It's Alive! Occupy Actions Across the Country Show the Movement's Impact
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But even while the rally went on in Zuccotti Park, impromptu marches and actions went on in Lower Manhattan. One group spontaneously shut down the West Side Highway briefly on the way to Goldman Sachs and the World Financial Center. A group, including several CodePinkers wielding hot pink bras, held a brief mic check outside of the Bank of America location adjacent to the park--until a quick, violent arrest left the NYPD holding a fifteen- or twenty-foot perimeter around the bank's entrance for no visible reason.
The financial district felt alive with protest in a way that even the early days of Occupy didn't; it was impossible to keep a count of the people around because they simply never stayed still. When Zuccotti Park filled up midafternoon with people milling around like the early days--People's Think Tank and all--a march promptly took off to try to reach the stock exchange before the afternoon bell. The march clogged the sidewalks and resulted in several arrests, including that of journalist and AlterNet contributor John Knefel, who according to witnesses was walking on the sidewalk when he was pulled to the ground by NYPD officers.
While the big march didn't make it to the stock exchange, a few intrepid college students did. A group of students from Middlebury College in Vermont, a liberal arts school that sends many graduates to work in finance, visited New York for the Occupy anniversary and were disturbed by what they saw as racial disparities in the people who were being harassed by police as they attempted to cross the barricades. They witnessed people of color being stopped, asked for ID, held up, while well-dressed white people crossed easily.
Barrett Smith, dressed in a shirt, vest and tie, was the first to try crossing the line. "I held up my Middlebury ID, said 'I'm from Middlebury,' and they let me right in," he told AlterNet.
"We wanted to make a point about getting through the checkpoints," Anna Shireman-Grabowski explained. So the group of them went in with their student IDs--9 of them, men and women, all white. Then they held a mic check at the foot of the stock exchange, calling attention to how easily they were able to cross, and the white privilege that allowed them to do it. "The police did come at us and ask us to move along, but didn't arrest us," Katherine Murray noted.
"We were able to exercise our rights, which are protected by the Constitution, but there are people in New York City who can't walk down the street without being arrested," Smith said.
At 6 PM, the Occupy groups descended back on Zuccotti for a spokescouncil and speak-out session, but I headed to One Police Plaza to check on arrestees. In a small park across from the police building, Occupiers and friends and family waited to greet released friends with love, support, food, water, and beer and pizza at a neighborhood pizzeria doing a brisk business at its sidewalk tables. A marching band played and people danced as some of the 155 or more arrestees from the day trickled out--including faith leaders, journalists, and one lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild.
That part, and several other parts of the anniversary, felt like the old days at Occupy. The mood in the park was jubilant and slightly defiant, the crowd either celebrating the return and the sight of old friends, or enjoying the feel of the occupation for the first time. Yet today, Zuccotti didn't feel like the center so much as a place to regroup and reach back out into the world, to take a breather before trying something new. "Occupy" might not be the right name for the movement anymore, as today's actions were less about holding space than breaching it, breathing new life into it, and then leaving it empty but with traces of what might be scattered like the glitter and confetti on the floor.