Occupy Wall Street Protest Enters Second Week, Mass Arrests, Protests Planned in Other Cities

Cross-posted from Third Party Independent:

The Occupy Wall Street protest that began on September 17th in New York's financial district has entered its second week.  Yesterday, scores of demonstrators were arrested during a march from the group's encampment at Liberty Plaza to Union Square, and more arrived from around the city and across the country.  Similar protests and assemblies are apparently now  being planned in over thirty cities.

Thousands of protesters descended on lower Manhattan last Saturday in response to a call for occupation-style protests against the influence of money in politics on the model of Egypt and Spain.  Hundreds have camped in a nearby park every night since.  Their numbers swell into the thousands during the day.  More appear to be arriving from across the country on a regular basis.

An informal tally at the encampment on Saturday found that no less than twenty-six different states were represented at the site.  There are protesters and demonstrators from Maine to Florida, from New York to California and from Texas to Michigan. One man said he had come from Alaska.

They are a politically diverse group as well.  There are disillusioned Democrats, Ron Paul Republicans, Independents, Socialists, Libertarians, and anarchists, among others.  If there is one thing they all appear to agree upon, however, it is the sense that the Democratic and Republican parties no longer represent the interests of the people of the United States.

One of the first arrests on Saturday took place near the Chase Bank building up the street from the New York Stock Exchange.  As hundreds marched along the sidewalks of the financial district, one man walked out into the street, and fell down to his knees.  "That's the bank that took my mother's home," he said.  He then stated: "I will go to jail tonight because it's not right.  I will not just stand by and watch. I would rather die than be quiet and watch them lose everything."  He identified himself as, Robert Stevens, a law student from Washington D.C.  Told by police that he would be arrested if he didn't move, he put his hands behind his head.  He was then cuffed and hauled away.

Many more arrests followed over the course of the march, both individually and en masse, as it weaved from the sidewalks into the streets and through parks.

None of the assemblies, marches or actions that have taken place in the last week have been formally permitted.  No permits have been sought as would normally be the case for a large political demonstration or protest.  When queried about whether they have obtained permits, protesters point out that the freedom of peaceable assembly is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution and that permission from the government is not necessary.

Despite numerous incidents of excessive force by police in the face of civil disobedience during the march to Union Square, relations between protesters and police have been fairly good over the past week, though tense at times.

Critics of the Occupy Wall Street protest say that it is disorganized and does not have a clear message, among other things.  But such criticism may well be putting the cart before the horse.  Demonstrators hold general assembly meetings daily and have formed numerous working groups and committees to discuss principles and demands, plan events and actions, and organize provisions for the day-to-day necessities of the group.  All of this information is available on the assembly's website, NYCGA.

Similar protests are now being planned in over thirty cities across the country, according to an informal umbrella site, called Occupy Together, which has become a hub for the spontaneous network nationwide.


Solomon Kleinsmith said...

Go go gadget left wing tea party. About time... start pushing the dems farther left and more moderates out of the party. Will speed up the push for a centrist movement.

TiradeFaction said...

I don't think these protests are directed at the Democrats exclusively though, but the political system as a whole. And even if they grew steadily they probably wouldn't influence the Democrats much anytime soon, they simply get too much funding from Wall Street to ignore them. Overtime if it's continued to grow maybe. These protests seem somewhat vague, and cross political, including Libertarians and otherwise non left wing folk, which makes sense, anger at Wall Street is at record high across the spectrum. If another silly centrist "movement" wants another try to jab at American politico, it's probably not wise to ignore that frustration.

d.eris said...

Though there are a lot of progressives and hard leftists at the protest site, I would argue that it is incorrect, or at least premature, to dismiss it as a Democrat-oriented left wing tea party or something. There are a lot of Libertarians there, for instance. Over the last week there, I've talked with a candidate for the Libertarian party's nomination for president there (Carl Person) as well as the general secretary of the Queens County Libertarian party, both of whom spent a fair amount of time walking around and talking with people.

There are also a fair number of people I would characterize as independent moderates to be found there as well. There are anti-capitalists, to be sure, but they are balanced by those who want to see modest reforms on everything from electoral laws to political finance, to corporate corruption, tax law etc. Obviously, such voices can be hard to find in the MSM because the MSM is trying to sell something, and it ain't the truth. Consider: the corporate media's take thus far has been that the protesters are just a bunch of hardcore leftists or something, but then in the next breathe they claim there is no unifying message or theme among them. It is actually one of the more politically diverse assemblies I have attended in some time.

From my experience there (I've spent a fair amount of time interviewing people involved and observing the process over the last ten days), I'd say TF is right that the primary grievances of the protesters are directed at the two-party system as a whole. They are sick and tired of not having a voice in government – sound familiar? – so they're giving voice to those gripes through a directly democratic process.

TiradeFaction said...

Does their directly democratic assembly process seem to be working D.eris? I've heard some say it's not working at all, but others say it's quite liberating (and functional). Since you've been there for many days, I'm wondering your take on it.

d.eris said...

They are using a consensus-based direct democratic model at their general assemblies, which means one person can block anything if he or she so desires. If some one person were really stubborn, or felt strongly enough about something to block everything, they use a 9/10 majority model. But I have yet to see that happen.

When there are significant disagreements, competing proposals are synthesized, and then recast to the whole assembly for a vote. Beyond that, many duties have been delegated by general consensus to smaller working groups, which anyone can join, that hammer out details of plans or proposals, which are then presented back to the whole group at a later assembly for a consensus vote. They've been holding two such assemblies every day. Anyone present can participate.

At the assemblies I've observed, hundreds of people have participated. At first, they really dragged on, as you might imagine, but it seems that as people are getting the hang of the process they are becoming more efficient. I've seen people become really frustrated by the experience, but a lot of people have been very inspired by it. I've felt both ways myself while observing at different times, and even over the course of the same meeting.

The interesting thing about the process is that if someone doesn't like the direction things are heading, they can change it, which empowers people as individuals.

Understandably, patience has become a virtue at the protest site.

The real question, imo, will be whether they can maintain the integrity of the process as people who were there from the beginning leave and new people join in.

As a more succinct and direct answer to your question, TF, I would say yes, the process is working, and would argue that the fact that they are still there, and have been capable of providing for everyday needs while continuing to engage in organizing etc. is very good evidence that the process is working.

Anonymous said...

good job by the clown stevens, who lied about his parents' home. somehow, in this oppressive society ruled by the banks(who i believe have too much power due to being in bed with politicians), his dad managed to get 4 college degrees, his mother two degrees, and he is currently(or should be) in law school as he rants. apparently, it's ok to ditch a school that costs 72k a yr to attend. certainly hope he is wasting moma and dad's money, not the taxpayer's in the form of govt loans. should make a good attorney tho, not afraid to lie on camera.

Anonymous said...

hey Anon, and your evidence that he "lied" is what? Or are you just spreading anonymous rumors?

DLW said...

If I hope they get to talking about the idea of LTPs as a way to check the influence of $peech on both our major parties.


d.eris said...

I'm not sure where you're located DLW, but there are occupation protests being planned in dozens of cities across the country in the coming days and weeks. And general assemblies are already being held to organize them. There's probably one near you. Why not go in person and start up the discussion? It could be a really good topic for a working group or a teach-in.

This site: http://occupytogether.org/
is aggregating info on all the various protests, actions and assemblies.

DLW said...

I'm going to be just north of Chicago and so it might be feasible, although I'll be committed to stuff early in the morning.
But from my view, this sort of consensus decision-making of relatively small groups of people is the stuff that'd be most feasible for LTPs...

We gotta expand on the tea-party ethos ideologically, get it geared on more practical/local stuff and paired up with commiments to MLKjr/Gandhi like civil disobedience to force the elected poliicians to follow through with their election promises...

Anonymous said...

Hey! D. Eris was quoted in The Guardian UK, in an article about the Occupy Wall Street demo at The Brooklyn Bridge! - Kimberly Wilder