News & Politics  
comments_image Comments

Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Russell Simmons, Jeff Mangum -- Here Are Some of the Celebrities Embracing Occupy Wall Street

Beyond the celebrities, the endorsements, and more, is a feeling of wonder and awe at the difference in awareness these protests are engendering.

One of the aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has contributed to its widespread appeal has been the spontaneous, creative, artistic vibration emerging from the folks camped out at Liberty Plaza--a vibration that has boomeranged back to bring the occupiers support from all over the world.

This quality of "permanent performance art"--from the stark visual power of the sleeping bags in the park and beyond--has allowed the movement to reach past the usual suspects and capture the imagination of a wide variety of  anti-establishment Americans who may not ascribe to a rigid political philosophy but are eager to take forward-thinking, symbolically potent action against the oppression they witness every day.

While some rally and march veterans will inevitably express scorn for drum circles and other "hippie" trappings of the goings-on downtown, the reality is that it's exactly  many of these trappings--from the joyful, inspirational use of the "people's mic" to drumming, sign painting, a library and a day of zombie makeup artistry--which are garnering the most positive reactions from would-be dissidents beyond the mainstream and establishment Left, affirming the oft-repeated Emma Goldman adage: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution." In fact, dancing is literally taking place downtown:  here's a lovely little video of protesters making merry, shot by my colleague Sarah Jaffe. Rumors of further impromptu dance parties abound.

A long-term occupation needs morale to survive, and that's what the drummers and their ilk are for. And the morale they're boosting isn't just in the immediate vicinity, but everywhere that people are paying attention.

While international rock superstars Radiohead didn't show up last week (they did tweet their support for the protesters, though!) the place now known as Liberty Plaza has become a hub of musical and artistic activity in its own right, spreading out to a circle of supporters throughout the country.

One of the biggest moments thus far has been the appearance of reclusive but beloved singer Jeff Mangum, of Neutral Milk Hotel. Mangum arrived and played a full set for the folks in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Plaza, and has returned to march with them, telling the occupiers that they're "doing a beautiful fucking thing." For fans of Mangum among the protesters, this was an unbelievably thrilling event and it "injected new vibrancy" into the occupation that night and for days. (The performance is embedded below.) 

Unlike stalwart and dependable activist acts such as Radiohead or Dave Matthews Band, Mangum hasn't in the past been known as overtly political or attached to a panoply of causes. His attraction to the spirit of the protests can be extrapolated to demonstrate the effect they're having worldwide. As this New York Times article explains, it's a movement that's bringing new people into the fold of civil disobedience, and bringing old veterans back.

Another heretofore fairly apolitical indie band, Deertick, hosted a concert to highlight and raise awareness of police brutality towards occupiers.  "[Police] are there to serve and protect, and in theory, that's a great thing," the band's singer told a Rolling Stone blooger. "But people should know that you can be self-empowered and you can call cops out when they act out of line. Cops aren't above the law."

Beyond the park borders, the use of Twitter has become a major medium through which artists can express their love for the movement and give it publicity. Lupe Fiasco, the hip-hop artist, has been a loyal booster of these protests from the very beginning, tweeting his support for weeks, and even changing his Twitter profile to the slogan "All Day, All Week,  !!!." Like others, Fiasco has noted that these actions constitute  "a way of life" rather than a traditional political coalition.