Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Despite NYPD Efforts, Wall Street Stays Occupied

By Joe Macaro In These Times: September 25, 2011




The occupation of Zuccotti Park (a.k.a. Liberty Plaza

Park) in Lower Manhattan, New York City, continues

today, after a Saturday marked by a crackdown from the

New York Police Department.


It is estimated that around 80 people were arrested

during a breakaway protest march, and after handing out

an "eviction notice" the NYPD surrounded the park that

has been used as a campground and staging area.


The "Occupy Wall Street" protest began on Saturday,

September 17, and was originally prompted by a call

from Adbusters, as described by Patrick Glennon here,

for people to "flood into lower Manhattan, set up

tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall

Street for a few months."


The nature of yesterday's police action has led to

widespread condemnation of alleged police brutality,

and it's hard not to remove the word "allleged" upon

viewing the photos and video footage that has emerged -

which has been enough to make the not-always-political

Gawker take note and use the headline "Cops Tackle,

Mace Wall St. Protesters for No Obvious Reason."


James Fallows at The Atlantic has posted the slowed

down and annotated version of one particularly

disturbing video. His description is chilling:


He walks up; unprovoked he shoots Mace or pepper spray

straight into the eyes of women held inside a police

enclosure; he turns and walks away quickly (as they

scream, wail, and fall to the ground clawing at their

eyes) in a way familiar from hitmen in crime movies;

and he discreetly reholsters his spray can.


Those who attend protests that challenge corporate

power and unrestrained capitalism in the U.S. and

Europe may have become used by now to a police response

that is both excessive and untargeted, whether one is

an active participant, an observer or merely a

passerby. (I myself was among those coralled by the

Metropolitan Police in London's Oxford Circus on May

Day 2001, and can attest first-hand to the fact that

the 3,000 people kept there without access to food,

water or toilets for seven hours included at least one

pair of bemused and terrified tourists from continental

Europe who had a plane to catch and who begged in vain

to be let past the line of riot police shields.)


But from all accounts so far, it appears that yesterday

the NYPD, presumably under the edict of Commissioner

Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg, took the policing of

such protests to new and violent levels.


At Waging Nonviolence, Nathan Schneider points out that

the media coverage of the police's actions focuses on a

sensationalistic treatment of violence rather than what

the protests are about:


In an article that recounts as many gory details as

will fit, the Daily News devotes only two short

paragraphs to what the protest is actually about and

what protesters have been doing all this time:

“attempting to draw attention to what they believe is a

dysfunctional economic system that unfairly benefits

corporations and the mega-rich.” True, but too little.

The real story for the Daily News, it seems, is not

this unusual kind of protest, or the political

situation which it opposes, but the chance to have the

word “busted” on the cover next to the cleavage of a

woman crying out in pain.


Schneider's piece is well-worth reading in full, as is

his piece at Truthout from Friday, in which he provides

a critique of media coverage and sets the record

straight about what how Occupy Wall Street evolved.


Some reporters come to Liberty Plaza looking for

Adbusters staff, or US Day of Rage members, or

conspiratorial Obama supporters, or hackers from

Anonymous. They're briefly disappointed to find none of

the above. Instead, it's a bunch of people - from

round-the-clock revolutionaries, to curious tourists,

to retirees, to zealous students - spending most of

their time in long meetings about supplying food,

conducting marches, dividing up the plaza's limited

space and what exactly they're there to do and why. And

that's the point. More than demanding any particular

policy proposal, the occupation is reminding Wall

Street what real democracy looks like: a discussion

among people, not a contest of money.


However, despite Schneider's critcisim of the

internet's role in spreading misinformation, it remains

the case that, as with past protest actions and just

about any activity of real significance that the

mainstream media ignores or distorts, some of the best

ways to keep up to date on Occupy Wall Street are the

#occupywallstreet and #occupywallst Twitter hashtags,

and livestreaming video. See also Kevin Gosztola who

has been live-blogging for FireDogLake from the

protests, and the "official" Occupy Wall Street website.





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