Citizen Action Monitor

Small turnout for “OccupyWallStreet” protest may not auger well for major upcoming protests

No 280 Posted by fw, September 19, 2011

Despite a positive spin to his report’s title, Nathan Schneider’s account of the weekend events can’t disguise the dark cloud hanging over the prospects for a successful OccupyWallStreet turnout. It won’t come close to reaching the 20,000 people that Adbusters called for.

Another Liberty Plaza Taken and Held near Wall Street by Nathan Schneider in Waging Nonviolence, September 19, 2011

Saturday afternoon — More than 1000 protesters on hand

When more than a thousand protesters marched on Saturday from Bowling Green, near the southern tip of Manhattan, toward the backup meeting point marked “2″ on their maps, they thought they were going to a place called Zuccotti Park, several blocks north of Wall Street on Broadway. That’s what it said on the map. It’s now a private park, owned by Brookfield Properties, but it hasn’t always been its name. Before being renamed after Brookfield’s chairman, John Zuccotti, it was called Liberty Plaza. Going there was a last-minute decision on the part of the group’s Tactics Committee, and it was one with significance. Tahrir in Arabic, after all, means “liberty.” Though with fewer people than the historic protests in Cairo this winter, Tahrir has come to the United States, at least in name.

Saturday evening — A few hundred remain

Here, under the light canopy of trees that obscures the office buildings looming overhead, several hundred people have remained since Saturday afternoon. They’ve been making signs, collecting thousands of dollars’ worth of pizza delivery, playing music, collecting trash, laying down sleeping bags and cardboard to sleep on, and running a media center on a generator and their own wi-fi hotspot. After briefly surrounding the park on Saturday night, the police presence—at least in view—has been relatively light.

Sunday – Chilly night takes its toll. NYPD barricade streets leading to Stock Exchange

Sunday, the protesters kept busy. They conducted a large, loud march around the Financial District. They managed a divisive confrontation with the police about an order to remove signs from the walls. But, mostly, they assembled and debated. There were several hours of General Assembly meetings in the morning, and then an extended debate—from mid-afternoon until late at night—largely about what the plan of action would be for Monday, the first business day of the occupation, when the area’s population would turn from tourists grazing for photogenic spectacles to those who come to do the very business that this occupation is meant to transform, or stop entirely.

Early in the afternoon, it seemed that the chilly first night had taken its toll. Numbers in Freedom Plaza were lower than they were the evening before, and those still around sang redemption songs a little behind the beat, intently read texts of significance, or simply sat and waited. But as the day edged toward evening, some [of the] previous day’s energy returned, as did an influx of new people who’d heard about the occupation on the news or from friends—up to two or three hundred. Pizza kept arriving through the night. As I write, a small group is returning from a candlelight vigil by the barricades still surrounding the blocks around the Stock Exchange. Others are trying to confirm rumors of police agents in their midst.

Sunday – Protesters worry about small turnout. Growing impatience among some to occupy The Street

The debate that took up so much of the day was over whether to move as a group onto Wall Street on Monday morning and attempt to hold it, or whether to remain in their Liberty Plaza. Many expressed worry that there were still too few of them, that the authorities easily be able to contain them, and that they should hold their ground, refine their demands, and focus on welcoming more into the movement. (After all, as many as 20,000 demonstrated on Wall Street on May 12, and even then revolution was hardly imminent.) Others were growing impatient and insisted that they had come to #occupywallstreet, not sit around in a park. Loud chants to “Occupy Wall Street!” echoed among the buildings.

Sunday – Tactical plan finalized

The decision that the Assembly finally reached was a compromise. Part of the group will stay in the park and hold it. Others, especially those willing to risk arrest, will go to Wall Street in the morning in time for the Stock Exchange’s opening bell.

Sunday evening – Wall Street is already occupied – by police — prompting a protester to claim victory  

Most in the park are too busy settling in to notice the police cars taking position around them for the night. Some are getting ready to move tomorrow. But others here see Liberty Plaza as a victory in itself. Because of their presence, the streets around the Stock Exchange have been blocked all weekend. “Wall Street is already occupied,” one woman said in the Assembly. “We’ve already achieved our objective.”

MY COMMENT

The disappointing OccupyWallStreet turnout may be a sign of protest fatigue. If so, this can not auger well for two major upcoming events scheduled for October –

  • The Take Back the American Dream conference, organized by the Campaign for America’s Future with support from Rebuild the Dream, will be happening on October 3 – 5 in Washington, DC. Find out more here.
  • And the October2011.org is expecting thousands of concerned Americans to assemble in Freedom Plaza, in Washington DC starting on October 6 “to take control of our country and our lives. We will occupy the plaza and hold a People’s Assembly where we come up with just and sustainable solutions to the crises we face and demand that these solutions be presented and that the people’s needs be addressed.”

RELATED STORIES

  • Wall Street Protest Begins, With Demonstrators Blocked by Colin Moynihan, New York Times, Sept 17, 2011. “For months the protesters had planned to descend on Wall Street on a Saturday and occupy parts of it as an expression of anger over a financial system that they say favors the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary citizens. As it turned out, the demonstrators found much of their target off limits on Saturday as the city shut down sections of Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall well before their arrival.”
  • The call to occupy Wall Street resonates around the world by Micah White and Kalle Lasn, Sept 19, of the Guardian, September 19, 2011 recounts an optimistic start to the campaign this way — “#OCCUPYWALLSTREET was inspired by the people’s assemblies of Spain and floated as a concept by a double-page poster in the 97th issue of Adbusters magazine, but it was spearheaded, orchestrated and accomplished by independent activists. It all started when Adbusters asked its network of culture jammers to flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. The idea caught on immediately on social networks and unaffiliated activists seized the meme and built an open-source organizing site. Their video communique endorsing the action garnered 100,000 views
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This entry was posted on September 19, 2011 by in political action and tagged .
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