Last night, I stopped by the General Assembly at 100 William Street. It was a large crowd, which caused some problems with following the rules and regulations of the place.
There needed to be a clear alley way for people to walk through, and that was easy enough. They just separated the facilitators from the assembly and people were able to walk between. A few people walking through seemed to feel wierded out by that, what with the people’s mic in operation and everything.
The head of security for that building was on hand, letting everyone know what she needed from the Occupy group. She was very professional and matter-of-factly said which mini-stairways needed to be clear, what Starbucks doors needed access, etc.
I had to leave because my feet started getting numb. I had worn the wrong shoes for the 25 degree weather. I ran over to the ferry in order to try to get the blood pumping.
But I followed the rest of the meeting by twitter from the East River Ferry. They were having an oft-repeated conversation about expending funds for Metrocards. Without Metrocards, people who are sleeping at churches around the city won’t be able to attend meetings while reaching the churches at the right time.
As they were having this conversation, an announcement was made that police vans were on their way. Very suspenseful for me to be following this from the ferry. I kept refreshing my terrible Blackberry Twitter app.
It turned out that one of the rules of this PoP was that groups cannot take up more than 50 percent of the public space. OWS was taking up a bit more than that. So they had to skwoosh together.
With the added police presence, they finished the meeting, albeit with a familiar banner rolled out, the one below asking for sanctuary for assembly.
When I was taking pictures of the marriage ceremony happening in the northwest corner of Zuccotti Park, one of the female police officers wanted me to keep moving along. I was a little bit tardy in responding to her request so she got more and more stern with me. “OK, OK,” I said with a little bit of defensiveness.
A protester who was inside of the barriers had watched this interaction and said to me, “The cops don’t realize we are doing this for them. All of their pensions are in Wall Street.” Really, he wasn’t talking to me, he was talking to the police officer, part of an ongoing attempt to recruit police officers into the movement. Police are the 99% and what have you.
On a similar note, but with a different register, and probably equally condescending, down toward the southwest corner of the park, a young woman, who was perched high up on a wall, said, out of the blue, to a nearby police officer, “I just want to tell you that I appreciate what you do and I know that you do lots of great things for the community.”
The anarchist faction of OWS doesn’t necessarily agree with this rhetoric. I have read some pamphlets coming out of their outfit that make the case that, while there are certainly police officers with hearts of gold, their role in society is to be the army of the rich.
There are two very different articles that came out from Forbes about a visit that Jeff Greene made to Zuccotti Park. In the first one, Greene comes off as very dismissive — “But not one person has come up to me to discuss anything of note. If this were my demonstration, I’d be pulling people aside and trying to talk to them. To me it’s much ado about nothing. I thought there would be at least one or two booths of highly educated people with information and ideas of what should be done.”
In the follow up, some of his other comments are mentioned. He is not nearly as dismissive — “I love that they are getting attention and bringing attention to the fact that the race to top and race to bottom for next generation leaves too many people behind…One guy talked about how we need a maximum wage, not a minimum wage; another guy said we should all just be allowed to own a few acres.”
In the follow up article, where he comes across as more generous to OWS, Greene makes some confusing statements about Egypt and Tunisia. He says, “History has shown us that if you continue to empower the poor and desperate by not treating them well and not coming up with solutions to improve their lives, then it will end badly. That’s what happened in Egypt and Tunisia where the disenfranchised took the country.” Not treating the poor well “empowers” them? Egypt and Tunisia “ended badly” when the disenfranchised took the country? I’m still trying to wrap my head around this enigmatic statement. My best guess is that he is saying that you need to throw the poor a few scraps every once in a while to keep them from revolting.
When I got to the park today, the spot where I usually see the information desk now has lots of t-shirts with nice occupy messages and designs. At first I think “Wow, free tshirts at the info desk” but then I realize they are being sold. Someone asks the guy selling them, “Is the money for us?” And the seller says, “What do you mean ‘us’? How am I not part of ‘us’?”
This is typical of the occasional resistance to salesmanship happening in and around Zuccotti. One guy a few weeks ago was shouting, “I thought this was a protest! Do you realize people are selling buttons and profiting off this?!” This was on a day a few weeks ago when there were people selling buttons and refridgerator magnets. Jeff Greene, the billionaire “infiltrator” of OWS, mentions that the place is like a street fair in that people are selling cookies. (A follow up to that article indicates he wasn’t actually as dismissive as the original piece suggests.) However, for the most part, I don’t think associate this movement with outright opposition to money or business or selling. In fact, there is a special outreach group devoted to connecting with small businesses and vendors in the area. And, of course, I’ve seen tweets to the effect of “Vendors are the 99%!”
Over at Occupy Legoland, a lawyer was doing a good job of convincing the owner of OL that liscensing this idea and buying the website for it was a good idea. At first, the Lego enthusiast was like “not my kind of thing” but a few minutes later he was seriously considering it. Again, OWS is not against money as far as I can tell, nor should it be, so this isn’t surprising. Lots of people are building up their social capital through OWS, as well.
The library is now a fully indoor facility although their structure seems to have a retractable roof. I believe that this structure has been donated by Patti Smith. It is interesting to see that new materials are at work in the construction of places in the park. The sustainability station has some gardening happening and there is a wooden structure emerging around it that reminds me of rooftop gardening structures. The angle of the roof may be intended to capture rainwater nicely.
When I walked up to the park this morning, I noticed a sign that said “Hey Bloomberg and Murdoch: ‘Enough’. Boycott the New York Post..” Another similar sign was hanging a few days ago.
This reference on the sign to “Enough” is a reference to the front page cover story in the New York Post a few days ago that said “Enough!” and pointed to an editorial asking Bloomberg to clear the park in order to maintain the dignity of the city. That cover is taped up in the OWS library. In sports, this is called “bulletin-board material”: teams post the trash talk of the opposing team in order to get energized.
These calls for boycott of NYPost echo the mocking of Fox News that have been common in the park, from the guy with the fake Fox News camera, to the “instructor” who will teach you how to talk like Fox News. The connecting thread is Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Wall Street Journal, which OWS has also riffed on, with the creation of the Occupy Wall Street Journal.
At the desk, I heard a visitor asking why a boycott would be a good idea. The info desk guy said the Post had been slandering them constantly. “How about the other coverage?” the visitor asked. “The Daily News hasn’t been bad. They had something fair in there recently. The New York Times, which is supposed to be the ‘paper of record,’ initially made us out to be dirty hippies. But they have changed their tune.”
The last time I heard about a New York Times boycott was when Middle Eastern corner shop owners stopped selling the Post after 9/11 because of the poor depictions of people of Middle Eastern descent. My corner store guys from Yemen didn’t participate. “If people give me money for the New York Post, I’ll sell it to them. I don’t care.”
The spokescouncil debuted last night at an indoor space. The spokescouncil has actual “spokes” made of people, which I think is meant to create an egalitarian way of communicating. This is one of the most innovative moves made by OWS so far. Most of their communications strategies have been imported from elsewhere, and this may be as well.
The Downtown Express weekly newspaper has a very interesting local perspective on Occupy Wall Street. They are mostly concerned about what the movement means for the neighborhood and they do a lot of reports on small business concerns.
The guy who is always at the West Side info desk called out to an older couple who were peering into the park. He said, “Come on in. Don’t be afraid. We’re not craaaaazy like the media says we are.” The couple, who had probably seen more in their lives than he knew, said that they know they’re not crazy and they took his advice to enter the park.
Another couple with a grown child were talking about the calls for “Student Loan Justice.” The wife said, “That’s the one thing I can’t get behind. If you take out a loan, you have to pay it back.” It was timely for me to hear that because I grabbed a Village Voice this morning, from the Franklin Corner Store, and the cover story was about NYU students with more than 100,000 worth of debt. One of these students said, “I want to pay it back. I’m not going to go down to Lower Manhattan and wail and cry about it. I could just use a little bit of help, such as lowering the interest rate.”
Anarchist table had a helpful new pamphlet out that breaks down the international occupy movement, element by element (decision-making process, relevant laws, etc.).
A man at the union table said, “No matter what trade you were in, they used to let you take care of yourself and your family. Noe they want to strip that away from us.” The conversation was riffing off of the anti-union Wisconsin law that had been rejected by voters the day before. The rejection of that law may have been part of the backlash against plutonomy that Ajay _____ mentioned in his Citigroup report.
If plutonomists want to keep the public from lashing back against plutonomy, what are some of the strategies? This is the part that was left out of Ajay’s report, although he did mention it would help if people felt like they might one day join the plutonomy. In his “what could go wrong” section, he said there were signs of resistance to plutonomy that Citigroup needed to keep their eye on. What he didn’t mention was how plutonomists might be proactive and keep that backlash from happening. Newspapers, pundits, public relations campaigns are some obvious answers. One of the questions I am answering is what are plutonomists doing to quell the reaction against plutonomy?
The Chinese man who I often take pictures of has a note on the other side of his board which asks that photos be uploaded to Facebook. He instructs photographers on how to circulate his message because he is aware that the existence of alternative rhetoric does not matter if it is not circulated.
This morning, at Zuccotti Park, there was a guy who was more than half naked and maybe high on drugs antagonizing the people in the park. I walked away from this but later on I noticed that he was escorted away by a crew of protesters. I’m not sure how they got him to leave but they did, and they clapped as he left.
Reports from Saturdays “Bank Transfer Day” suggest that close to 1 million people shifted their money from big banks to credit unions. A big success it seems. However, big banks have recently been saying they have too many deposits and not enough quality loans worth making. If true — and I think it is possible that banks are just trying to get out in front of the transfers so they don’t look wounded — big banks might welcome these transfers, as wierd as that sounds.
This morning I met a guy out in front of the sign that says, “They say ‘Gentrify,’ We say ‘Unify.’” He told me about his growing up in Stapleton, Staten Island and also about his current legal fights to stay in his home. One of the mottos of his organization — Picture the Homeless — is that instead of people talking about the homeless, they should talk with the homeless.
As I was approaching the park, I noticed a furious-seeming person yelling at someone. A few minutes later, someone called for a mike check — he called it a “serious mike check” which makes me think some have abused that technology. He wanted to let everyone know that someone had been coming to the park every day or everyother day to try to start fights with occupiers. The person who called for the mike check wanted people to come up with a solution to the problem because he was worried that arrests were inevitable.
The library has a new structure emerging. I wonder if this has anything to do with the tent that Patti Smith donated. According to the coordinators’ meeting minutes from 11/1/11, “Library has accepted donation fr. Patti Smith for large canope tent”
A young woman handed me a flier with “Ten Rape Prevention Tips.” I glanced at it for a second and knew something was intriguing about it just by looking at tip #1: “Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.” Once I got on the ferry and started to check out all the materials I’d gathered, I realized this tipsheet was actually a social commentary on all the rape prevention guides that aim to educate victims of assault. Who, this flyer implicitly asks, is educating the potential perpetrators of assault?
In reaction to recent news and experiences of crime and drug abuse in Zuccotti Park, there are a lot of signs up in the park offering substance abuse teach-ins and “harm reduction.” When I was collecting materials at the Broadway Info desk, a woman was explaining that her stuff had been pissed on during the night. She was frustrated by the living situation over by the medic tent — “Trotsky Avenue.” The info desk guy agreed with her that that area was troubled. “I used to sleep over there,” he said. “But its a lot of drug users over there now, so I moved up toward Broadway.” That area has been called the “fun area” and the “bad part of town.” Zuccotti Park, no surprise, is not immune from society’s ills and structures of inequality.
The woman at the info desk mentioned that she and some other women were planning to start an organization called “FBI: Female Bouncers Initiative.” Her take was that former bouncers who have been trained in de-escalation will be more able to deal with conflict in the park than the “aggro” males who are currently doing that work. There is a community watch sign up board in the park that allows people to volunteer for that duty.
The station that has been offering free empathy recently started offering mediation as well. And most recently, they have begun offering coaching.
A new sign is calling the encampment not Hooverville but Sachsville.
This morning there were little surveys on each tent that asked people to say whether the tent was occupied and how many people were in there. I think the town planners want to get a sense of how many people are where so that they can improve facilities.
Right where the General Assembly usually meets at night, this morning there was a press conference type thing gearing up at around 10am. Cornell West was on hand, as was Chris Hedges.
This report says that they were there for a “hearing” on Goldman Sachs which would be followed by a march on Goldman Sachs.
It is interesting to note how different sectors of the park evolve. For example, the Free Empathy station has been in place for a while. I wasn’t sure what they were offering “tangibly” (but then again why can’t empathy be considered a tangible thing). So, today, I see that their sign now positions the free empathizers as a mediation service, something the park definitely needs.
In response to growing concerns about space, self-policing, and resources, a few different factions in the park have responded. On the one hand, Camp Anonymous uses their strategies of harassing those who prey on the vulnerable. “We are always here,” they say, “and we are always watching.” On the web, they allegedly use botnets to take down sites that hurt the weak and/or protect the powerful. On the ground, I’m not sure what their methods of harassment might be.
The Free Empathy station, I’m imagining, has different tools for navigating conflict at the park. I suppose they are dealing with two different processes at the park. Anonymous intervenes when clear injustice happens, and the Free Empathizers intervene when people’s goals don’t harmonize. I wonder if they can play good cop, bad cop together.
Looking at the meeting minutes for the morning coordinators’ meeting, I notice how they respond to media coverage. There had been recent reports that OWS was not sharing the wealth (whether it be food for the homeless or funds for other occupations). One coordinator recommended that they step up help to Philly, but another pointed out that reacting too strongly to media reports is not a sustainable approach. She pointed out that the media is scrutinizing very carefully and thoughtful response to that scrutiny is essential. She said, “(36.6.14) I don’t think we can rely on one article to decide that to do. The media are looking for whatever chinks they can find. Let’s be deliberate. We should also thin about internat’l occupations.” Not sure why I assume this is a woman.
The idea of “thinking about international occupations” is part of a counter-narrative of globalization. It counters the narrative of globalization in which neo-liberalism is inevitable. The propositions of inevitability are reflexive in the sense that the propositions help to construct the future. Naomi Klein made this same point in an open letter to the European Union President, who had painted activist in Seattle and elsewhere as anti-globalist, in October 2001. She said, “All of the activist I know are fierce internationalists. Rather, we are challenging the internationalization of a single economic model: neo-liberalism… ‘Globalization’ must be recast not just as an inevitable stage in human evolution, but as a profoundly political process: a set of deliberate, debatable and reversable choices about how to globalize.”
As Norman Fairclough points out, “Narratives which are plausible for enough people and which they can come to believe in lead them to invest… in the imaginary futures which these narratives project, and through their committment to an investment in them…, they can bring them into being” (19). Bourdieu and Wacquant make a similar point, saying that neo-liberal discourse is “endowed with the performative power to bring into being the very realities it claims to describe.”
This is reminiscent of De La Vega’s sign that you will see around Zuccotti which states, “Become Your Dream.” OWS is part of an alternate vision of globalization which people can invest themselves in and therefore bring into reality the realities that they describe.
Given that OWS doesn’t try too hard to “describe” the reality they want to inhabit, it is more relevant to look at what they perform, rather than what they describe. Performances of horizontal discourse include the general assembly, the connecting via Twitter, and the implicit rebuffs of American exceptionalism.
There was a recent article by the owner of Milk Street Cafe, saying that his business is suffering greatly and that he has had to lay off 21 workers because of the decreased traffic on Wall Street. The barricades allow people to walk on Wall Street but it is generally a lot less open. He criticizes the protesters because they are supposedly for the 99% yet their actions hurt small businesses. This is similar to what I have overheard the Wall Street tours guy say to the tourists who he gives tours to. Supporters of OWS have said that the police are responsible for the existence of the barriers on Wall Street, not the protesters.
After the article was published on November 1st, the barricades came down on November 2nd and the deputy Mayor was seen eating at Milk Street Cafe.
A new Children’s Library opened up adjacent to the OWS People’s Library.
The Rutland Herald in Vermont is pointing to a growing legitimacy for criticism of the dominant elite. They mention that Bernie Sanders has been using this rhetoric for years but that it is becoming more mainstream. In an article titled “The New Rhetoric,” the editorialist writes, “The conservative orthodoxy that has held sway for 30 years is finally beginning to crack.” Bernie Sanders’ twitter feed called this a must read.
Camp Anonymous continues to take shape and take action. They point out that they are “always here and always watching.” Much like they do on the internet, they will use non-violent methods to attack those who harm the weak. Today they have spread pictures around the park of a guy who had been arrested for sexual assault. They have done similar operations on the web through their botnets and other means, I think. One of my posts on the web was tagged “mole.” Whenever someone comes out with a book about Anonymous, they flood amazon with 1 star ratings.
A new spot emerged near the Information en Espanol section of the park. It refers to an Asamblea Constituyente. After taking that picture, I coincidentally was reading Naomi Klein’s mention of the “asamblea” which had been gathering earlier in the decade in Argentina to try to forge a more participatory democracy, as opposed to being governed by the IMF.
The idea that “what they want” should be performed instead of stated is key to the confusion (real and disingenuous) from outsiders. Naomi Klein also mention this in her book Fences and Windows, which was talking more about the early 2000s and Seattle. Individual people may not be able to articulate the movement but the group is able to perform it.
On the West Side of the Park this morning, there was a Halloween performance for passersby. Lots of protesters were in costumes like “unemployed man.” But the incredible part was 12 foot tall cardboard monster called the “New York Slot Exchange.” It had a lot of moving parts, including a vacuum that sucks up money into its slot machine with the slogan “We Bet Your Life,” a riff off of the old tv quiz show “You Bet Your Life.” “Fox News” was on the scene.
NYPost had an interesting two-step over the past few days, which will likely discredit OWS to many. First, they write a dubious article that says that the protesters are getting sick and tired of the homeless element. A few days later, they present a page full of letters to the editor which say, “How ridiculous and hypocritical that the protesters are not willing to feed the homeless when they are complaining about other people’s greed.” This will likely be kitchen table grousing this evening.
There was a little squabble about the placement of a trashcan. One cleancut guy had moved the trashcan out of the main pathway, in the process putting it in front of the entrance to someone’s tent. The guy whose tent it was got frustrated and said “What if I put something in front of your front door?” The clean cut guy says, “You aren’t actually supposed to have tents over here on the East Side.” “Tell that to all these other people,” the other guy said, gesturing to all the other tents.
I usually walk down Trotsky Street to get to the West Side of the Park. However, today it turns out the street is a cul-de-sac. It makes sense because this area has been designated the sleeping area and people are moving their tents to there.