OWS Fight Is Far from Over: Explosive Actions on 2-Month Anniversary of Movement
New York City showed its billionaire mayor and the rest of the 1 percent that the fight is far from over, just two days after the violent crackdown on Liberty Plaza in the middle of the night Tuesday.
From a 7am march on Wall Street and subway speak-outs around the city to student walk-outs at CUNY and Columbia and a giant, permitted rally in Foley Square with a reported 30,000-plus attendees, the 99 percent showed up around the city to stand in solidarity with the evicted occupiers and express their support for a growing, expanding, living movement. There was also a march across the Brooklyn Bridge and projections on the Verizon building declaring, "We are Winning" and "Occupy Earth."
Occupy the NYSE: Massive Crowd Overwhelms Financial District to Kick off OWS Day of Action
The NYPD and the press had already occupied Wall Street proper by the time we got downtown at 6:30am, with broadcast trucks, cameras and barricades blocking the entrance. Four officers stood near a checkpoint, checking the IDs of Wall Streeters on their way to work. No one else, including reporters, was allowed in.
The signs were already out in abundance when we arrived at the plaza next to Liberty Park -- pre-printed signs from the National Nurses United calling to "Heal America, Tax Wall Street" and a beautifully drawn cardboard sign reading, "Take the Banks' TARP Too!" A young man behind us held the official Zuccotti Park rules and regulations, liberated from the park.
We knew that just by being here we were subject to arrest, and so we Sharpied the National Lawyers Guild number on our forearms as we sipped coffee and joked. The crowd rapidly swelled, packing us close in the tiny square between food carts and riot police in the street on Broadway.
A people's mic called our attention; two rounds of shouts in the crowd and we were told there would be two marches, one behind a black flag and one behind a green flag. The black flag march rolled out right away; we hovered behind the green march as a young woman came to tell us that our risk of arrest was significant just for being here, but that there would be red flags attempting to lead people away from danger if there was opportunity.
Four helicopters (at least) buzzed overhead as we waited in the park, with more and more people coming in to join us. By the time we headed out, the square was full again.
We streamed out past the line of unsmiling riot police, down Broadway. We were stopped at Pine Street and turned left, heading down the sidewalks as the police filled the streets. At Nassau and Pine, we came upon the end of the other march, and there were riot cops and mounted police in the street on Nassau.
"Whose streets? Our streets!" rang out as the crowd thronged into the intersection and protesters sat down in the streets. A marching band played in the street as we squeezed through the crowd and moved up Pine toward William Street.
The standoff at William quickly grew tense despite the presence of protesters dressed as trees, dancing to the sound of "Which Side Are You On?" from the band and chanting "Hey Bloomberg, Beware, Liberty Park Is Everywhere!"
Police attempted to push through, batons out, shoving the crowd back onto the sidewalk. AlterNet contributor J.A. Myerson slipped through and sat down in the street. Cheers erupted as we saw him loaded into the van.
One protester, however, had a hard time getting the NYPD to take him into custody. Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis, in full dress uniform, was almost begging to be arrested -- kneeling in front of a line of cops, with his hands behind his back at the southwest corner of Nassau and Pine -- as he decried corporate exploitation. The police made feints at arresting him for a time, almost toying with the retired cop, but wouldn't actually do it -- at first. After he moved back through the crowd and up toward Broadway, they pounced, turning Lewis into a full-fledged OWS folk hero. Walking ramrod straight with his hands behind his back, the retired police captain was led by two NYPD officers through the intersection to the whoops, whistles and applause of the crowd.
At Nassau and Pine, five rounds of the people's mic rang from corner to corner as the police had the intersection blocked off; men and women in business suits were allowed through, while anyone who looked like a protester was blocked.
Reports of the sound cannon used on protesters during the midnight raid on Liberty Plaza were later confirmed by photographs.
According to Salon's Justin Elliott, the National Lawyers Guild reported at least 80 arrests during the morning, though there was no confirmation yet from the NYPD.
They may not have shut down the stock exchange, but thousands filled the streets before sunrise on a weekday to march at risk of arrest, to express solidarity with those thrown out of the park and send a strong signal to Wall Street and the world: We're not going away.
Occupy the Subway: 'Let us tell you what this movement means to us.'
At 3:10pm, the Harlem 125th A, B, C and D subway station was already "occupied"-- everyone leaving the station and walking onto 125th street was carrying flyers or Occupied Wall Street Journals. Downstairs near the turnstiles, 30 or so protesters spoke out using the human microphone while others walked around distributing literature.
A few young leaders coordinated the protesters as they swiped their cards, slipped through the turnstiles and moved back from a gospel singer (who complied with a request from a protester and belted out an impressive "We Shall Overcome").
A series of speak-outs using the human mic began. Some spoke about income inequality and one particularly eloquent women spoke about her disgust with media coverage, saying she'd been covering a film festival and initially approached OWS as an "objective" journalist -- before she realized the message was hard to argue with and joined up.
Around the city's five boroughs, similar speak-outs took place simultaneously, all on their way to join the march downtown.
Eventually, the Harlem OWSers, representing a wide mix of ages and backgrounds, went down to the platform in two groups -- one to the front of the train and one to the back. In the cars, mic-checked stories were told with the introduction "Hi! We're from Occupy Wall Street. You may have heard of us. We're not here to shut down the subways, that was a rumor. Let us tell you what this movement means to us."
Then the storytelling began again. One young man spoke of having a master's degree but no hope of health insurance in the near future. A teacher spoke of having no hope of retirement. In between the stories, the chanting and singing continued. In order to reach the most commuters and annoy the least, at station stops the groups ran from car to car yelling "We are the 99 percent"--and met a new captive audience in the next car. The response? Some bursts of applause, some eye-rolls and complaints, but mostly cautious listening.
Medics, socialists, students and a young mother were among those who got on at 125th. Half an hour later after the train made every local stop, they disembarked at Chambers. The crowd reconvened, cheering and chanting, to march to Foley, picking up others on the streets downtown.
Massive Student Walk-Out at Union Square
Union Square sits conveniently close to NYU and the New School, so the student walkout converging upon it at 4pm was bound to be packed. But support came from higher institutions across the city, including New York Students Rising, a coalition put together by students from CUNY and SUNY, and from Columbia University. They embarked on a lively, drum-assisted march in the short walk from the subway to the protest on the north end of the square.
There, a good 2,000 or more were gathered. Using the human mic, students spoke against rising tuition costs, unfair practices by loan organizations and the prospect of facing unemployment and crippling debt upon graduation. But there were other concerns, too. One speaker from Juilliard advocated allocating more government funds to the arts, citing the New York State Theater's rechristening to David H. Koch Theater as an example of how corporate funds, while badly needed, sour the landscape. The crowd held signs ranging from "Students and Labor Band Together" to "Blackboards Not Bullets" (which was held by the actress Anne Hathaway, an NYU alumni). Possibly the most succinct sign we saw: "$hit i$ Fu¢ked."
After about an hour of speech there was a mic check: it was time to Occupy 5th Avenue. Protesters marched from Union Square across West 15th Street, which proved fairly easy, as it's a block-long street not often crowded with cars. As the march reached 5th, the crowd seemed to number close to 5,000, and traffic was forced to stop. The march made it to 14th Street before police barricades stopped it, and a police officer drove his cruiser carefully through the crowd to force dispersal. But protesters then headed back to Union Square where they momentarily overtook 14th and Broadway, a major thoroughfare.
The plan: walk down Broadway to Foley Square. As the protesters headed south, the march grew in number, as though random people were just streaming out of their apartments to join. By the time it hit Houston, it wasn't possible to see the beginning or the end of the column in both directions. Riot cops were equally plentiful, with batons at the ready. From my view, the march made it to Canal without incident, but cruisers and paddy wagons escorted empty school buses the whole way, all racing down Broadway toward Foley.
Foley Square: Over 30,000 Come to Celebrate OWS Anniversary
Walking into Foley Square at 5pm felt like the last big march (on October 5), redux--except darker thanks to the loss of daylight savings time. All the streets downtown were jammed with protesters streaming toward Foley.
Things got so crowded going into the park that human traffic crept maddeningly slowly toward the one entrance the cops had opened. Inside the park there was a mix of music, chanting, animated clusters of conversation and brilliant signs. Some slogans had a patriotic feel: "I Love the America that Wall Street F*cked, Don't You?" "Silencing the People is Un-American," "The Founding Fathers Were Protesters--Educate Yourself!"
Others were shorter: "People Power Over Profits!" "We Want to Work," "Thank You, Occupy Wall Street."
A few had messages for Mayor Bloomberg: "Hey Mr. Mayor, We Have Rights, You Are Wrong!" and "Bloomberg, We're Back and Stronger Than Ever." Those were getting a lot of attention.
The crowd listened to some rousing speakers: students, union members and one organizer who said that direct democracy (like local GAs) and direct action (like shutting down Wall Street) were the key to the movement's future.
And clearly, the crowd was hungry for the latter: "March, march, march!" they cheered, as they headed out at a slow crawl toward the Brooklyn Bridge. A rousing hip-hop anthem with the chorus "Run, don't walk, to the occupation" had people bouncing as they poured out of the square and into the streets.
March on the Brooklyn Bridge
The front of the march was stacked with people from unions and community organizations, with the leading contingent wearing white shirts reading "UnitedNY.org." Loud and energetic, they cheered and chanted their way across the Brooklyn Bridge, behind a phalanx of Community Affairs cops and legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild.
Then, they caught sight of it. Projected against the side of the stark, 32-story Verizon building, in huge bold type, was the movement's rallying-cry-cum-self-identification: "99%." Suddenly, an already raucous crowd went wild, breaking into cheers and whistles. "This is so cool," one man said to me, before turning to repeat it to everyone else around. "It's really so cool!"
Soon the light projection began scrolling through OWS's other favorite slogans, cheers and catch-phrases: "Another world is possible," "We are 99%," "Occupy" followed by a rapid fire list of cities all across the United States, and to commemorate the dawn of the movement two months earlier, "Happy Birthday."
Meanwhile, the marchers kept up their chants as "Bloomberg beware, Zuccotti Park is everywhere," boomed across the bridge. On the roadways below, cars honked their support, even on occasion beeping in time with the cheers from the protesters on the bridge. Others hung out their windows and yelled their approval or loudly applauded.
When we, at the front of the march, were about three0quarters of the way across the bridge, I found myself next to a group of legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild. They had just spoken by cell phone with colleagues back at Foley Square and were told that the tail end of the march was only then just leaving the plaza. If that was the case, I asked Bruce Bentley, the chair of the NLG's Mass Defense Committee to estimate how many people were on the march. Judging by the distance, he ball-parked it between 10,000 to 20,000. "I'd rather be conservative than overestimate," he said.
It turned out that Bentley was being conservative. Other unconfirmed estimates put the crowd at more than 30,000.
End of the Day: Liberty Plaza
The General Assembly was in action. Hundreds of people were huddled around the facilitators, speaking about the day's events. The People's Library was being rebuilt. The scene made one point clear: Bloomberg's eviction did not kill the movement, it mobilized supporters. Tonight, we sang happy birthday to Occupy Wall Street.
Diego Espitia, 18, has been homeless since he lost his job at a pizzeria two months ago. His parents live in Colombia. Walking around Manhattan with nowhere to go, he found Occupy Wall Street on September 17, the first day of the occupation.
"I was homeless but then once this came along, this was my home. Now I'm officially homeless. I got nowhere to go," said Espitia. "[The eviction] really got the public angry, and it definitely got us angry," he said. "We spent way too much time. People donated too much money. It's not just going to go away like that. "
Today was proof.
Out of jail and ready to keep moving, the demonstrators are still organizing. "In the next couple days there's definitely going to be a lot of meetings here to decide what to do. All the working groups are still having meetings. It hasn't stopped anything," one organizer said.