Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, OWS

Happy birthday, Occupy Wall Street. We began this journey together on September 17 last year. I didn't even know you then. And once I did know about you — about the time when seven hundred people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1 — I still wasn't so sure about you. But I came out on October 5 — four days later — and marched with thousands. Young, old, black, white, gay, straight, seasoned activists and newbies — at least 5,000 of us marched down Broadway together at twilight. I entered the encampment at Zuccotti Park for the first time and found a place where I was accepted with open arms. I found a movement and a community.

I have always lingered on the edge of Occupy Wall Street. Never quite in it, but never quite apart from it. I have attended GAs (General Assemblies), but not with any regularity, and only once did I ever share my own thoughts in an assembly. I have attended all the major actions, but few of the minor ones. I have been on the front lines of civil disobedience, but never committed civil disobedience as part of OWS myself. In the process, I have taken hundreds of photos, and scores of videos, and shared updates with my friends via facebook and even via good 'ole verbal conversation sometimes. I have met hundreds of interesting people — at Zuccotti, on marches, at GAs, at planning meetings, at happenings — but I have almost never learned anyone's name and never really made any friends.

But I have loved, and I continue to love, Occupy Wall Street, because Occupy has made me inspired and excited and energized about "being the change I want to see in the world" in a way I never felt before.

I look forward to another year. For so many of our problems are not even close to being solved. We are still unemployed and underemployed. Our homes are foreclosed upon. Our rights are being chipped away. The rich continue to get richer while the poor get poorer, and Romney (with his Goldman Sachs) and Obama (with his Bank of America) couldn't care less about those of us on the bottom rung — the bottom 99%. And our students will spend the rest of their lives paying off their debt, while more and more youth are being priced out of college altogether, as our states break their commitments to public higher education, and as the whole university system barrels forward towards privatization.

In tribute to Occupy Wall Street on its first glorious birthday — just two weeks away — I share these photos from our many, many days together. Let's keep it up! We are the change we want to see in the world! And...We are unstoppable / Another world is possible! I still believe that!

October 15: Over 10,000 people assemble at Times Square to show support for Occupy Wall Street. I was among such a lovely group of people in the crowd — happy, excited, and optimistic.

October 15: Over 1,000 people gather that evening for an impromptu assembly at Washington Square Park. We share ideas and listen to each other's voices for about three straight hours!

October 16: At midnight, a thousand of us are forcibly expelled from Washington Square Park, but groups remain for hours around Greenwich Village, including these two women who talked with some of the police officers.

 October 21: Hundreds march down Broadway from Symphony Space to Columbus Circle, led by a group of musicians including Pete Seeger. At midnight an impromptu concert occurs at the base of the monument at Columbus Circle.

October 28: An organizer uses the "human microphone" to address a crowd — and the press — on the steps of the New York Public Library before a large march around midtown to deliver thousands of letters from concerned Americans to the headquarters of "too big to fail" banks.

October 28: Following hours of marching around midtown seeking to meet with representatives of the "too big to fail" banks, part of the march ends in Grand Central Station with a dance party!

November 5: The encampment at Zuccotti Park on a cold November morning

November 5: What touched me most about the scene above was this hand-written note, hanging from a rope in the encampment at Zuccotti Park. An occupier lets her family know that she is okay and that she loves them dearly. This was not the message most people saw in the mainstream media.

November 5: The Comfort station at Zuccotti Park. I donated some warm pants and winter boots for the occupiers.

November 5: Students from across NYC assemble at Washington Square Park to discuss their involvement in Occupy Wall Street. 

November 6: Some kind of impromptu performance by an Occupy Wall Street working group at Union Square

November 15, 2:29 AM: NYPD shut down every street within one block of Zuccotti Park and stationed guards at every intersection to ensure that supporters — and media — could not attend the eviction of the occupation.

November 15, 2:35 AM: Hundreds of police officers in full riot gear were on hand to keep supporters — and media — out of Zuccotti Park.

November 15, 2:56 AM: As the eviction of Zuccotti Park is underway, hundreds of police reinforcements are still on their way, here seen heading downtown from City Hall.

November 15, 6:34 AM: This was the only time I ever saw the sunrise with Occupy Wall Street. Zuccotti Park had been cleared. Hundreds were arrested. But hundreds more had gathered over the night at Foley Square for an endless General Assembly that continued into the morning! We were trying to figure out what to do now that the city had taken away our space.

November 15, 7:40 AM: An occupier holds an American flag at Foley Square after the eviction.

November 15, 9:17 AM: At eight AM, the hundreds of us at Foley Square began to march to Duarte Square on Canal Street where we met up with hundreds more.

November 17, 8:40 AM: Just 48 hours after the eviction at Zuccotti Park, over one thousand people gathered at six AM to march on the New York Stock Exchange. Captain Ray Lewis, formerly of the Philadelphia police, was there. He was arrested.

November 17, 9:09 AM: As scores of protestors are arrested all around the New York State Exchange, others march the streets of the Financial District, including these two persons openly defying NYC's anti-mask law.

November 17, 4:13 PM: Over 2,000 high school, college, and graduate students from across NYC gather at Union Square to show support for Occupy Wall Street.

November 17, 4:20 PM: These thousands of students then march down the streets of Manhattan from Union Square to Foley Square to join up with tens of thousands of others at an evening rally.

November 17, 7:01 PM: An estimated 30,000 people gather at Foley Square and then proceed to march over the Brooklyn Bridge in what was, to this date, Occupy Wall Street's largest demonstration.

November 20: Five days after the eviction from Zuccotti Park, occupiers continue to come to the park for conversation and community. Here, members of Trinity Church provide free food to protestors.

November 20: The city "cannot evict an idea whose time has come." Just five days after the eviction, hundreds march up Broadway from Zuccotti Park to Washington Square.

December 17: Supporters of Occupy Wall Street engaged in a hunger strike to pressure Trinity Church to open a vacant lot adjacent to Duarte Square so that homeless occupiers could use it

December 17: A puppet show at Duarte Square

December 17: It was a very cold day, but about five hundred people came out to enjoy the afternoon at Duarte Square marking three months since OWS began. Later that day scores of protestors attempted to force "open" Trinity Church's nearby vacant lot. They were arrested and charged with trespassing.

January 29: Supporters of Occupy Wall Street dance and sing in a drum circle at Washington Square Park during the first-ever Occupy Town Square (OTS). OTS kept the energy alive throughout the long, cold winter by organizing "pop-up" occupations at various parks throughout the city.

March 14: The Rev. Billy Talen (of the Church of Stop Shopping) preaches to a crowd of Occupy Wall Street supporters outside a Mitt Romney fundraiser in midtown

March 14: Members of the 1% picket outside the Waldorf-Astoria in a counter-protest against the 99% :)

March 15: Supporters of Occupy Wall Street in Guy Fawkes masks foreclose upon Bank of America

March 15: On a march of about one hundred protesters against Bank of America, a protester's dog peeks out at my camera

March 15: NYPD Detective Rick Lee (aka "Hipster Cop") surveys the scene as supporters of Occupy Wall Street attempt to "move-in" to a branch of Bank of America

March 15: The NYPD confiscates all our furniture which supporters of Occupy Wall Street had assembled outside a branch of Bank of America as we "foreclosed" upon the bank and attempted to move in.

March 15: A march against Bank of America. Our numbers were small, but these actions marked the beginning of the American Spring.

March 15: Zuccotti Park re-occupied, at least for one happy afternoon

March 17: The six month "anniversary" of Occupy Wall Street is celebrated with sidewalk chalk, balloons, and face painting at Zuccotti Park

March 17, 6:34 PM: That evening there was a massive General Assembly at Zuccotti Park. We were all filled with hope that we would be able to re-occupy the space.

March 17, 10:03 PM: An improvised tent structure is erected inside Zuccotti Park as about five hundred people occupy.

March 17, 10:50 PM: Hundreds of NYPD "occupy" Zuccotti Park as Occupy Wall Street is evicted from the park for a second time. Over seventy protesters are arrested.

March 18, 12:44 AM: Once again evicted, and needing to find a new home, we marched up from Zuccotti Park to Union Square, thus establishing what would become Occupy Union Square.

March 18, 3:13 PM: Fourteen hours later, Occupy Wall Street was still holding down Union Square, as they have — more or less — to this day.

March 21: Occupy Wall Street joins calls for a "1,000,000 Hoodie March" for Trayvon Martin, at Union Square

March 21: Thousands march down Broadway during the "1,000,000 Hoodie March" for Trayvon Martin

April 20: After weeks of "sleepful protests" along the sidewalks of Wall Street — which, in fact, was the original idea on September 17! — the NYPD evict Occupy Wall Street once again. Federal Hall, run by the National Park Service, opens up half their stairway as a "Designated First Amendment Zone" where members of Occupy Wall Street can assemble 24/7. On the one hand this gave OWS prime real estate right on Wall Street, but on the other hand NPS (National Park Service) had a million zany rules, like that only 25 people were allowed on the steps at a time, and no sleeping was allowed. OWS called it the "Freedom Cage."

April 25: Hundreds of college students and graduates burdened by debt march down Broadway from Union Square to Wall Street

April 25: A Cooper Union student protests atop the Peter Cooper monument at Cooper Square. He was later arrested.

April 25: Cooper Union students assemble on the balcony of their university to cheer on the student protestors

April 25: Hundreds of college students and graduates burdened by debt descend on Wall Street during the afternoon

May 1 (May Day), 9:13 AM: Hundreds of protestors picket outside Chase headquarters in midtown while entertained by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, NYC's premier radical marching band!

May 1 (May Day), 9:21 AM: A young activist addresses the crowd in front of Chase headquarters during our picket

May 1 (May Day), 10:26 AM: After "99 Pickets" all across midtown in the morning, hundreds of activists assemble at Bryant Park for food, comfort, and teach-ins, like this one on the history of mutual aid.

May 1 (May Day), 10:52 AM: Meanwhile, hundreds of students and educators taking part in the one-day city-wide General Strike gather at Madison Square Park for the "Free University."

May 1 (May Day), 12:08 PM: Students on strike gather at the outset of the planned Wildcat March at Sara Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side

May 1 (May Day), 12:28 PM: Diversity of tactics. Diversity of messages. A "Fuck the Police" banner is unfurled at Sara Roosevelt Park as hundreds of NYPD look on!

May 1 (May Day), 12:50 PM: Street medics follow the Wildcat March through the Lower East Side

May 1 (May Day), 12:59 PM: "Black Bloc" is a tactic, not an organization. Wildcat March in the Lower East Side. The NYPD largely stayed a block or two behind as protestors marched freely through the streets

May 1 (May Day), 2:14 PM"Bike Bloc" is a tactic, not an organization. After coming pretty close to getting arrested by an undercover cop during the Wildcat March, I — and most others — made it to Washington Square Park. Then a march began from Washington Square to the large evening rally at Union Square, led by the bike bloc.

May Day (May Day), 3:15 PM: Activists and protestors and supporters from all across the city begin to gather at Union Square for the large May Day rally

May 1 (May Day), 6:52 PM: At the head of our 10,000-person-strong May Day march down Broadway are the city's exploited taxi drivers. Workers, students, and occupiers all came together — we all saw that we are, truly, the 99%.

May 1 (May Day), 7:09 PM: At the bottom of the May Day parade route, someone left a message in chalk on the street

May 1 (May Day), 8:07 PM: 2,000 people gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the Financial District for an impromptu May Day General Assembly that evening

May 1 (May Day), 9:15 PM: With the NYPD threatening to evict us from the Veterans Memorial, a dozen members of Veterans for Peace decide that they will not leave — they decide to engage in civil disobedience. All were arrested.

May 10: The spirit and energy of May Day continues at a planning meeting for "Another NYC," a week of events and demonstrations in opposition to planned budget cuts, at Union Square

 May 17: The "Raging Grannies" perform a song at the opening of Occupy Wall Street's first-ever Feminist General Assembly, at Washington Square Park

May 17: Occupy Wall Street hosts its first-ever Feminist General Assembly at Washington Square Park

June 17: A protestor at the Silent March Against Stop and Frisk in Harlem. Occupy Wall Street joins the call for a "silent march" put out by the NAACP.

June 17: "Freedom Fighters" who were arrested in 2011 during a protest against Stop and Frisk in Harlem stand together in solidarity and determination, despite the fact that they were all found guilty of disorderly conduct (or something ridiculous like that)

June 17: The Silent March Against Stop and Frisk brought out thousands of protestors, including Dick Gregory, as seen here being interviewed by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman at the end of the march

Happy Birthday, OWS! I hope everyone enjoyed the photos. Let's keep it going. Join the movement on September 17 for a big, bad-ass birthday party. Until the system is transformed...all day, all week, Occupy Wall Street.

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