Occupy Wall Street

AllNY.com's log of everything you need to know about Occupy Wall Street written by New Yorkers for New Yorkers and serious New York tourists.

Vacant or Occupied: Where Do the 99 Percent Go When Nature Calls?

For the Thanksgiving Family Forum, all the GOP candidates except for Mormon Messrs. Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney gathered at a megachurch in Iowa to discuss issues of concern to religious voters. These didn’t include, as one would be forgiven for suspecting, Christ’s injunction that the rich give all their money in charity to the poor, or the apostles’ establishment of a society wherein, “all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) They did include, however, this week’s frontrunner Newt Gingrich’s defense of the bathrooms of lower Manhattan from the use of Wall Street occupiers, wherein the former House Speaker took exception to the protesters’ alleged tendency “to go nearby to use bathrooms they didn’t pay for.”

Previously, the hue and cry from the right wing about the occupiers’ urinary patterns was to do with alleged outdoor self-relief, which they said depreciated the quality of life in Manhattan’s financial district. The pervasive scent of waste in New York’s impoverished neighborhoods had never so exorcised the right wing – which apparently views only one class as entitled to clean sidewalks and doorsteps. In fact, the hemming and hawing about public cleanliness has always essentially been pandering at the behest of the 1 percent, as revealed by Gingrich’s insistence on damning the occupation if it does and damning it if it doesn’t.

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Washington Heights Residents Challenge Occupy’s Reputation as a “White-Led” Movement

On a beautifully warm Monday in early November, several hundred protesters and I gathered in front of an abandoned building at 181st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. At 10:30 AM, we set out on an 11-mile, six- and-a-half-hour journey to Occupy Wall Street. Daunting length notwithstanding, nothing could have prevented me from joining the march from the neighborhood where I was born and raised (and where I still live) to the spiritual center of the movement to which I have devoted my life for the last seven weeks. The march accumulated people throughout, in Harlem, on the Upper West Side, in Midtown, in Chelsea, in Greenwich Village and in Soho. But in order to go, as the organizers advertised, “end to end for the 99 percent,” it had to start in Washington Heights.

Washington Heights was once home to New York City’s German-Jewish population. George Washington High School graduated, among other luminaries, Henry Kissinger and Alan Greenspan. By the 1980s, the neighborhood held the second-largest concentration of Dominicans in the world outside of Santo Domingo – hence, the neighborhood’s affectionate nickname: Quisqueyana Heights. Manny Ramirez has replaced Kissinger and Greenspan as the hometown hero, and I take some comfort in steroid abuse’s relative innocuousness compared to war crimes and financial malfeasance.

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OWS: On Demands…

Michael Moore thinks that what Occupy Wall Street should do is endorse a list of demands. Laying out some desirable measures, among them reinstating Glass-Steagall and campaign finance reform, Mr. Moore admirably makes it clear that he speaks for no one but himself. He’s just a fan of the movement who’s been looking at these ideas for a while and has some suggestions. But the question left lingering is the one that buzzes on the tip of the tongue every time anyone – Mr. Moore as well as commentators less sympathetic than he is to the cause – recommends that the occupation make demands. That question: what good would demands do Occupy Wall Street?

Presumably, the point of making demands on the government would be to try to influence the national dialogue to address the issues there contained. It must be this. Surely, no one thinks that, were the General Assembly to endorse a list of legislative demands, the government would send delegates to negotiate these demands with the occupiers; this is not a hostage situation, after all, but a social movement. Short of this fantasy, the extent to which demands would further legislative initiatives would be by helping to build public consciousness about the implied grievances and consensus around the solutions prescribed.

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A Day of Action

Today is a national day of action to mark the start of the third month of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Here in New York, organizers have been distributing posters reading “Shut Down Wall Street! Occupy the Subways! Take the Square!” As we broadcast protesters marched in various parts of the Financial District in an attempt to block the New York Stock Exchange from opening at 9:30 a.m. Labor organizers are planning protests at dozens of bridges across the country today as part of a campaign to highlight the need for increased spending on the nation’s infrastructure. In Portland, protesters are planning to occupy the Steel Bridge. In Seattle, an action will target the Montlake Bridge. In Washington, D.C., protesters will march on the Key Bridge. In New York, a 5 p.m. action is set at the Brooklyn Bridge. The protests come just two days after New York police raided Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza and destroyed the encampment. Protesters have been allowed to return to the park, but without sleeping bags, tents or musical instruments. Democracy Now!’s Ryan Devereaux reports live from Wall Street, where protesters, with help from New York police, blockaded all streets leading to the Stock Exchange. “The plan is for sort of a three-pronged blitz on the Financial District, marches coming from all different directions, and trying to basically swarm the area with people,” Devereaux says. “The NYPD’s response has been equally robust. There are police vehicles, officers and barricades on every single street.”


The Disturbing Silencing of the Press in Last Night’s OWS Raid

I’ve heard legal theories that the city of New York has the right to impose restrictions on the time, place and manner of the exercise of free speech. This will obviously play out in a court of law. I don’t know how anyone can reasonably look at the laws and say that the wholesale shutdown of the press, not only from the ground but from the air, is in any way a legal exercise.

As New York City police cleared the Occupy Wall Street campsite in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing protesters. Some called it a “media blackout” and said in interviews that they believed that the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation [...]

At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”

Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said.

Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”

I’ll go one better than shoves and choke holds. Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones was forcibly dragged out of the ecampment, after sneaking in to witness the proceedings. He was one of the lucky few journalists to witness the batons and pepper spray that characterized the eviction of Zuccotti Park.

Other journalists were arrested in the exercise of doing their job. And by the way, there was violence coming from the police:

The Local’s reporter, who repeatedly identified himself to the police as a journalist while on the scene, complied with the order and walked north while filming protesters, however (as seen at the 2:11 mark in the video) his progress was stopped by a group of officers blocking the sidewalk at the intersection of Broadway and John Street. One of the officers arrested him using plastic Flexi-Cuffs, even as he continued to identify himself as a journalist and called attention to press credentials hanging from his neck. (The press card had been issued for an unrelated assignment by the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit of the United Nations in September).

The Local’s reporter was put onboard a police van with eight other arrestees, including two New School undergraduates, a photographer with Agance France Presse, and city councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, all handcuffed behind their backs. Mr. Rodriguez had blood on his temple from what he said was an earlier confrontation with the police. He recalled previous demonstrations, including the occupation of a City College administration building in the early 1990s.

At least five journalists were arrested. Another, Rosie Gray for the Village Voice, when telling a cop that she was a journalist, was told, “Not tonight.”

When you hear about police state crackdowns in the developing world, you typically hear that they go to knock out the communications first, so that nobody can bear witness to the ensuing repression. Michael Bloomberg learned this lesson well.


Daily News in Support of the Raid—Until One of Their Own is Arrested

When the NYPD, on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s orders, raided and evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park last night, the editors of the New York Daily News, the city’s ostensibly liberal tabloid newspaper, cheered.

“Bravo to Bloomberg’s Occupy Wall Street eviction,” goes the headline on its editorial published this morning.

The fact that the eviction was done in violation of a court order doesn’t bother them:

The amorphous agglomeration known as Occupy Wall Street had transformed a space intended for open community access into a round-the-clock shantytown — and they claimed that the First Amendment guaranteed their right to do as they pleased.

This is not constitutional wisdom. This is self-important, self-indulgent bilge. And a Manhattan Supreme Court justice who ordered a halt to the eviction pending a hearing needs to emphatically so state.

They seem totally uninterested in the NYPD’s excessively violent tactics, including the harassment, abuse and arrest of various reporters, which doesn’t get a mention in the editorial. Then a Daily News reporter was arrested, along with at least two other reporters.

Now, according to the Daily News Twitter feed, at least, the NYPD’s behavior is “alarming.” The newspaper has alerted its attorney.

The Daily News is owned and published by billionaire real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman.


A Police Raid Suffused With Symbolism

Following similar raids in St. Louis and Oakland, hordes of NYPD officers this morning forcibly cleared Zuccotti Park in Manhattan of all protesters; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took “credit” for this decision. That led to this description of today’s events from an Occupy Wall Street media spokesman, as reported by Salon‘s Justin Elliott:

A military style raid on peaceful protesters camped out in the shadow of Wall Street, ordered by a cold ruthless billionaire who bought his way into the mayor’s office.

If you think about it, that short sentence is a perfect description of both the essence of America’s political culture and the fuel that gave rise to the #OWS movement in the first place.

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Jesse LaGreca, who justifiably received substantial attention as an insightful and articulate spokesperson for OWS’s grievances, here condemns what he describes as the “1-party bankster owned oligarchy” (for more on what he means, see here). Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the police earlier this week clearing out Occupy Chapel Hill in North Carolina; the Baghdad-like scene is but a small taste of how para-militarized America’s domestic police forces have become and what we’re likely to see much more of if (more accurately: when) protests, disruptions and other forms of unrest continue to emerge in the face of a disappearing middle class and exploding inequality:

UPDATE: A New York state judge this morning temporarily enjoined the city from keeping the protesters out of Zuccotti Park, but Mayor Bloomberg is simply ignoring the Order and deliberately breaking the law by refusing to allow them back in. Put another way, Bloomberg this morning has broken more laws than the hundreds of protesters who were arrested. But as we know, the law does not apply to the Michael Bloombergs of the nation; the law, instead, has simply been exploited into a weapon used by the politically and financially powerful to prevent challenges to their standing.

Could #OWS have scripted a more apt antagonist than this living, breathing personification of oligarchy: a Wall Street billionaire who so brazenly purchased his political office, engineered the overturning of a term-limits referendum and then spent more than $100 million of his personal fortune to stay in power, and now resides well above the law?

UPDATE II: To justify his raid, Mayor Bloomberg said: ”We must never be afraid to insist on compliance with our laws.” Leaving aside the fact that torturers, illegal eavesdroppers, wagers of aggressive war, Wall Streets defrauders, and mortgage thieves are some of his best friends who thrive and profit rather than sit in a jail cell, this is the same Mayor Bloomberg who, now beyond all dispute, is knowingly and deliberately breaking the law by violating a Court Order of which he is well aware. He’d be arrested for that if he weren’t a billionaire Mayor (and indeed, having seen that bevvy of political and financial elites break the law in the most egregious ways with total impunity over the last decade, why would Bloomberg be afraid of simply ignoring the law?). Today really is the most vivid expression seen in quite some time of the two-tiered justice system I wrote my new book to highlight; the real criminals are not only shielded from the law’s mandates, but affirmatively use it as an instrument to entrench themselves in power and protect their ill-gotten gains.


VIDEO REPORT: Occupy Oakland

We turn now to Oakland, California, where thousands of protesters shut down the nation’s fifth-largest port on Wednesday as part of a general strike called by the Occupy Oakland movement. It was the first general strike called in the city since 1946. Much of the city was unaffected by the strike; however, many business shut down, and nearly 20 percent of the city’s teachers did not report to work. While the strike was largely peaceful, tension escalated overnight. Police arrested at least three dozen people and repeatedly fired tear gas and other projectiles to break up late night protests. “It is an honor to be with you today, as we demonstrate to the government of the city of Oakland that we do not assent to police violence, that we stand in defense of Scott Olsen and the memory of Oscar Grant. We do assent to community, to education, to free education, to healthcare, to free healthcare, to housing, to happiness, to justice, to creativity, to hope for the future,” said longtime activist and academic Angela Davis. Democracy Now! correspondent John Hamilton filed this report from Oakland.


FDNY Takes Fuel Generators

From The Gothamist

Earlier this morning the FDNY, accompanied by the NYPD, conducted a surprise safety inspection of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park. An FDNY spokesman said inspectors were looking for generators, propane and gas tanks, open fires, and any other fire hazards. Apparently, they found what they were looking for: Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson wrote on Twitter that the FDNY “removed generators and fuel from Zuccotti that posed a fire safety threat. no arrests no violence.” On his weekly Friday morning radio show, Mayor Bloomberg was asked about the raid.

“There is nobody that is a bigger defender of the First Amendment than I am,” Bloomberg declared, according to Capital New York reporter Azi Paybarah. “The story of this morning is that there is no story… We asked everyone to take [generators, fuel] out of the park.” Bloomberg went on to say that the protesters will be allowed to cook as long as Brookfield Properties, the park’s owner, doesn’t complain, but without heat or electricity it’s unclear how that works. He also said that the tents would be allowed to stay, but again that is contingent on Brookfield allowing them.

The Mayor’s Office also wrote on Twitter the “FDNY & NYPD deserve credit for carrying this out professionally and w/ restraint.” Greg Mitchell at The Nation was watching the LiveStream from the park as the items were seized, and he says “the campers pointed out they only use ‘bio-diesel.’ As one says, ‘”the hippies’ insist on that. Cops and firemen sniffing bottles and jugs.” It’s not just the kitchen that will be hamstrung by this; without generators, the Occupy Wall Street media team is going to face challenges as well.


Will Occupy Wall Street Have To Name Leaders?

From Andrew Grossman of the Wall Street Journal

Once a rag-tag group that relied on donated pizzas for sustenance, the protesters camped out in a Lower Manhattan park are grappling with a new problem: how to manage and spend the nearly $500,000 they’ve raised in five weeks.

Donors have showered the Occupy Wall Street protesters with more cash than many expected, and that has prompted a flurry of requests for spending. It has also spurred members of a movement that has thus far prided itself on its decentralized structure to consider steps that would require the formation of a real organization, with officers and a board of directors.

Members of the group’s finance committee are meeting with lawyers and accountants to get a handle on its spending and consider next steps, like whether Occupy Wall Street should incorporate and apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Such a move would require doing something that’s so far been anathema to the protesters: naming leaders.

At the moment, Occupy Wall Street protesters say they don’t have leaders. The only way big decisions can be made and money can be spent is if the General Assembly—a daily meeting at which everyone who shows up has equal standing—reaches a consensus.

That setup can lead to gridlock reminiscent of Congress. Meeting minutes show long, tortured debates over spending proposals. On Friday evening, a representative of a group planning to occupy Central Park on Nov. 11 showed up to ask for $2,000 to have 92,000 promotional stickers printed.

The crowd peppered the representative with questions, according to the minutes. What form would the Central Park occupation take? Why do you need so many stickers? Why can’t you just use email? What will the stickers be made of? Isn’t it wasteful to stick stickers all over the place? Would you consider using wheatepaste, an adhesive made from vegetable starch?

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