Undaunted by Crackdown, Occupy Wall Street and New York Activists Plan Massive Day of Action
New York's 99 percent aren't letting a massive middle-of-the-night police raid get them down.
November 17, the two-month anniversary of the Liberty Plaza occupation in Manhattan's financial district, has been the center of plans for massive actions for weeks now, and the crackdown by billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg's forces early Tuesday morning has only given new determination to the organizers and activists.
“Everyone as of last night was totally exhausted and drained,” Olivia Leirer of New York Communities for Change told me, “But ready to put their energy into the 17th and to make sure the energy on the 17th is not about the police crackdown, but about the message of the movement.”
That message will be heard across New York's five boroughs, from morning til evening, on Thursday. “Storytelling and getting people's voices heard is the major theme that's running throughout everything that's happening tomorrow. There will be plenty of opportunities from sunup to sundown for people to come and tell their stories,” Leirer said.
According to the OccupyWallSt.org website (which is not run by the Liberty Plaza occupiers but an affinity group), starting at 7:00 AM, protesters will gather in Liberty Plaza and gather to “exchange stories rather than stocks.” Details are few, but rumors are flying that some dramatic unauthorized street theater is planned.
Students from universities across the city plan to walk out of class on Thursday as well. All week, students have held events as part of a coordinated Week of Action, including a lecture by acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy in Washington Square Park, a rally at Columbia Law School in support of locked-out Sotheby's art handlers, teach-ins, and much more.
“The real threat to health, safety, and democracy in our communities dwells in the boardrooms of Wall Street firms and universities that are destroying our economy, dismantling our education, and corrupting our political system - not among non-violent demonstrators spending cold nights in tents in Liberty Square,” said Aaron Winslow, a student at Columbia University, in a statement.
The student strike, like all of the November 17 actions, was planned ahead of time in solidarity with the activists in Liberty Plaza, but will no doubt now have new meaning for those involved. Walkouts will be occurring all day on different campuses, but, according to organizer Zoltán Glück, will converge on Union Square at 3 PM and then will march down to Foley Square to meet the rest of the protesters.
“The novelty of this,” Glück told me, “is the new level of coordination and collective action and solidarity between all the schools. There's always been organizing on different campuses, but now they're working together. Occupy Wall Street has provided the form and the forum for a dialogue to be opened up. This is building, and at this moment when it feels like we've lost a lot of territory.”
Around the city, meanwhile, subway stops will see action as well, as 16 central subway hubs will see activists telling their stories, handing out flyers, and bringing the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement to the outer boroughs, to people who don't normally come across the protest in Liberty Plaza. According to the OccupyWallSt.org site, these actions will begin at 3 PM.
The centerpiece of the day will be a massive, permitted rally at Foley Square, the site of October 5th's big union solidarity march and of a temporary meeting ground early Tuesday morning as protesters thrown out of Liberty Plaza searched for someplace to regroup.
“It's not going to be a traditional rally or march at all, it's going to be creative and exciting, we're really thrilled about the energy that's been put into it,” Leirer told me.
She said that rather than a rally where speakers address a crowd of listeners, instead there will be soapboxes set up throughout the space, for everyone in the 99% to come and speak their piece, tell their story to the crowd. “It's the physical embodiment of the 'We are the 99%' concept,” she said.
Finally, at the end of the day, the website declares that there will be a march to the bridges. Though it doesn't specify which bridge, the site does say:
“Let's make it as musical a march as possible - bring your songs, your voice, your spirit! Our "Musical" on the bridge will culminate in a festival of light as we mark the two-month anniversary of the #occupy movement, and our commitment to shining light into our broken economic and political system.”
Leirer pointed out that the day was planned well in advance of Bloomberg's raid on the park, and that hopefully the day will remind everyone what the real message of the movement is. She doesn't think the crackdown will stop the movement—just the opposite.
“I think that the Occupy movement is so much bigger than the park, and what's happened across the country and the solidarity that we've seen from groups like ours, labor unions, we've seen this new invigoration to the work that we've been doing forever.”