On October 5th, I joined tens of thousands of people and went to the financial district of Manhattan to say "enough is enough".
I was also there to record video and take photos. Friends from outside of New York have been asking me what's going on. This is my way to help spread the message and the facts as I saw them. The videos are pretty much unedited... make up your own mind.
As part of my weekly 1-minute series "In A Brooklyn Minute", I may cut together a more streamlined video for a future episode.
You can see more photos in my OWS Flicker album.
|Max records in 3D!|
The following are some background and personal thoughts about what is going on.
A few years ago (vaguely around the time of the economic collapse, Obama election and WTO protests in, I think, Miami) there was an interview on NPR, I like to often quote to people - yet never managed to figure out who it was with. The expert told the interviewer (Brian Lehrer?) that there would be a time when capitalism ends and it would be replaced by a different system. The interviewer seemed as surprised as me: an end to capitalism? Isn't this the ultimate system, the one that is human nature and Darwinism and naturally evolved? The expert referred to all the other systems and times when people thought: this is the natural system and order of things (feudalism, colonialism, etc.). They were all replaced by something else.
Well, what will the new system be? He didn't know. He said, no one had figured it out yet. But the people getting the closest are the Anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) protesters. They see the flaws in the current system and they want to change it. The only problem: they have only been focusing on what they don't want - and haven't yet started focusing and verbalizing what they DO want. He suggested we should watch those people - although it may take a long time (decades?) for them to bring on the change. Or maybe we should actively participate?
This seriously opened my mind and I began believing that change could and would come. What was it that I wanted to see change? The imbalance of how money is spent in this country and others. Money spent on wars, instead of education - tax breaks for corporations, but no funding for art - CEO and celebrities raking in millions, while others barely get by with several jobs. The cost of health insurance, medical procedures and medications. Health care as a greedy business. Everything as a greedy business. Last but not least: the environment getting destroyed to make a buck.
I would like the system to be more humane. I would like for people to be more considerate: the politicians, the corporate board members, the decision makers.
When the economy seemed to collapse and President Obama was elected, I had hope. Based on his campaign and the election results, it seemed that Americans were standing up and saying: we want a more fair, humane and considerate world, where education, environment and community matter more than making the most money possible. It seemed that with the collapse of the economy this was the chance to adjust our economic system.
None of that happened. Maybe because everyone was quickly settling back into a comfortable zone? Maybe because the big banks were bailed out? Maybe because everyone was waiting for someone else to do something?
Turns out not everyone is comfortable. Turns out some people are tired of waiting.
Since September 17th there has been "Occupy Wall Street". By now it's been 21 days that a few hundred people on Zuccotti Square in the Financial District of NYC have been camping, protesting, debating, writing, shouting... On the weekends and during organized marches there have been thousands...
Apparently initiated by a call to action by the Canadian media foundation Adbusters and inspired by the Arab Spring, people began organizing a protest and occupation of Zuccotti Park, which at first did not draw a lot of attention.
An incident with pepper spray during a march on September 24th brought the attention of people watching YouTube videos and other crowd sourced media and local news. This is when people started asking me: You're in New York, what's going on over there? When a few days later 700 protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, the mainstream and international media took notice.
Of course, all along you can follow what is going on through the Occupy Wall Street blog and its forum and chat, the General Assembly posts, the Facebook page, the Reddit Page, the main Twitter account, the Twitter hashtags #OccupyWallStreet and #OWS and their live streaming video.
|Pertinent Occupy Wall Street information|
By now Occupy Wall Street has spread through cities across the country with the help of Occupy Together.
In Zuccotti Park well-known speakers and celebrities have expressed their support (Tim Robbins walked right by me on Wednesday) - people around the world, including President Obama, have acknowledged what is going on there. Of course, tourists also swarm the area.
|Not just hippies!|
The point when I realized that the protesters and I shared similar sentiments was when I discovered the collection of photo statements published on We Are The 99 Percent, where individuals express their personal hardships and frustrations - while the 1 percent of the population has most of the wealth and supposedly the decision-making power. Read the introduction statement of We Are The 99 Percent.
The original suggestion from Adbusters had been to come up with a simple and specific demand to achieve (e.g., drop all interest rates to 1%). But at this point it seems that the loose group, which makes a point of not having a specific leader, does not have (or want?) one or several specific demands. This does make me wonder where this will lead.
On September 30th the General Assembly (meeting at 1pm and 7pm every day) published a Deceleration of the Occupation of New York City, which lists some of the grievances.
|NYPD and the orange net on Broadway (by Wall Street)|
Something I have mixed feelings about is the seeming desire of some protesters to want to get arrested - and possibly even baiting the police into using (what I still consider unjustified) violent action. These acts make for sensational footage, photos and stories - and thus get the attention of media and people. I do see the power of these images and "stunts". But I wonder if some of it comes from a misguided desire for drama and personal need for attention. Just wondering.
Wouldn't it be amazing if the media attention came just from peaceful civil disobedience?
With this, of course, I also have to question my own activity of staying on after the official march and participating in the non-permitted march down to Wall Street - always with the camera at the ready. Just like on May Day and other big protests in Germany, it seems that only a percentage are actual protesters who want to bring their message across - another percentage are the camera-toting "reporters" and the "sensationalists" - another percentage are the provocateurs who could actually hurt some of the causes.
From my personal perspective I witnessed moments of protesters yelling at the police to let them cross the street, when the police didn't tell them they couldn't (and some of us just crossed the street) - and I got the sense that some people got impatient with just standing around, with the protesters and police officers all being peaceful. I also was near when protesters who tried to climb over the barricades of Wall Street right in front of the police, were pepper-sprayed and hit by a night stick.
Even though I was just yards away, there were so many people that I didn't see what was going on. I held up the camera like everyone else (it's the longish bit in the third video). Honestly, I'm very much against violence and I wouldn't really have wanted to see that. I have mixed feelings about the filming, the reality TV aspect, the hyping of violence because of cameras, because of a mob. There wasn't any "mob activity", so that's not really what happened there - fortunately. But it stirs up thoughts.
|Occupying Wall Street |
(1 Wall Street at the corner of Broadway)
All in all, that moment in particular made me realize that most of us had no idea that there was any violence going on at that point. You had to want to be there in the front row, you had to want to be arrested. If you were five rows back, you were not at risk at that time.
So I have mixed feelings about some aspects of the protests, the media coverage, our actions as participants and observers.
I have full admiration of the people spending days and nights at the park. Their ability to organize meetings, work groups, twice-daily assemblies, speakers, food, communication, a printed paper, a library, a medical station, cell phone charging stations, PR, recruitment, warmth, entertainment, marches and many, many debates. All kinds of donations are appreciated!
|Food at Occupy Wall Street|
In some ways I feel like I want to get more actively involved. Really BE there. But the reality is that I have work to do and some other concerns.
So for now, I will continue to show up for protests and I hope that my videos and photos and this lengthy personal account will help spread the message:
Enough is enough! We need a fairer, more humane economic and social system! It may not happen overnight, but change is going to come (and if we're lucky it won't get worse before it gets better)!
I am part of the 99 Percent.