Thursday, October 17, 2013

OCCUPY WALL STREET: An Anniversary, A Legacy



I took the following photographs on Saturday, September 15 and Monday, September 17, 2012 in Washington Square Park, Zucotti Park and the sidewalk in front of Trinity Church. September 17 is the actual anniversary day of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but last year, the major celebratory activities took place on the weekend, two days before, in Washington Square Park.  There, the OWS participants gathered for teach-ins, assemblies and workshops as well as, simply, for celebration and the pleasure of getting together.

Because I was out of the city for much of September this year, including the movement's Second Anniversary on September 17, 2013, I wanted to contribute to the OWS Second Anniversary with some of my photographs--un-posted until now--taken during the First Anniversary of 2012. 


The caption accompanying each photograph documents its day and location. Below a photograph (or group of photos), I then provide context, supplementary notes, and/or some analytical observations.





Trinity Church:

New York City, Lower Broadway, Trinity Church, Drey (OWS Activist from Manhattan), 9/17/2012

New York City, Lower Broadway, Trinity Church, Justin (OWS Activist from Brooklyn--far left), 9/17/2012
Trinity Church, at 79 Broadway in lower Manhattan, is located just a few blocks south of Zuccotti Park.   This landmark Manhattan church was chartered by King William III in 1697; the first church was built on its site the following year; and the present--third--church, a major example of the Gothic Revival style, dates from 1846 and was designed by Richard Upjohn.

In 1705, Queen Anne bequeathed 215 acres of Manhattan farmland to Trinity, and what remains of this land still in its possession, some 5.5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Hudson Square (West SoHo), makes Trinity the richest parish in the Anglican world.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) began a relationship with the Trinity parish soon after its participants first camped out in nearby Zuccotti Park, and the parish gave the protesters refuge and use of bathroom facilities at its community center, Charlotte's Place. However, this relationship soured a month after City police kicked the OWS demonstrators out of Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011. 

With no place to camp out, the demonstrators had asked to move their campground/commune to the parish's open, unused and fenced-off property at Canal Street and 6th Avenue, known as Duarte Square.  When denied their request, some OWS protestors broke into Duarte Square on December 17.  Trinity Church stood by, allowed them to be arrested, and later pressed charges on those who had not accepted plea deals.  Since then, and feeling betrayed, OWS protestors have been camping in front of Trinity Church and say they will continue to do so until Trinity's high-living, high-spending rector, Rev. James Cooper is fired and leaves the Church. They call themselves Occupy Trinity Wall Street (OTWS) and camp at the parish doorstep 24 hours/day. This is what these two photographs reveal.

Reverend Cooper will step down in 2015, but his handling of the OWS protestors has brought criticism from a world figure like Desmond Tutu as well as his own board.   Surely, such a historic and charitable institution, holding fourteen acres bordering SoHo, Tribeca and Greenwich Village, some of it open and unoccupied, might easily have found a more humanitarian and public-spirited way to help these highly-committed, peaceful demonstrators.




Washington Square Park:

New York City, Washington Square Park, OWS Schedule Board, 9/15/2012
OWS has no formal leaders, yet it is well-organized, as this schedule for the day implies.  Assembly meetings are open to all. Participants take turns speaking and attempt to reach consensus. OWS also has over seventy working groups.  As Paul Levinson of Fordham University has observed, the OWS Assembly represents "a resurgence of direct democracy--not really known since ancient times....[and through it] decisions can more truly represent the will of the people."


New York City, Washington Square Park, Sign Making/Taking, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, OWS People's Library, 9/15/2012
The OWS People's Library was started soon after the first protest in Manhattan.  By November of 2011 it could boast a catalogue of 5, 554 books, some quite rare and of unusual historical interest. Most of the collection was destroyed when, on November 15, 2011, the New York City Police and Sanitation Departments forcibly evicted everyone from Zuccotti Park. 

Eventually, some 800 books and documents were recovered from dumpsters and trash piles.  The Occupy movement in other cities, in America and throughout the world, also cultivated libraries as essential components of its working model, and these serve as archives for the movement itself. 

An article in American Libraries magazine calls the OWS Library "one of the purest public libraries out there [in that] it exists to inform and entertain anyone who can access it" freely and without cards, fees, or due dates.  Also, to quote from this same article, "a library is seen as a mark of culture and...creating one is a mark of civic pride and gravitas."   Thus, simply by creating libraries for its people (and others), the OWS movement transcends the narrow political expediency of most other protest groups.


New York City, Washington Square Park, Direct Action Flaneurs, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Direct Action: Cataloguing, 9/15/2012
This area of the Park was supplied with old, manual typewriters and sheets of orange paper, each with a pre-printed superscript containing the identifier, Direct Action Flâneurs.   The word, flâneur, emerged in mid-19th century Paris to define the artistic gentleman who strolled the boulevards and lounged on the city's street-corners and cafés as a detached observer. Charles Baudelaire epitomized the flâneur, a new social phenomenon of modern life, a  creature of the middle class, yet one who cultivated an aristocratic detachment.

The OWS Direct Action Flâneurs are a bit different, naturally: any and all passers-by are invited to sit down, put an orange sheet in the typewriter, and record their observations, document the anniversary event unfolding before them, catalogue their sensations.   I suspect that these sheets will become part of the OWS archive and I imagine that, for some of the younger people, this may have been their first experience in using a typewriter!



New York City, Washington Square Park, Washington Arch (Stanford White), 1892, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Fountain, 1870, 9/15/2012
Washington Square Park is a major node of Greenwich Village--a public meeting ground that marks the southern end of Fifth Avenue.   Stanford White's Washington Arch provides the axial transition from roadway and wheeled transportation to the more random, pedestrian movement within the park.  Originally erected in wood in 1889 to celebrate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration as Americna's first President, the Arch was re-designed three years later as a permanent fixture in marble. 

Before becoming a major locus of public recreation, Washington Square Park had been a marsh adjacent to a Sappokanican Indian settlement, then in 1797 it became a potter's field and place for public hangings; in 1826, it became the Washington Military Parade ground, where volunteer militia could train. The following decade saw the first buildings of New York University on Washington Square East and the building of Greek Revival town houses on Washington Square North, setting the stage for the public park we see today.

The fountain was installed in 1870, part of a re-design under Boss Tweed.   The small, yellow, protest sticker, seen here on a pylon of the fountain, refers to the (then) upcoming Presidential Debate at Hofstra University.



New York City, Washington Square Park, Amanda (OWS Activist from Woodstock), 9/15/2012
 I like the fact that Amanda has chosen to display this sign among the many choices surrounding her.  Having documented several OWS demonstrations, including its very first one, I have been struck by the friendliness and generosity of almost all the participants. 

They--and their movement--really embrace the spirit of generosity, as it is defined today by the University of Notre Dame's study on the Science of Generosity:   "the virtue of giving good things to others freely....[as well as the] many vices rejected (selfishness, greed, fear, meanness)."  

In fact, meanness, fear, and a lack of generosity, qualities so alien to the OWS activists, seem to be just the qualities that characterize the Tea Party (to which OWS is so often compared).


New York City, Washington Square Park, Flag of Corporate America, 9/15/2012
The American Flag, with the logos of major corporations having displaced the state stars, has been around for some time--at least since 2010, I believe. Yet, this modified flag is emblematic of the OWS movement in implying that our nation (our government) is controlled not by elected representatives from its fifty states but by wealthy, international corporations.

Still, as Bob Cesca clarifies by the title of his essay of October of 2011, "Occupy Wall Street Isn't Anti-Corporation, It's Anti-Corporate Crime."   The  OWS protesters simply are "against the corporations that corrupt the system, deplete the Treasury and ultimately aren't held accountable for their crimes."  Nobody can question their patriotism as Americans.


New York City, Washington Square Park, Dead Bull, 9/15/2012
Sculptor Arturo di Modica's 7,000 pound Charging Bull, which has become the symbol of Wall Street's financial aggression lies supine on this OWS tee shirt. One needn't elaborate.


New York City, Washington Square Park, Inside Job, 9/15/2012
Inside Job, of course, refers to the film directed by Charles Ferguson that won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.  A. O. Scott's review of the film calls it "the story of a crime without punishment, of an outrage....[and] betrayal of public trust;" but Ezra Klein, in another review with the benefit of eight months' hindsight, warns that the system Wall Street developed was too complex for anyone to understand, and Inside Job told "the wrong story about how the financial crisis happened."

If you haven't seen the movie, rent it, watch it (as the activist holding this sign admonishes), and reach your own conclusions. It's a gripping story, well told.


New York City, Washington Square Park, People's Investigation, 9/15/2012
A People's Investigation sounds a bit like a citizen's arrest, but its goals are much broader: it seeks to expand a religious conversation on the deleterious effect of debt on so many Americans.  The "investigation" entails the gathering of stories about those who have been harmed by debt, job-loss and foreclosures.  Its goal is to "be a catalyst for economic change."   It is run by group called Occupy Faith, which meets at the Church of the Village on 13th Street, and it asks "anyone who recognizes the divine call to economic justice in all our communities" to speak out.


New York City, Washington Square Park, Occupy Vision, 9/15/2012
"Vision" seems to be the operative word of Occupy Vision, and it's hard to imagine anybody disputing its goals for a world of clean water, air and food; of free education for all; of peace and existence without wars. There's much more to this utopian vision, which you can access here.



New York City, Washington Square Park, SLAM, 9/15/2012
SLAM, or the Student Labor Action Movement, has accomplished such things as successfully fighting sweatshops in Bangladesh (and elsewhere) and in forcing Adidas to the bargaining table with the garment workers of Indonesia.  On a more local level, SLAM has challenged NYU Trustee, Daniel Straus, whose nursing home chains in three states have a record of illegal firings and unfair labor practices.  Standing in the center, in this photograph, is Caitlin, a student at NYU.



New York City, Washington Square Park, Claire & Long (Common Cause), 9/15/2012
Common Cause is a well known liberal advocacy organization, founded in 1970 by a Republican, it should be noted: John W. Gardner.  It champions transparency and accountability in our political system and focuses in particular on campaign finance reform, election reform, and ethics in government.

Common Cause supports OWS and "the concerns of the 99%. "It stands with "the Occupy Movement, and with everyone who is fighting to get big, self-interested money out of our politics." Working the table for Common Cause are Claire, an NYU student, and Long, a student at Columbia.


New York City, Washington Square Park, Emily, 9/15/2012
The Occupy movement has many local cells, such as Occupy Astoria, in Queens.  Emily, of course, lives in Queens. 

Earlier this year, another Occupy Astoria activist, Ted Alexandro, drove to North Carolina with two friends to participate in the Moral Monday demonstrations in Raleigh.  He relates an exchange between the OWS visitors from Queens and the generosity of local church people from North Carolina that you may read here.   As one woman from Raleigh said about OWS, "you all in NY inspired us!"


New York City, Washington Square Park, Occupy Staten Island, 9/15/2012
As most of the local cells, Occupy Staten Island is fighting for economic equality, adequate living and working conditions, as it works to promote "real democracy and our basic human rights." Its web page notes that, beyond a wide range of economic problems, people need to deal with the “destruction of our environment...[which soon] will be irreversible.  Without a safe, life-supporting habitat, none of our other issues will matter."

With this in mind, it should be noted that in the early days following Hurricane Sandy, Occupy Staten Island played a crucial role in organizing volunteers to bring food, clothing and supplies to the needy of New York. 

What we don't see and what is not picked up by the press is how each and every OWS cell continues to meet locally and work, somewhere, to promote the common good.



New York City, Washington Square Park, Anarchists' Table, 9/15/2012
Today's anarchists are at a far remove from their predecessors of a century ago, mainly remembered for assassinations and bombings. According to Michael Kazin, the OWS anarchists are "ultra-egalitarian, radically environmentalist, effortlessly multicultural and scrupulously non-violent."

I regret not having taken the time to wait in line and talk to the people at this Anarchist's Table, but at least one of their logos identifies an "underground anarchist collective" from Brooklyn that calls itself In Our Hearts.   It runs free programs such as the Brooklyn Free Store and Food Not Bombs.


New York City, Washington Square Park, Move To Amend, 9/15/2012
Move To Amend was born in January, 2010, soon after the Supreme Court of the United States came out with its ruling in Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission.   This ruling created what is termed "corporate personhood," which upholds the rights of corporations to make political expenditures under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Move To Amend indicates the obvious, that "human beings are people [and] corporations are legal fictions," and it quotes from the dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens that "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires....[and] they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Bill Moyers summed up the Citizens United decision best when he wrote:  "Rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many. When five conservative members of the Supreme Court handed for-profit corporations the right to secretly flood political campaigns with tidal waves of cash on the eve of an election, they moved America closer to outright plutocracy, where political power derived from wealth is devoted to the protection of wealth....[This] will likely prove as infamous as the Dred Scott ruling of 1857."



New York City, Washington Square Park, School-to-Prison Pipeline, 9/15/2012
America's prison system is a national disgrace. We have the largest prison population of any country in the world. The main causes for this are the legislated increases for drug offenders (since 1998) and the privatization of our prisons.

This disgrace becomes unconscionable when one factors in what is called the School-to-Prison Pipeline in which disruptive students--especially the poor, the neglected, and those who suffer from learning disabilities--are placed in the juvenile justice system and incarcerated rather than educated.   This "pipeline" began in 1994, when Congress put into place "zero tolerance" policies, which mandated expulsion, and then school districts expanded the list of actions which would merit expulsion (and incarceration).

Watch this heartbreaking video (3:14) about one of these unfortunate students, Kyle Thompson, an innocent whose life has been ruined by America's legislated intolerance masquerading as educational reform.   Then keep in mind these cautionary words from writer and constitutional law attorney, John W. Whitehead: 


"There's an old axiom that what children learn in school today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow. As surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs and strip searches become the norm in elementary, middle and high schools across the nation, America is on a fast track to raising up an Orwellian generation....In other words, the schools are teaching our young people how to be obedient subjects in a totalitarian society."




New York City, Washington Square Park, Spectra & the Lorax, 9/15/2012
The man in a backpack carries a stuffed Lorax, the creature from Dr. Seuss' book (1971) of the same name.  His sign has the Lorax calling the Spectra Pipeline an obscene name.  In Seuss' book, the Lorax speaks for the trees as a champion of environmental health, while the Once-ler, personifying industrial greed, has laid waste to trees and environment.  

Accepting this metaphor, the Spectra Pipeline, should be seen as a product of Seuss' Once-ler;  it will bring hundreds of millions of hydrofracked gas under the Hudson River from New Jersey to Gansevoort Street in the West Village and will store it in an underground vault nearby.  Work on the project is nearly complete, and so this particular project is a fait accompli.

Regardless of the safety assurances of Spectra Energy, accidents have happened and will continue with just such lines and storage facilities.  Here are two videos that outline possible dangers (2:12 & 4:24), both from radon gas and from explosions.  At the end of Seuss' Lorax, the now-chastened Once-ler, having destroyed his environment, sends his young witness home with a seed to plant, saying, "unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."

As with Seuss' young witness, only OWS seems to care.



New York City, Washington Square Park, OWS Disability Caucus, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Wheelchair Revolution, 9/15/2012
The disabled protesters gather just south of the Washington Arch, near the middle of things.  Their presence and prominence underscores the social inclusiveness and diversity of the OWS movement that can be seen everywhere at its gatherings.  Their Disability Caucus is a regular part of the OWS General Assembly, and its web page reveals a great range of activities and weekly meetings.  Also,  click this link to read a narrative by Michele Kaplan on her experience as a disabled person at this OWS demonstration.

In contrast to this diversity, the Tea Party--to which OWS constantly is being compared--is mainly composed of white, middle-upper income Americans in their 40s-50s.  As writer Anthony DiMaggio points out, the Tea Party is "not really a social movement, but a cluster of elitist interest groups."  




New York City, Washington Square Park, Old Radical, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Jason (Occupy This Album), 9/15/2012
The elder gentleman and the youthful Jason at adjacent tables, above, also underscores the social diversity within OWS activists. Jason, who graduated from Stony Brook in sociology, revealed his entrepreneurial spirit by producing a four CD album of songs. Among the many artists included in this CD set, Occupy This Album, are:  Ani DiFranco, Crosby & Nash, Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, and Yo La Tengo.



New York City, Washington Square Park, The Band, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Free Foot Massages, 9/15/2012
The celebratory nature of OWS demonstrations can be experienced through the live bands that accompany them and even this offer (above) to relax, gratis, with a free foot massage.



New York City, Washington Square Park, Joe Mangrum at Work, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Joe Mangrum: I Would Like To Ask, 9/15/2012

New York City, Washington Square Park, Joe Mangrum: Sand & Shadows, 9/15/2012
Joe Mangrum, an artist who lives in Manhattan and whose medium is sand painting, here has made a mandala-like form consisting of a central image of stylized flames and words--actually sentences in the form of questions, spiraling outward from that center.

The first, innermost sentence provides the title of the piece, "Burning questions I would like to ask."  From there, the questions embody the multitude of topics that might interest Occupy protesters.  Among the sentences and words I am able to discern from these photos are:  "Whoever thought fracking was a good idea?"   "Why can't we realize that everything is interconnected?"   "Can you name at least 5 presidents?"   "Are their minds imprisoned?"   "...voting."   "...education."   "...food safety."   "...nuclear power."

Thus, Mangrum's art is relevant to and intersects with the Occupy movement.  Also, because of its medium--sand painting--it suggests a connection with earlier, native American culture as well as with a more global (Buddhist) connection.  And, most obviously, its explosion of color enhances and activates the demonstration and the park.






Zuccotti Park:



New York City, Zuccotti Park, The People's Mic, 9/17/2012
This photograph merely shows a dense crowd.  No single image stands out. It's simply a document, not a strong photograph.  It documents what OWS calls The People's Mic, through which a large crowd actually is able to hold discussions by having the speaker say a sentence; that sentence is then repeated by the crowd so all hear it; only then does the speaker continue.   Levi Asher describes the process in this link.


New York City, Zuccotti Park, Police Presence, 9/17/2012
For the most part, the New York City Police simply made its presence felt at this Anniversary demonstration.  They tended to congregate at the edges of the park.  I was not witness to any form of aggression when I took these photographs.  However, later on they did move in and make several arrests, as this video link documents.



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Barriers + Joie de Vivre (by Mark di Suvero), 9/17/2012
Those diagonal, red beams, stretching up seventy feet in the mid-ground, belong to the sculpture by the well-known American abstract artist, Mark di Suvero.  This sculpture is titled Joie de Vivre (Joy of Life).  Di Suvero made it in 1998; only in 2006 was it moved and installed at the south-east corner of Zuccotti Park. 

Joie de Vivre is a fitting piece to grace the park chosen by the Occupy demonstrators, in that Mark di Suvero was, himself, a demonstrator, jailed several times during the Vietnam War. Moreover, he is a union man, a member of the city's crane operator's union. 
Francisco Goya, The Third of May, 1808, Detail, oil/canvas, 1814, Madrid, Prado
Then, those of a more radical left persuasion may also take pleasure in the "proletarian red" paint of Joie de Vivre

Finally, the diagonal gesture of di Suvero's upward-thrusting red beams calls to mind those most dramatic gestures of questioning and hopelessness in the history of art, Goya's civilian of Madrid, rounded up with other Madrileños and shot in reprisal by Napoleonic soldiers in 1808.   This visual connection is completely accidental, yet so completely fitting for this location, which had witnessed police brutality against a rebellious, but unarmed civilian population several times in the past two years. 

Quite often, a work of art accumulates new meaning and added significance over its lifetime.  Joie de Vivre did so in less than fifteen years!



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Jazz Combo, 9/17/2012

New York City, Zuccotti Park, Jazz Combo: David, 9/17/2012

New York City, Zuccotti Park, Jazz Combo: Drums, 9/17/2012
A few people carried signs with the words "Rock Opera" as they milled around this jazz combo, and I recall one person telling me the saxophone player's name is David; otherwise, I have no more information on this group.  Their improvisational play was strong, lively, and perfect for  creating a celebratory mood in Zuccotti Park.


New York City, Zuccotti Park, Kenny: Wall Street in White House, 9/17/2012
Kenny, from Andover, calls attention to the "revolving door" but in reverse: Wall Street executives who are now in the White House as part of President Obama's inner circle.  Kenny's reference was most likely influenced by an Ad placed by the conservative group, American Future Fund earlier in 2012; this Ad greatly exaggerated its claim that the "White House is full of Wall Street executives," although we all know that there definitely were some and, in hindsight, should have been even fewer. See this FactCheck clarification on that Ad.

Kenny's mask, known as the Guy Fawkes mask, has been worn by many OWS demonstrators as well as Anonymous "hacktivists" and others.  A stylized representation of Fawkes, a Catholic who tried to bomb the British Parliament in 1605, the mask was created by the contemporary British graphic artist, David Lloyd for a graphic novel.   It also was used in the 2006 film, V for Vendetta.



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Debbie: Two Visions, 9/17/2012

New York City, Zuccotti Park, Debbie: Vision 1, 9/17/2012

New York City, Zuccotti Park, Debbie: Vision 2, 9/17/2012
Debbie, from Queens, fairly accurately outlines America's choice in the last Presidential Election in her Two Visions for America. However, given the fact that "80% of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the upper 2%" and that "between 2000 and 2012, the real net worth of 90% of Americans has declined by 25%," to cite by Michael Brenner of the University of Pittsburgh, it may be hard to argue that America isn't already more of a plutocracy than a democracy. Under President Obama, America may just get there more slowly or become a more socially sympathetic plutocracy.




New York City, Zuccotti Park, Taxes for the People, 9/17/2012

New York City, Zuccotti Park, Robin Hoods, 9/17/2012
Both of these photographs pertain to the ideas embodied in the so-called Robin Hood Tax.  This idea emerged in Great Britain in February of 2010, then entered the legislative pipeline of the European Parliament before crossing the Atlantic.  In essence, it proposes that the financial sector, especially banks and hedge funds, should contribute to the rescue of our economy (that they helped destroy) by paying a tax of less than 1/2 of 1% on their transactions.

OWS activists are not the only people who are supporting such a tax.  Among some 200,000,000 supporters globe-wide are Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Ban Ki-Moon, the Vatican, Desmond Tutu, Paul Krugman, Lawrence Summers, the AFL-CIO, Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore. 

As the gentleman's sign in the top photograph reads, "it's not a tax on the people, it's a tax for the people."  Although that sign refers to the Robin Hood Tax, I have felt that the same principle applies to my own responsibility as an American citizen.   I am happy to pay taxes, even accept tax increases (as long as these are equitable, across the board). Taxes are for the people; they pay for education, highways and transportation, welfare programs, social security, unemployment benefits, public housing, health, police and fire protection, among many other things.



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Ross (from New Jersey), 9/17/2012
Ross, by painting a "99%" on his mid-section, acknowledges the main slogan identified with the OWS movement: "We are the 99%." In other words, the OWS demonstrators, along with 99% of all American citizens, are suffering and paying for the selfishness and total lack of social concern of the wealthiest 1% of this country's population.

Interestingly, in 1765 at 81 Pearl Street, a mere seven blocks south of Zuccotti Park, the New-York Gazette, the city's first newspaper, published the following letter to the editor which made reference to the 99% in much the same manner as OWS would some 246 years later.  The letter writer asks: "Is it equitable that 99, or rather 999 should suffer for the Extravagance or Grandeur of one? Especially when it is consider’d, that Men frequently owe their Wealth to the Impoverishment of their Neighbours."



New York City, Zuccotti Park, All in One Boat, 9/17/2012
The concept of the 99% implies that we all are in the same boat, and if we weren't sinking in 2012, we are about to go under this week, as intransigent, right-wing, Tea Party Republicans seem intent upon pushing our country into default. They are busy drilling holes in the hull of the ship of state!

As Bill Moyers suggests, Tea Party Republicans are "like the die-hards of the racist South a century and a half ago, who would destroy the Union before giving up their slaves; so would these people burn the place down, sink the ship of state, and sow economic chaos to get their way."



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Diana: Ending Class War, 9/17/2012
It is possible that America's socio-economic segregation, wealth gap and enormous levels of inequality could lead to a "class war," but inclusive movements like OWS won't be the ones fomenting such a conflict.   If anything, such a "war" would come from the 1%, as in the movie Elysium.  As Diana, an OWS activist from New Jersey, has written on her sign, "we are not trying to start a class war, we are trying to end one."

Sanjay Sanghoee concludes an article titled, "How the Richest 1 Percent Control the 99 Percent in Elysium, and in America," with this cautionary note: "In accepting the gross income inequality, obscene wealth gap, inexcusable corporate excesses, and blatant political corruption that we do today, we are already laying the groundwork for a real-world Elysium."




New York City, Zuccotti Park, Bob: Proud to Be Union, 9/17/2012
Bob came down from Boston to participate in the first anniversary festivities and support OWS at its cradle. He wears his union hard hat--the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)--and tool belt.  Bob also holds a long pole labeled Liberty Tree as a gesture of solidarity to symbolically unite Boston and New York as centers of revolution. The original Liberty Tree was an elm that stood near Boston Common. American colonists would gather around this tree as they first staged their defiance against British rule in 1765.  



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Machines Vs. the Middle Class, 9/17/2012
In 2011, authors Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee published a book entitled, Race Against the Machine.  The authors noted that the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution has created new, "unknown territory" in the corporate quest to reduce labor costs. They have pointed out that this AI revolution "is doing to white collar jobs what robotics did to blue collar jobs."

This book most likely inspired the sign displayed by Kenny, who joined the anniversary celebration from Andover.  The threat of job loss has shifted from impacting the skilled artisans of the early 19th century because of power looms and spinning frames (remember the Luddites), then to our blue collar workers through a combination of automation and foreign outsourcing, and now to the more highly-trained white collar work force whose skills are being replaced by ever more inexpensive computers.  

The result is a pattern of job growth mainly in the highest-paid and the lowest-paid (service) occupations and much less now in the middle.  It is a problem that our society and country needs to address.



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Monsanto/Monsatan, 9/17/2012
OWS played a major role in promoting the nation-wide March Against Monsanto on May 25, 2013. This sign is simply an indication of the early awareness within OWS of the problems with genetically engineered food and seeds.

Occupy Monsanto was already a rallying cry.  I invite you to go back to my blog post of June 25, 2013 for a fairly complete coverage of the March Against Monsanto and an analysis of the issues involved.   In addition, I covered the 2014 March Against Monsanto at this link.



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Mike & Ashley, 9/17/2012
Mike and Ashley came in from Staten Island for the day. Mike carries a sign questioning the enormous overkill and confrontational measures of the NYPD in its confrontation with OWS demonstrators. Ashley carries a sign pointing out an all-too-pervasive issue for Americans--the lack of affordable health care

According to Ethan Rome, the executive director of Health Care for America Now, "the health insurance companies' relentless pursuit of profit and callous disregard for people offers another window into how big corporations have abused people and twisted the economy to serve their own interests.   Health insurance companies make excessive profits, hoard massive amounts of cash, overcharge their customers and give their top executives obscene paychecks."

As I write these words, at this very moment, Congress has averted a default and ended a government shutdown that was threatened as Republicans threw a tantrum because of the existence of the law that came to be known as Obamacare.   Columnist Reg Henry mused about these recalcitrant Republicans: "do they think health care is like a country club - no point in being a member if everybody has privileges?"

Well, maybe tonight our nation achieved some temporary sanity, and I'm pretty sure that Ashley already has found new and less-expensive health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), now that the government's health insurance marketplace has opened for business!



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Outlaw Bobby Steele, 9/17/2012
Outlaw Bobby Steele brings his own, very special set of issues to Occupy Wall Street events.



New York City, Zuccotti Park, Deby: Last Retiree, 9/17/2012
My final photograph shows Deby, from Brooklyn, holding a sign and asking a most poignant question.  Is she--am I and others like us--the beneficiary of a dying middle class? Is it possible that the next generation of middle class Americans won't be able to afford retirement? Will retirement become a privilege simply of the top 1%-2% of Americans?

If Republicans have their way, the answer to these questions may well be "yes," as most of them have designs to privatize the system that has served the American middle class so well for the past 78 years.   Actuaries claim that Social Security will not have the funds to pay full benefits after 2037;  but since only the first $110,000 of income is taxed to pay for the program, the lifting of that cap would double the money paid into the Social Security trust fund and this would fund the program for at least another 75 years.

So, Deby, you just need to work hard in your retirement to make sure that America continues to elect sensible Democrats. Then, even your grandchildren will still enjoy the benefits of living well in retirement as you, and I, do. 



The Occupy Wall Street Legacy:

OWS is constantly berated as a "leaderless organization," and because it never became involved in the supporting of political candidates, it seems to have slipped off everybody's radar, especially that of our news media. 

However, OWS has had a great impact on our country, and its many working groups have continued to operate in communities across America.  As Justin Wedes, one of its founding members notes, the police crackdown on OWS "began a diaspora that continues to this day: protesters returned to their community deeply affected by the experience." 

Here are some random examples of that legacy:

*OWS forced Bank of America to scuttle its plan to impose a $5/monthly fee on debit card users.

*OWS succeeded in abolishing over $1 million in debt from hospital emergency rooms in Kentucky and Indiana.

*OWS has created an alternative banking group and money co-operative that provides low-cost financial services, returning its profits to the communities it serves rather than the big banks.

*OWS promoted a highly successful Bank Transfer Day in which consumers moved checking and savings accounts out of the large banks and into small banks and credit unions.

*OWS influenced Wall Street reform and global debt reform, offering an alternative that challenged those counterproductive ideas of fiscal austerity in countries around the world.

*OWS has given America's political debate a new set of themes that focus on the social unfairness of income inequality and the need to redistribute wealth.

*OWS has inserted into America's political debate the language of percents as applied to groups of people, so everyone now knows the meaning of "the 1%" or "we are the 99%," and this language played a major role in the outcome of the last Presidential election.

*OWS, with its focus on income inequality and police overreach, provided the themes that New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio embraced to win over his primary opponents.

*OWS's focus on Wall Street and "fat cat" bankers helped create and reinforce the popularity (and Senate election win) of Elizabeth Warren.    That same focus also bolstered the resistance to the nomination of Larry Summers as head of the Federal Reserve by three democratic Senators, resulting in the nomination of Janet Yellen.  Summers under President Clinton, after all, promoted de-regulation and bank consolidations that led to the financial crisis of 2008.  

*OWS made New York City's "stop and frisk" practice into a huge issue, which contributed to its being ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge two months ago.

*OWS played a major and early role in bringing disaster relief to many of the worst-hit neighborhoods in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.   See also Josh Fox's new movie, Occupy Sandy.

*OWS played a significant role in the defeat of SOPA, the Stop On-Line Piracy Act, and thus in the championing of on-line freedom, because of its extensive use of and familiarity with social media tools.

If you would like more examples, and they truly are infinite, you may begin with
this link to a site titled Occupy Worldwide

And finally, the single best source of essays (over sixty) covering all aspects of the OWS movement is the book, The Occupy Handbook, edited by Janet Byrne.   I finish with a quotation from the essay by Paul Wooley of the London School of Economics, in which he asks this intriguing question, one that ought to put those "fat cat" Wall Street bankers in their place even more effectively than stronger regulation:  “Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry, when it’s just a utility, like sewer or gas?”

We may not hear much from or about OWS today, but it has not disappeared.   Rather, Occupy Wall Street has penetrated our psyche and affected part of our nation's soul in extremely positive ways that will change our political climate for the better and will continue to effect all of us.



Addendum--My Earlier Posts on OWS:





“Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park: A Record from Tuesday, October 11”    Monday, October 17, 2011