Thursday, October 06, 2011
Occupy Wall Street: Spring Is Coming!
I haven't seen a crowd like this at a protest since some of the big anti-war marches in the run-up to President Bush's attack on Iraq. I haven't seen such a big protest with such a broadly anti-capitalist pro-social/economic justice focus, well, ever. Tonight thousands of people came out for a rally and march sponsored by a coalition of labor unions and similar organizations to support the Occupy Wall Street encampment. I missed the beginning of the event at 4:30, but by the time I got down there after work at 6:30, the march was long and spirited and I could see neither ahead to the front of it nor back to the end of it. The march ended up at the Occupy Wall Street base down at Liberty Plaza, where some dispersed, and some, a much smaller group, attempted to continue the march down to the heavily barricaded Wall Street area itself, where a small number of marchers were eventually arrested. The police presence was massive; and dozens of empty buses were parked all over the place should the cops need to fill them up with arrested protesters. I've already seen one video of a short but vicious episode of cop brutality.
"Revolution: Anything Less Is Bullshit."
I continue to be inspired and impressed by the diversity of protesters, by their enthusiasm, and by their many creative ways of expressing a fundamental disagreement with the status quo. There was a wide spectrum of opinion: and I can't but note how significant it is that despite the reputation of the Occupy Wall Street organizers for being "hippies," the organizations of working people have recognized the crucial nature of the moment and the opportunity to change the national discussion opened up by the newly vocal and rebellious left.
"No Bulls, No Bears. Only Pigs"
As a veteran of another time of activism, I'm so excited to think that perhaps the moment has finally arrived when people are waking up to the class war being waged against them, and waking up to the possibilities invited by standing together outside the structures and contexts of systems like elections that are stacked against us. A huge banner I wasn't able to get a good picture of read: "Arab Spring. European Summer. American Fall." (Someone in the crowd yelled, "Global winter!") I so worry that the approach of cold weather will dampen the fighting spirit, and I hope this nascent movement manages to hold itself together to reveal a real American Spring in the new year.
This guy was exhorting the crowd to move on to Wall Street. He was telling people around him that he had been there since the very beginning a few weeks ago, amazed that what started out as a handful of people has taken on such life and become so big. As one sign I loved said, "I Lost My Job But Found An Occupation."
There are many many challenges ahead for this movement. The left is furiously debating how to relate to this new and amorphous radicalization. (I recommend a perceptive and thought-provoking discussion on Kasama, especially this post by Kasama leader Mike Ely). There is all kind of danger of co-optation, not least from the politicians gearing up for next year's election. And there is the very real threat of repression from local police and politicians who are freaked out at the possibility of the militancy and rebelliousness evidenced this year in the U.K., Greece, Spain, and the Middle East.
But there is also so much possibility. Spring will be a beautiful season.