there in the middle of the street - about their intentions, aspirations and commitment to human rights. Protesters voiced some concerns, but also declared to the assembled police officers, "We are so thankful for what you do to keep us safe," and "We are all in this together, we are all part of the 99%."
One lieutenant paused, but eventually let the protesters pass by and the procession moved forward again, chanting "The people united will never be defeated."
Unlike the ubiquitous pepper-spray video, there was no violence and no use of force. The OccupyWallStreet march ended at the Postal Service with hundreds of US postal workers joining in with the crowd. At that moment, OccupyWallStreet stood united with the often-embattled Postal Union.
Patrick says that the primary focus now is to grow the movement. Computer-savvy organizers are reaching out to various unions, organizations, individuals and groups in New York and around the country. They communicate with other organizers around the globe. And more events and marches are planned. They are dedicated to giving voice to the American people - the 99% - and demand an end to corruption on Wall Street. It is clear that the greed of Wall Street, which has permeated our government, its policy-making and our federal spending on many levels, has convinced many of these "occupiers" that America needs a new direction.
The more people hear what they have to say, the more Americans will begin to understand and to care about what is being stolen from them. At least, that's the hope. Patrick says he can see the positive effect they are already having and hopes that many more will join them over the coming days. Key to their success is getting out the message. So far, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Cornel West, Democracy Now!, Waging Nonviolence and Reader Supported News have all been in Liberty Plaza to help raise the profile of the protest and talk with the protesters. Getting the media to focus on their common cause with the 99% is crucial. Ultimately, if people stand together, we can make a difference. It's a simple but powerful message.
And if the Occupy movement comes to a city in your area, the best thing you can do is go on down and check it out.
Occupy Wall Street's Information Desk.
Daily General Assembly
General Assembly and Communal Area
Occupy Wall Street March Meets Up with US Postal Union
Cate is an artist, photographer and a Senior Editor with Reader Supported News.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.