Category Archives: Michael
Annalisa Quinn at our beloved local NPR station WNYC mentions the city’s “almost apology…” read more…
Will Bunch on Philly.com sums it up perfectly in his headline “Books 1, Police State 0″ and breaks it down nicely for the haters “Even if you totally disagreed with the Occupy Wall Street movement (as I’ve noticed from past comments that one or two of you might), you must agree that authorities destroying so many books was creepy and smacked of what happens in totalitarian states. This is a small measure of justice, and in 2013 America we’ll take any justice we can get.” read more…
Shawna Gillen blogging at Policymic.com grudgingly predicts a precedent has been set here: ”While the NYPD and Brookfield had a strong case to justify taking control of the park, they certainly took a cop out strategy to avoid even more fees. If this case sets any sort of precedence, protestors will have more opportunities to win settlements from New York City.” read more…
Business Insider‘s Michael Kelley reports quite accurately on the raid and destruction of the library “Around 1 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to evict protestors — some of whom had camped there for almost two months — from Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Financial District. The police threw away 5,554 books from the Occupy library and destroyed media equipment in addition to removing tents, tarps, and belongings.”…and even better, Business Insider refers to the movement, quite correctly, in the present tense “Occupy Wall Street is a movement, beginning on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square, that protests the role of Wall Street in the 2007 financial crisis and aims to resist the influence of major banks and multinational corporations.” read more…
Huffington Post featured a photo of the later days of the library, when a good part of the collection was protected by Fort Smith (maybe someone will correct Wikipedia on this now..) and uses the AP story to declare “New York City has agreed to pay Occupy Wall Street protesters more than $100,000 for property damaged or lost when police cleared out their encampment in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011, according to court documents signed on Tuesday.” read more…
The Daily News chose to show off Steve’s smiling face and sounds surprised that a collection of graduate students, writers, artists, seasoned activists and librarians was able to work with a skilled civil rights attorney to win this case… as they report “Remember the anti-authority message of Occupy Wall Street? Remember the backlash over its vague goals and nebulous methods? Surprise! Occupy Wall Street (OWS) just struck a sizeable victory, and it came by working within the system.” read more…
The Voice of Russia (American Edition) covers the story and connects it, unlike most of the other press, to bank bailouts! Follow the link to listen to the story: “The settlement has returned attention to the issue of bailouts, a central theme of Occupy Wall Street and a central theme of similar protests in Russia, where $25 billion was spent to bail out the financial sector and another $10 billion was spent to bail out the small business industry, said Dmitry Babich, a Voice of Russia political commentator.” read more…and listen here…
UPI chose a photo for their story that doesn’t fit their description of the occupation as a “sit-in” nonetheless, they report “New York City and a property owner have agreed to pay the Occupy Wall Street movement for books and property destroyed during a sit-in by the group in 2011.” read more…
Galleycat uses a photo of Stephen’s awesome sign that he made while trying to protect the library from being seized by the city. read more…
This opinion piece on Gather gets at least, and perhaps only, one thing right when they refer to the Occupy movement as “radical” and “anti-capitalist.” The rest of it distorts the facts or just makes things up such as “The police even stored the books for pick-up.” Well…. actually the books that weren’t destroyed were sent to a sanitation garage, not held by the police, and the tweet from the mayor’s office was nothing more than a PR stunt because they were losing the image game in the press. This article also ignores the fact that Bloomberg’s office did not preserve any books or make them available (although they lied on twitter and said they had), because most of them had been thrown away or destroyed – as the city clearly admits in the settlement. read more….(although it’s really not worth reading)
The Inquisitr, whatever that is, reports quite correctly that it was the NYPD (under Bloomberg’s command) who cost the city $366,000 in this case, writing “The NYPD’s raid on Occupy Wall Street in 2011 will cost the city $366,700. The raid was launched on November 15, 2011 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the police to evict protesters at Zuccotti Park.” read more…
msn.com mentions the police brutality charges brought by journalists who were stopped from covering the violent eviction writing “Occupy Wall Street hasn’t scaled the same heights of publicity it had in 2011, but at least one NYC organization is still feeling heat from the group. That would be the NYPD, whose (some would say heavy-handed) November 2011 raid on the group’s Zuccotti Park encampment is going to cost them $366,700 in settlement money, according to a recent court ruling. That figure covers the destruction of books, computer equipment and bicycle-powered generators the group was using. What of the brutality charges levied against the NYPD by journalists arrested while trying to cover the raid? That’s covered in a separate lawsuit. So, $366K for one raid — was it worth it?” read more….
And finally, Maclean’s uses the prototypical chanting protester image, but quotes Jaime’s blog post! “Our court case against New York City’s various officials and agencies is over!,” the People’s Library wrote on its website Tuesday. “The city has settled with us.” read more…
Although the People’s Library plans to hold a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday, April 10, at 11 AM, at 260 Madison Avenue) there is a great deal of attention on your library in the press tonight. So I wanted to round it up here and share how the story is shaping up in the media so far:
The New York Times opens with “As myriad court battles pitting the Occupy Wall Street movement against New York City agencies proceed, protesters claimed a victory on Tuesday, based not on how they were treated, but on how their books were mistreated.” read more…
The Atlantic reports “Fans of justice will be glad to hear that New York City will pay for all those books and all that media equipment that the police trashed when it famously raided the Occupy Wall Street camp on November 15, 2011.” read more…
Reuters reports “New York City has agreed to pay Occupy Wall Street protesters more than $100,000 for property damaged or lost when police cleared out their encampment in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011, according to court documents signed on Tuesday.” read more…
The Wall Street Journal uses the AP story and writes “There’s been a settlement in the lawsuit filed over the seizure of the Occupy Wall Street library at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.”read more…
The Village Voice says “In an agreement announced today, the City of New York will pay more than $365,000 to settle a lawsuit bought by people whose property was destroyed when the New York Police Department raided Zuccotti Park and evicted Occupy Wall Street on November 15, 2001.”read more…
Gawker writes that “Occupy Wall Street won a major legal battle earlier today when it agreed to a settlement from the city of New York that will pay the activist group over $230,000 in damages and legal fees. “ read more…
New York Magazine reports “New York City and Zuccotti Park owner Brookfield Properties have agreed to pay $366,700 to settle a lawsuit over the chaotic November 2011 police raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at the plaza. “read more…
Strike Debt is launching the Rolling Jubilee as a way of getting rid of people’s debts through mutual aid. Rolling Jubilee seeks to buy defaulted charged-off debt at steeply discounted prices and then abolish the debt, keeping it out of the hands of debt collectors. The amazing thing about this campaign is that it is buying charged-off debt, so that means that if they raise $50,000, they can buy $1,000,000 worth of debt, and abolish it, freeing people from debt. Donate here or purchase tickets to The People’s Bailout, a variety show and telethon to benefit the 99%
Join Strike Debt for an updated version of an old classic, the telethon, to launch The Rolling Jubilee, a campaign that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and does away with it. Instead of collecting the debt, we will abolish it and help free the debtors!
People shouldn’t have to go into debt for an education, because they need medical care, or to put food on the table during hard times. We shouldn’t have to pay endless interest to the 1% for basic necessities. Big banks and corporations walk away from their debts and leave taxpayers to pick up the tab. It’s time for a bailout of the people, by the people.
It will be a wild night of music, comedy, magic, education, and the unexpected. This fast-moving variety show will mix well-known performers, intellectuals and activists from Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street.
Special guests include Janeane Garofalo, Lizz Winstead, Frances Fox Piven, Max Silvestri, Hari Kondabolu, David Rees, The Yes Men, actor/director John Cameron Mitchell, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Climbing Poetree, the Invisible Army of Defaulters, members of Healthcare for the 99%, Occupy Faith, and many more.
*Tickets will go on-sale Friday, November 2nd at 10AM*
$25 (abolishes an estimated $500 worth of debt)
$50 (abolishes an estimated $1000 worth of debt)
$100 (abolishes an estimated $2000 worth of debt)
$250 (abolishes an estimated $5000 worth of debt)
This is a general admission, standing event.
The event will also be livestreamed at www.rollingjubilee.org
For those looking to help in the recovery after Hurricane Sandy, here are a list of resources. I’ve worked with the Red Cross disaster relief operations here as well as doing social media work to promote Occupy Sandy so feel free to post questions about the aid situation on the ground. The most important thing to know is that the best way to direct your time, donations or resources are where they are needed. You might be tempted to put some canned food together or some clothing and bring it to an affected area, but that often causes more challenges for relief work. Instead, look carefully at what is needed and contribute based on need. If you want to donate goods, keep in mind that organizations like Red Cross do not accept such donations, the Occupy Sandy web site has many lists of donation drop offs. Please post comments with links to other organizations. If you would like to donate large quantities of goods, go to VOAD: http://www.nvoad.org/
New York Area:
Occupy Sandy: http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy
NYC Service: http://www.nycservice.org
Community Food Bank of NJ: https://community.njfoodbank.org/
Red Cross: If you are medically credentialed, email HealthServices@nyredcross.org to volunteer
Adopt NY: http://www.adoptny.org
Habitat for Humanity: http://www.habitat.org/
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org
An occupation outside of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s house is in progress in New York City at 61st and Broadway. So, head on down and show your solidarity!
Join and support online as well here: Occupy Goldman Sachs.
From the Facebook page:
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a multinational investment bank founded in 1869 and headquartered at 200 West Street in Lower Manhattan. Leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, Goldman Sachs engaged in some of the worse financial fraud the world has ever seen, including packaging and selling billions of dollars in subprime housing derivatives and other worthless securities to small and mid-level investors while hiding the fact that they were simultaneously betting against these same securities. Through such fraud Goldman Sachs decimated the 401(k)s, pensions and mutual funds of thousands of Americans.
Despite blatantly vilating the Securities Act of 1933, which “prohibits deceit, misrepresentation, and other fraud in the sale of securities,” and despite a 650-page Senate subcommittee investigation report accusing them of defrauding clients, not a single official of Goldman Sachs has been prosecuted. Rather, the corporation was rewarded, receiving more government bailout funds than any other investment bank. Goldman Sachs then used this taxpayer money to give its senior executives a staggering $44 billion in mega-bonuses between 2008 and 2011.
While Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein makes an estimated $250,000 a day, regular Americans are losing their jobs and homes at the highest rate since the 1930s. The real unemployment rate (in 2012) is almost twenty percent, far higher than the official number of nine percent, which intentionally factors out workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and those working temporary or part time jobs. The so-called “jobless recovery” means that speculators like Lloyd Blankfein can get richer even during a recession. As one private trader, Alessio Rastani, candidly told the BBC in Fall of 2011, “Most traders don’t really care about fixing the economy. If you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this [recession].” He continued with another dose of frank cynicism, “This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out. Governments don’t rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world.”
I’ve wanted to mark the recent sudden and tragic death of radical geographer Neil Smith, but wasn’t sure quite how. Just now, as I was re-reading his book “The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City” I realized that I could do this in two ways. First by sharing some passages from the first chapter, which contains an account of the eviction of the Tompkins Square Park occupation in 1988 (and again in 1991) echoing the eviction from Liberty Plaza of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, and second by sharing a link to the entire book in PDF form, which is available free online from the National Technical University (NTUA) in Athens.
Neil Smith’s account of the occupation and eviction, as well as his analysis of urban class struggle are vital texts for occupiers to understand the history of resistance in the city. For those who haven’t read them, or aren’t familiar with the occupation of Tompkins Square, they will be eye-opening:
On the evening of August 6, 1988, a riot erupted along the edges of Tompkins Square Park, a small green in New York City’s Lower East Side. It raged through the night with police on one side and a diverse mix of anti-gentrification protesters, punks, housing activists, park inhabitants, artists, Saturday night revelers and Lower East Side residents on the other. The battle followed the city’s attempt to enforce a 1:00 A.M. curfew in the Park on the pretext of clearing out the growing numbers of homeless people living or sleeping there, kids playing boom boxes late into the night, buyers and sellers of drugs using it for business. But many local residents and park users saw the action differently. The City was seeking to tame and domesticate the park to facilitate the already rampant gentrification on the Lower East Side . . .”Whose fucking park? It’s our fucking park,” became the recurrent slogan . . .
. . . In fact it was a police riot that ignited the park on August 6, 1988. Clad in space-alien riot gear and concealing their badge numbers, the police forcibly evicted everyone from the park before midnight, then mounted repeated baton charges and “Cossacklike” rampages against demonstrators and locals along the park’s edge:
‘The cops seemed bizarrely out of control, levitating with some hatred I didn’t understand. They’d taken a relatively small protest and fanned it out over the neighborhood, inflaming hundreds of people who’d never gone near the park to begin with. They’d called in a chopper. And they would eventually call 450 officers… The policemen were radiating hysteria . . .’ (Carr 1988:10)
. . .In the days following the riot, the protesters quickly adopted a much more ambitious political geography of revolt. Their slogan became “Tompkins Square everywhere” as they taunted the police and celebrated their liberation of the park. Mayor Edward Koch, meanwhile, took to describing Tompkins Square Park as a “cesspool” and blamed the riot on “anarchists.” Defending his police clients, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association enthusiastically elaborated: “social parasites, druggies, skinheads and communists” –an “insipid conglomeration of human misfits” –were the cause of the riot, he said. . .
Smith, N. 1996. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. Routledge.
A round-up of today’s lawsuit in the news:
As Reuters and the AP have picked up the story, it’s now appearing in dozens of papers and web sites nation-wide. From the Reuters coverage: ”Occupy Wall Street filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against New York City, claiming authorities destroyed $47,000 worth of books, computers and other equipment confiscated from the protesters’ encampment in lower Manhattan last fall.” and includes the case information “The case is Occupy Wall Street et al. v. Michael Bloomberg et al., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-4129.”
The Republic uses the Reuters coverage and writes of the November raid and today’s lawsuit: “Police conducted a surprise overnight raid at Zuccotti Park . . . clearing scores of protesters who had set up tents at the plaza near Wall Street and dealing a significant blow to the movement’s potency. As part of the sweep, Occupy claims, police officers seized more than 3,000 books from the “People’s Library.” While some of the books were eventually returned, many were in unusable condition, while the rest were apparently destroyed, according to Occupy’s lawyer, Norman Siegel. The lawsuit also questions whether the raid itself was constitutional, Siegel said.”
The Wall Street Journal is using the AP report which says that the “federal lawsuit accuses New York City of violating the Constitution by raiding an Occupy Wall Street site last year and destroying books.”
The Gothamist coverage quotes Norman Siegel, “one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit says ‘It not only addresses the seizure and destruction of the books, but it also seeks to show why, how, and who planned the raid on Zuccotti Park.’ Siegel adds that the city should have been subject to a court hearing before seizing and destroying the thousands of books that made up the library—including Bloomberg’s own book. ‘Every other city did it before they raided encampments, but not here. The city violated the civil rights of the librarians. The Bloomberg administration had the power to do what they did, but not the right.’”
The NY Daily News reports “The bookworms of Occupy Wall Street have slapped the city with some hefty library fines.“
Democracy Now! reports on the lawsuit, noting that “With thousands of books, the library was a proud fixture of the occupation of Zuccotti Park” - video at 11:44.
The Paramas Post covers the lawsuit here.
The following is an update on the #OccupyThought project. They are seeking Occupiers and others for feedback on this first round of papers.
“We have released our first dozen papers, and are seeking comments, critiques, and responses from theorists and activists. Please join the conversation here: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/tne/cluster/occupythought
Additional submissions are also welcomed, both from concerned scholars and from theoretically-minded activists. The extended deadline is March 20th. Address inquiries to d.e.wittkower at gmail dot com, or stay informed about the project here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/occupy-thought“
#OccupyThought: First papers
After inviting the People’s Library to set up in their nightclub and using our name and graphics in their advertising, WiP’s creative director, Stuart Braunstein decided that the 99% weren’t up to his standards. The Village Voice reports:
More than 50 library supporters were kept outside in the pouring rain and ultimately turned away as bouncers determined they didn’t fit the look the club was going for.
“Some of your people my door is telling me haven’t taken a shower and smell and look homeless we can’t let them in cause this is a business,” WiP’s creative director, Stuart Braunstein, told Boyer in an email when Boyer asked that why library supporters were being turned away from what was promoted as a library event.
Relations deteriorated from there. A club manager brusquely told the librarians to get their table of books out of the club’s main space, where they had been set up for several hours. “I need this all out of here, now,” he said.
“Wow — that whole exchange felt exactly like a lot of our interactions with the cops,” said librarian Darah McJimsey afterwards, as behind her a heavily feathered burlesque dancer began to strip down for the club’s growing crowd.
After Miller intervened on behalf of the library, they were allowed to keep their table, albeit in a hallway outside the event space. But at that point, the librarians weren’t clear why they were even there.
“I want to give a shout out to the People’s Library!” Miller said as he took the DJ’s podium a few minutes later. “Who brought books to donate tonight?” The audience barely looked up from their cocktails, and Miller launched into his set. Out in the hall, the last occupiers pushed past the bouncers and out into the rain.
“The club failed us,” Boyer said as he left. “We had an understanding. Our name and our imagery are all over the flyers for this event, we promoted it, and now they’re not letting us in. We feel used.”
Good riddance, said Braunstein afterward. “I found them fucking ungrateful. I did them a favor, and it wasn’t the favor they wanted, so they threw a little fit. A bunch of them tried to get in, and they probably hadn’t showered in days. All of a sudden I’m supposed to change my rules for them? It’s a night club!
“I’m not about dividing people into the 99 and the 1 percent,” Braunstein said. “But honestly, the Wall Streeters inside are a lot nicer than those guys, and at least they pay some of my bills.”
Media are picking up the story of the violent attack on students and faculty inside a CUNY campus last night and a petition is up calling for the Chancellor of CUNY to resign. boingboing covers it here. Chronical of Higher Education covers the story here. The NYT cityroom blog covers the events here and reports that when officers began attacking, students on higher floors dropped books on the police from above. In light of recent events, I can’t think of a more appropriate response considering:
- CUNY Public Safety took up arms against students and faculty.
- CUNY students and faculty were denied entry into a meeting about tuition raises.
- CUNY students and faculty were arrested on CUNY grounds for peacefully protesting.
This event makes me question why CUNY has a police force and who do they work for? I work at CUNY, inside the Mina Rees Library, (though not for the library) and I interact with CUNY Public Safety officers every day. I’ve watched them save the life of one of my colleagues. I’ve taken First Aid classes from them. In my workplace, they have been part of the CUNY family. But now, CUNY has ordered them to take up batons against students and the officers at Baruch have complied.
A faculty statement against this violent response to nonviolent protesters went up last night. But this egregious attack on freedom of expression and student’s rights demands more. This demands an immediate response from all students, faculty and staff of CUNY and all educational institutions in solidarity with the students and faculty who were arrested last night and in solidarity with the students who were pepper-sprayed at UC Davis. They have seized our books, they have told us we can’t make music or read poetry, or assemble in the public plaza and have conversations, and now they are attacking us inside the universities across the country.
The CUNY Public Safety officers cannot and must not be used as a tool to prevent free speech. To take action, you can call the office of the CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein at 212-794-5311 or email him at email@example.com. The President of Baruch College is Mitchel B. Wallerstein and he can be reached at 646-312-3310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The following points come from the Faculty statement, and can be used as a suggestion when you call and email:
- Deplore any use of violence against nonviolent student protesters, anywhere.
- Call upon the CUNY administration to support and engage respectfully with those students, educators, and community members who are working to open up spaces for protest, dissent, and discussion.
- Declare that the use of any violence whatsoever against nonviolent student protesters will never be tolerated at CUNY.
- Insist that administrators at both the CUNY-wide level and at individual campuses not call upon any outside police forces, including the New York City Police Department, or any other city, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, in order to disperse students who are engaged in nonviolent protests.
CUNY is the nation’s largest urban public university system and consists of 23 educational institutions here in New York City. In the past, CUNY was literally the People’s University, offering open and tuition-free education to the poor and working class. However since 1975, CUNY has charged tuition and has increasingly made admission and attendance more and more difficult. The CUNY Board of Trustees has repeatedly voted to increase tuition, making access to this public institution more difficult. Campuses that used to be open to all have installed security barriers and turnstiles, and partnerships with corporations are privatizing this public educational space. At the very first CUNY General Assembly, held at Hunter College – CUNY Public Safety officers were ordered to deny entry to CUNY and Hunter students, faculty and staff who sought to enter the building and have a peaceful meeting, even though they all had proper ID. This denial of entry was based entirely on the political character of their speech. This disturbing trend at CUNY must be stopped before the people lose their university completely.
Update 3:30: Frances has just sent a photo of the Upper East Side branch of the People’s Library and says:
“It’s a festive fall day up here. The drum circle is active. We’re hungry and asked the upper east side to donate grilled cheese sandwiches so we’ll see how that turns out. The people seem very unhappy that the protestors have moved into their neighborhood for the day. We were yelled at by an elderly couple a block away from the park and I responded, “The occupiers have metrocards ma’am, and we’re not afraid to use them.”
In response to the drum circle, the NYPD has closed E 79th St. near the Mayor’s home and they are now describing it a “frozen zone.” A little research online shows that a “frozen zone” is usually an area where the NYPD use their authority to suspend the law in order to maintain the law. The declaration of a “frozen zone” amounts to declaring martial law or creating a state of exception and has previously been used by the NYPD during terrorist threats. Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones has reported on the “frozen zone” being used to deny reporters access to Liberty Plaza. So what is “frozen” in these zones?
Today, the People’s Library is displaying books that were destroyed by NYPD and DSNY on 11/15/11 during Bloomberg’s attack on #OccupyWallStreet. The books are currently in front of the iconic New York Public Library branch on 5th Ave and 42nd St.
It is Intergenerational Day at Liberty Plaza. Representatives from the Elder Council will lead a worship service in Liberty Square at 3:30pm. Following the worship service, elders will host a conversation with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and other interested individuals at 5:30pm at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South).
And at 2pm today, occupiers begin a 24 hour drum circle at Bloomberg’s home: 17 E 79th St. The mobile People’s Library will be on site! Everyone is welcome – bring something to make noise with. Join the Facebook event here. Updates on all of today’s events here. Next up, occupying Bloomberg’s house in Bermuda for the winter?
In response to violent attacks on peaceful protesters at UC Davis, students sit silently while Chancellor Linda Katehi walks to her car.
Matt Taibbi’s take on OWS captured a part of why I went down to Liberty Plaza and got involved:
“We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.
If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.
That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.
There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.
But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it’s at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned “democracy,” tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.”
A lot of people are just now starting to pay attention to the Occupy movement – the folks who don’t pay much attention to the news can’t avoid it any longer and I have a feeling that a lot of you feel this way too.
I can’t speak for the library, just myself – but this is exactly how I’ve always felt – that our priorities are wrong. Just plain wrong. Here’s part of my list:
Credit scores, mortgages, 8 hour days in cubicles under flickering lights, the lesser of two evil politicians for office, shopping seasons instead of nature seasons, individuals commuting in cars alone on 6 lane roads, blowing off the tops of mountains to power Times Square billboards, undemocratic workplaces, endless consumption of the next-big-thing-gadget, American exceptionalism, us vs. them, them vs. us, good guys and bad guys, limits on freedom for ‘our own safety’, security and surveillance, target marketing, viral advertising, blaming the poor, factory farms, rent increases, buildings sitting empty while people go homeless, foreclosures so banks can get rich, CEOs living like kings on the backs of workers, 2.3 million U.S. Americans in prison, U.S. black people imprisoned at 6 times the rate of whites, conflating the ‘freedom’ to buy something 24-hours-a-day with Freedom, 1 in 100 U.S. black women in prison, government run executions, skyrocketing obesity in the U.S. while children in the Horn of Africa die of starvation, U.S. funding of foreign military police that are used to crush dissent, and that insidious idea that unless you’re buying-in or making a wage, or working for a company that you simply do not exist . . .
I couldn’t take it anymore. And maybe some of you felt the same. And “they” are terrified of that moment when we cross that line, when we decide to go from being sick of it to saying “no.” So when you sit down and refuse to participate any longer, they yell “You can’t opt-out, it stops the gears from turning!” and they pepper-spray you and arrest you. What’s the most threatening thing to the system as it stands? When, as Taibbi puts it, you go on strike from your own culture.
The 11/15/11 eviction of #OccupyWallStreet from Liberty Plaza involved attacks on free speech beyond the destruction of our library and silencing of the occupiers voices. The New York Press Club is calling for an investigation into press suppression during the eviction:
“The Bloomberg administration appears to have made a conscious decision to exclude the press from Tuesday’s Zuccotti Park purge. If true, the New York Press Club strongly condemns what would seem to be a strategic decision to cloak potentially volatile police activity from public view.
While attempting to reach the scene, a number of reporters were shoved away and several were arrested in areas distant from the park itself. Police reportedly did not acknowledge the journalistic status of those reporters even after identities were clearly established.