Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Me and Wall Street

For a minute after I got off the train at the World Trade Center stop I thought I wasn't even going to find the OWS protest. I had thought I'd just follow the crowd, but of course you don't do that in that part of the city--they are going everywhere. I knew Wall Street was somewhere off to my right so I started walking. Names that I recognized cropped up: Cortland, Vesey, Maiden Lane (I always liked that one). I assumed I was going vaguely in the right direction.

I didn't relax until I saw a news camera pointed in the direction I was walking. It had a little maple leaf sticker on the side--I and a cameraman from Canadian television were off to cover the movement. I didn't want to ask, "Can you tell me where the protest is?" Nothing more uncool than that.

Then, there it was. A little square filled with people, tents, and signs. The smell of Indian-vegetarian cooking was in the air, and young people holding signs that said things like PROSECUTE WALL STREET FRAUD lined the edges of the park. There were some 500 or more actively working in the stalls and I even got to hear one of those "human microphone" announcements. Everybody looked so happy and friendly I had trouble believing I was in the right place.

It's a little too easy to say it was the 60s all over again, but that was what it felt like. Maybe cleaner, maybe brighter, and not so angry. It looked to be mostly people in their 20s and 30s. A lady sat doing her knitting next to a sign that proclaimed she was a 52-year-old grandmother, and, "Don't wait for change. Be the change." All the people seemed to be diligently working on something--either the Liberty Library (a section of the park where books of all kinds are donated and traded) or passing out leaflets like The Occupied Wall Street Journal, and talking, explaining the mission and the movement. Nothing ambiguous about it. They were out of work and wanted to make their voices known. The top one per cent has all the money, we are not in that one per cent. We don't like being treated like undeserving children. We don't like that money dictates everything from where the jobs are (overseas) to who gets to be president--or what agenda that president follows.

The signs were well made and elegant. One read, "WE JUST BOUGHT REAL ESTATE IN YOUR MIND." Another held by a rather handsome young man said MEDIA: Please Tell the Truth about What Is Happening Here.

The Occupied Wall Street Journal is a good read. It's literate, upbeat, brief and to the point. It lists places where you can learn about the movement, or volunteer to help. It seems they need help in the areas of Outreach (mostly contacting commuters on the subway platforms and trains); Medical; Facilitation (holding daily training sessions on communication and mediation); Food; Comfort (sleeping in a park is not always comfortable, they need blankets, socks, etc.); and Design (this committee is responsible for the signs).

If you want to follow the occupation, here are some places you can go: or

As for me, the OWS movement has already bought real estate in my head.


Fran said...

Nice reporting, ML. Some of the media are saying that the protestors (occupants?) have been trashing the place. I heard on NPR that they have regular clean up patrols and even wash down the streets. What did you see?

Mary Lois said...

It's very clean. There are posters all over the park with rules, such as this one:

While at Liberty Park our cause and our security depend on everybody respecting certain protocol.

Sobriety: It is important that sobriety be observed in Liberty Park. No alcoholic beverages will be tolerated in the park.

Flowers: Respect others, respect the park and its flowers. Our ability to uphold the beauty of this park will represent our contribution to a better world.

You would LOVE the park, Fran. I wish you and Tom could be here--I even heard an impromptu rendition of "This Land Is Your Land."

Arnie Karr said...

Great perspective, ML. It's amazing the lengths some people are going to to discredit OWS, but it's just like the 60s in that regard -- they really can't effectively attack the message, so they attack the messengers.

Mary Lois said...

The messengers are angels on earth! So attack that, you know-nothings!

farmer jon said...

If you think the 1% wealthy bunch is gonna cede to park protestors, think again. Check some historical protest events world wide and in USA. Our gov't has shot down protestors right in DC, even veterans who fought for our freedom!
The 1% are like fire ants in the south; they undermine everything and make it hard for others to live w/o being stung and/or die from the reaction. When you figure out how to kill fire ants, use the same tactics to be rid of the 1%
controlling the money.

Mary Lois said...

I don't know who will prevail in this fight, Farmer J, but I think it's worth getting into. It's heartening to see that generation after generation of American believes this and eventually the pendulum swings their way. How this will play out I don't know, but unlike you I don't think it will be violent, but it may be a revolution.

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