Journalisms — The Occupation of Wall Street — Fragments On, From, Inside, Before, Through
GE – News from the Front
DG – Some Impressions from Saturday & Monday
AH – Short Correspondences from the Occupation
GS – Letter from Athens
RG – Preoccupations with the Occupation
JC — Occupy Wall Street
JM — Some Images from Wall Street
16B – Postface (to Journalisms)
“Journalisms:” or “Our Correspondent:” or “?”
The title and mission of this collective project
is a work in progress. But the general idea is
that we cannot be in all places at all times.
So those who would like to can write a “report”
or “editorial” or “correspondence” to share
experiences for the benefit of others.
GE — News from the Front
[This note forwarded from friends on SUNDAY]
We are still occupying Wall Street. We took over a space formerly known as Zuccotti Park and renamed it Liberty Square. We have food, water, electricity, and an unshakable commitment to changing the world. If you’ve ever wondered why there have been so few anti-war anti-capital movements in the past decade, you should be here. If you have ever wondered why there is no leftist equivalent to the Tea Party, you should be here. If you want to see what real democracy, ran horizontally, with full participation looks like, you should be here. If you have thousands of dollars in student debt, you should be here. Voice your demands. This is your opportunity. It is incredible. I promise you that. Just come and join us, it’s right here, it’s now.
@nycRevMedia @occupywallstreetNYC #takewallstreet #occupywallstreet
In uncommodified hope for our future,
DG — Some Impressions from Saturday & Monday
it has been quite amazing. with my incredible personal crisis it is a light in the darkness -people who don’t know each other who are willing to sleep out in a park indefinitely in order to discuss and organize around the social crisis we are in –
this is the first NY protest I have been to that did not feel like what was about to happen was pre-determined (i.e.march, then listen to speakers) and we did not get into “protest pens”
it is the first un-permited demo I have attended where the cops were not in riot gear
incredible to see the assembly process (inspired by Spain) in action in a park in downtown NYC
many of the people are young (early 20’s) but it is not all white (as some people have critiqued) and there are some older people
the politics run a large gamut of beliefs but yet everyone seems to have accepted the assembly process and those who are not interested can do their own thing
some of the sayings that seem to be in common with the group is “we are the 99%” (meaning the people without monetary wealth), and “Debt is slavery” and “End Corporate Personhood” and a general feeling that corporations should not be allowed to influence the political process
there was an incredible display of signs which showed the range of ideas – all on cardboard that had been collected (I will send photos)
there is an energy and an amazing consensus process working with 50+ people in general assembly several times a day making decisions about how to run the occupation – from when to do marches, to how to communicate, to ideas about food, art, entertainment, and all kinds of issues that anyone can bring up
it seems that many of the people had never experienced this kind of micro-level directly democratic process and are learning as they go
It has gotten smaller since the first day but the energy has risen as the people have become more and more engaged in the assembly process.
they also seem energized by the shows of international solidarity on twitter as well as the continued donations by many people (including performer Lupe Fiasco)
they borrowed a tactic from Wisconsin and put on Twitter a request for donated pizza orders from a nearby restaurant – people called in orders from all over the place that they had too many pies by the end of Sunday night and asked donors to place orders for Monday which they did – when I was there Monday evening, the food was well stocked and the donated hot pizza’s kept arriving – it is occuPie
one critique I have read is that “it’s just scruffy college students” – when you sleep out for several nights on concrete, you become scruffy and college students/recent grads are seriously facing the crisis too with their massive student debt and lack of job opportunities and just endless unpaid internships…sure this action does not have the same diversity of life strata’s seen in Spain or Greece but let’s face it in the U.S. right now even a problematic, small start is something
mostly I have to follow from home via this twitter feed: https://twitter.com/#!/OccupyWallStNYC and watching the live stream http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution -unfortunately when the live feed is not up, there are some very crappy interstitials that make it seem very questionable….but when the live feed of the assembly process is up it is interesting.
All photos above by: Dara Greenwald
AH – Short Correspondences from the first days of Occupation
– Less people today compared to same time yesterday.
– New people facilitating general assembly, aided by two facilitators from yesterday.
– A group has been meeting separately, and I was invited to join at the cage last night. I did not go because I did not feel it made sense to leave a constituted group that needs support and guidance. I wonder why there is a group meeting aside and what the efficacy of that is at the moment.
– At the moment the situation is fluid. People composition is changing. I have worked with the people organizing. Things are promising. … I have spent a lot of hours there working. What I would recommend is really questioning the simplicity and to me lack of detailed knowledge of what’s been going on at liberty plaza and what is happening on the ground. Also the email language is a bit prejudging the outcome and the composition of the group which is problematic. Past experience may be blinding now in how people are seeing what’s happening and people maybe missing the nuances of possibility that require a more active involvement rather than intel gathering and collection from a distance, which I am sensing. Too much more to write to give you a better sense of what’s happening on the ground. I think a report should make that clear to be accurate.
– Media is set up with generators and working on site as of 1 am.
– Several obstacles were overcome, and inspiringly a culture and character is forming. Over 200 people with candles marched silently to each of the barricades of wall street.
– Final thought: In the two days, each day I’ve seen, needs develop and challenges overcome. First day it was how do you have a plenary general assembly with 1000 a 2000 people. That was critical. We created a team of facilitators and I was an active organizer. The next day I was not facilitator but present and participating. Speaking with people. Teaching and learning and building solidarity. At the moment people need optimism, involvement, presence, rather activism/elitist politics with a lot of old bullshit dispositions or whatever I am sensing from the emails you forwarded to me.
– A workshop about anti-oppression touched on privilege in all its forms.
– Regarding campers it is unclear as the GA is still going on. And going well.
– In terms of numbers, not counting the people that are doing outreach, and noting that it’s at a low point now compared to about an hour ago, I would say 150 people.
– It may rain tonight and tomorrow. People have raised 140 dollars to purchase material to create a structure that will be supported by people as it otherwise would be a fixed structure.
– There are about 100 to 200 marching/outreaching.
– Tooth broken, graphic footage
– Mood upbeat now, a law firm had decided to represent liberty square occupants
– People getting ready for the 1 pm ga
GS – Letter from Athens
I am in Athens and I tried to find some of you and let you know that I have been talking with many people from the General Assembly here at Syntagma square in Athens. I experienced a half empty square, many inside(rs) fights, too much conversation and not so much participation.
Sadly, I can see a few of the problems that arise in the GA at Syntagma since the beginning of the summer.
On the one hand it allowed for various voices to be heard and issues to be revealed from individuals of different age, gender, cultures, experiences but it may have lost an important momentum to become a place that immediately activates formations of various groups, actions and propositions for gatherings that people take power in order to act upon problems, current practical problems and not ideological ones.
The GA is not a metaphor and it becomes like that when we persist only on the process conversations and semantics analysis, which mostly comes from party members and when we persist on a neo-liberal politeness which instead of helping us learn and educate each other on the political presence in the squares, it forces us to policing ourselves and be again spectacles of others taking decisions or making the agendas for us.
To learn from each other and to do things together is to be able to speak but also simultaneously be aware of the old languages we represent and we speak. The creation of a new language that was formed during the massive Public Assemblies is now again inside the apartments, behind closed doors. The reason why the square is empty is not because the people’s assemblies didn’t succeed but because they actually set on a social fire, the coupling of politics and life that wasn’t even imagined a few months ago.
This is only the beginning, it is still echoing everywhere and to everyone. You can feel the echoing in the opening of new social centers in the city, the creation of many neighborhood assemblies, the production of flyers and texts, the massive school and university occupations, the multiplicity of affinity groups. The GA is not a central political formation. It moves the bodies. Sometimes gatherings split to exist in smaller units in the spaces of the metropolis and sometimes they gather together again when it is needed. Who is able to predict what those bodies want and need and when? There can’t be any leader or leading idea to this movement but only forces, forces of sentiment.
As much as I could during the beginning of the GA in NY I expressed my skepticism about the occupation in Wall Street and about the issues of the GA specifically in NY. The formation of the Assembly happened through a very small number of people who some of them had a very particular personal ambition, certain leftist agendas. In particular, there was anxiety about the occupation in Wall street and lots of specific determinations of how a GA should be. Until the time I was involved in NY, the conversation was for process issues particularly about the GA, the working groups’ reports, etc… I think it became harder and harder for a lot of individuals to participate and feel welcomed because of that.
What has happened on Wall street seems to me an interpretation of what can happen on Wall Street. But it doesn’t look to me from the assemblies I have watched and the texts I have read that these assemblies yet have any meaning for anyone else except the ones that have invested personally into this whole event. I call it an event because it still has this kind of flavor. Anyways, Wall street is important because people meet again somehow without paying for it, in “public”, in NY where everything is private. The issues that came up in Athens the past months can become a strong example of how the GA in NY could perhaps try to be something more than just a presence only for process and talking but to become an environment that will create different relationships with each other…
Well we will see.
It is very clear from the beginning of the GA that there is a target against anarchists, in my opinion only because of an inarticulate (party) left(ism) fetishism. What is practically significant right now is to let the variety of ideas to be expressed and we shouldn’t let the expression of Equality to become Oneness-which is what is often promoted as equality- and Freedom for all to not end up being freedom only for the ones that agree with them (party leftists).
The Athenians and all the friends here are with you.
I propose we all make agendas and propose them to the GA. Try to discuss specific issues and articulate opinions and criticism on problems that have to do with our lives. Allow the GA become a forum for the articulation of thoughts and desires rather than simply allowing the same voices to dominate the discussion and solve problems.
Those who have critiqued the anarchist and horizontalist positions of many in the General Assembly have no imagination and that’s the reason why they attack.
RG – Preoccupations with the Occupation (09.20.11)
1. On January 30 2011, a few days after the initiation of the historic protests against the Mubarak regime, an announcement was sent for a discussion at 16 Beaver which included a meme about a solidarity public gathering that week on Wall Street which would call attention to and connect the events in North Africa to the transnational oligarchs in our own neighborhood. Though it took some time, as most of you know, this Saturday that solidarity gathering took shape.
2. In early July, Adbusters, a counter-culture, street art, subvertizing ‘anticonsumerist’ zine put out a wish to flood Wall Street on September 17th with 20,000 protestors and form an encampment. In another part of the world, a call by a relatively widely distributed magazine, even a fringe counter-culture one from Vancouver, could be dismissed as emanating from within ‘the system’ or a promotional stunt. But in the US, where mass culture (counter or not), spectacle, and ‘having a wide reach’ are not seen de facto as suspicious: different groups in the city, began to explore the idea of taking this call seriously. More importantly than the aforementioned characterization, the overwhelming motivation to take this call seriously came from the fact that it touched upon what many activists globally and locally already felt, that nothing will change until this global oligarchy, whose symbolic headquarters are on Wall Street was addressed directly and concurrently to other movements.
3. Since August of this year, a General Assembly (GA) was formed in New York City. The first session was around the corner from the space, at the bull which splits Broadway into two. The statue of the bull that sits at the head of the square has, since the tumult in the markets, become a site of pilgrimage for tourists. That gathering was an intersection point of various forces and threads who thought this call could be taken seriously. The Sunday before the August 2nd meeting, a discussion was organized at the space which included several of those initiating threads.
4. Those forces and threads included New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts (a coalition of different groups and parties of various ideological backgrounds resisting cuts in New York state toward education and social services), activists from Bloombergville, a group of individuals who had a strong fidelity to the May 15 events in Spain, students fighting state wide budget cuts, individuals who were connected to the General Assembly and resistance to austerity measures in Greece, some who felt strong affinity to the revolts throughout the North Africa and Middle East and felt that solidarity could only come through mutual recognition of and struggle against a global financial-industrial-military class, … in addition, there were various horizontalists, anarchists, individuals who felt something needed to change and were open to experiment with political forms outside conventions.
5. The first General Assembly was itself a lesson in different political processes. It was a struggle over different conceptions of what an assembly could be. Those who had initiated the call, had used the name of People’s Assembly, but it began like any fringe political rally in the city. Megaphones or speakers, some people holding signs against cuts or class war, and a line up of individuals speaking in front of local television cameras all outflanked and outnumbered by police. The only difference was that in addition to this group, there were actually some people who had arrived who had no interest in making grand proclamations to the media and were interested in exploring this assembly form. After attempts to institute an assembly within that rally and hold the ‘organizers’ accountable for their naming were unsuccessful: a parallel discussion alongside the rally was constituted, which started as a handful of individuals sitting in a circle. But by the end of the day, all 50 or 60 people who were present sat in a circle, debated largely what kind of groups would need to form, where and when the next assembly would take place.
6. That August 2nd event resulted into weekly meetings of a General Assembly (GA) which included thematic groups, practical groups preparing for actions like the Wall Street Occupation as well as subjects which could be explored or discussed by the GA. All the meetings were held in ‘public spaces’ and open to anyone to take part. The meetings ranged from discussion of whether demands should be made, to legal questions, to building up an outreach committee, to even more practical matters like how food could be organized for large numbers of people.
7. Though this occupation is nascent and can falter at any moment, it is a remarkable achievement of mobilizing around an shared image, manifesting into a reality, within a very short time frame, and through an open, non-party affiliated, horizontal process.
8. That process has not been without its ambivalences and strong disagreements. On the one hand, the process has included individuals who have very entrenched political ideological positions, who believe little will change unless it takes place through a party (namely, their own), through clearly formulated demands, through distribution of message via mainstream media, through what they learned in whatever school of organizing or political subjectivation they adhere to or have endured. On the other end of the spectrum, particularly with those who have had experience in the alter-globalization movements of the late 90’s, there is an obsession with process, organizational form, and even logistics. These participants understand how ideological discussions can take away from meaningful and necessary organizing for a direct action. And this has been extremely useful in the pre-efforts for this occupation. But there are limitations. In some instances, critical discussions and disagreements lose space because they ‘disturb the process’. Moreover there dimension in all of the pre-occupations of the participants that has difficulty factoring in the experiences of North Africa, the Middle East, and to a lesser extent Greece and Spain.
9. For activists in the US, Greece and Spain point to long standing anarchist, leftist political cultures which still occupy some place within their contemporary political cultures. Thus, it is easy to distinguish the apathy felt in the US against a projected image of a vibrant political culture in which general strikes can be organized, large rallies can be held, and even mainstream political actors have histories in socialist, communist or other Leftist backgrounds. But these US activists have a harder time justifying their tempered imagination when confronted with what has taken place in a country like Tunisia, where an active political culture was criminalized after the struggles against colonialism.
Among the factors, seems a tacit belief that there is not enough of a mature political culture in the United States, which could allow an occupation of a site like Wall Street to molecularly disseminate beyond a few hundred people. And it appears even for many of those involved in preparing this occupation (which is much more nuanced group holding many more positions than those described), what remains hard to grasp is the potency of this kind of direct action at this particular moment in history. This brew of preoccupations (the work and struggle in advance of any direct action like occupying a square) and the unforeseen resonation, multiplication, and signification of that occupation, that action, through self-mediation processes (using various online tools) as well as through the memories of what they have witnessed unfold in other parts of the world creates a very different force of signification.
For example, what is the experience of a police officer who attempts to force a protestor out of Liberty park when just months ago he may have watched television and identified strongly with protestors occupying a square and resisting tactics of an oppressive state to ‘restore order’? And what are the emotions of a by-stander or someone working in a law firm, who associated these actions in Cairo with the basic rights within any democracy and today must see that same action being denied or criminalized in their own city?
10. In short, the context in which this action is taking place today is not separate from the action itself. The situation is a new one or it can be one, if multiplicities act accordingly. Claims to freedom of expression or democratic right to assembly one year ago, do not have the same signification today. And this is a very important development that must not go unexamined or underutilized. Even the strategy of occupation has retained new signification.
Just a few years ago, when the occupations of the New School, NYU, and beyond took place: even among those sympathetic to those actions, there was a relatively prevalent critique that these gestures/tactics were hollowed out and that they re-performed an imaginary from the 60’s. Some even went on to claim that they belonged to a white privileged minority who could afford to stage protests, risk arrests, make no demands, etc…
Today, such rationalizations for disengagement with such actions is a little more difficult to make. After we have witnessed the immense strength and potency of collective occupation of space in the urban context, there is a renewed sense that several hundred individuals can alter a lot in the flow of a city and/or movement. And once that collectivity can enact a direct non representational democratic process and begin to mediate the results of that process to a wider public, the potential for a counter-power to the theater of opposing parties and media pundits emerges. These occupations are not simply a regurgitation of past histories and if they are, they are so, because the reassertion of a common use for something which has been rendered private, is a critical part of any effective political process. The addition of technological tools which can transmit and directly mediate these embodied practices creates a force multiplication the results of which the multitudes are only beginning to sense.
11. Beyond this idea of bringing back to common use something which has been rendered separate, one could say that an occupation is simply a strategy to seize a territory from another party. It is a recoding of space through an embodied, placed, situated, sustained, unrelinquishing presence. But immediately, the question will emerge, but … what does it mean to occupy ‘public space’? Theoretically, public space belongs to the people. But as it is practiced and policed in many parts of the world today, public space is identified as state controlled space. But in an era when public (i.e.,state) and private interests become indistinguishable what does such an occupation mean? That is, under a neoliberal doctrine (a doctrine which posits the state as caretakes and police for private interests, for capital) the line which purported to divide the public and private is ever more clearly obsolete.
In this same logic, what remains ‘public’ is strictly all that cannot be profited upon. And private is less connoted with single or individual, and increasingly more with the deprivation that comes inside a transnational corporatized universe. Thus to occupy ‘public space’ is first and foremost to acknowledge that ‘public space’ no longer exists. It exists as a legal fact, and it exists as a terrain of struggle, but it is a struggle that appears tied also to a legacy and language of another century. This is not to concede or capitulate toward accepting this privatization. But in a neoliberal age when public and private are but two faces of the same coin, and the doors between business and government are revolving, then the struggle to retain or occupy ‘public space’ is to also acknowledge that one is inhabiting a ghostly or chimeric terrain.
One struggle maybe to reassert certain common rights using existing laws, which is the path that will win immediate results. And will win protestors the rights to maintain the occupation. But longer term, the task may be to construct a third space breaking the binary between public and private. This space, we can preliminarily name a common space. A common space is characterized by practices of commoning. The space can be private, it can be public, this is not irrelevant, but may not be the anchor which determines how a space is read, felt, produced, functioning. Because this distinction belongs to dead language. It is the usage that will determine if a space is common or not.
12. Dead language relies on words which have been hollowed out of any operative function, or meaningful usage. Dead language refers to significations which have strayed so far away from their initial usage that they begin to be deceptive. In fact, if such words function operatively, they do so as disguises to prop up convention, to reassert a reality or an ancient regime. How the word ‘democracy’ for instance had been used prior to this new year to justify wars waged for preserving economic interests, is just one glaring example.
13. Thus, the struggle over space is also a struggle over language, language which mobilizes imaginaries, and inevitably calls for invention. The need to struggle or play with this language comes from the realization that any victory for asserting the rights over usage of ‘public space’ still amounts to permissions granted through state bodies which are identified as caretakers of ‘public’ interest.
14. The naysayers who decry or take away from such actions for their lack of diversity or scale do little to put their bodies on the line and work toward such a goal. As much as they are willing to go and recruit voters for bankrupt political parties (whom they disagree with) in the name of electing a lesser of two evils, they remain equally skeptical about experimenting with new forms of political agency. And they find any reason to continue with the same dead forms of political logic which have historically proven themselves to foster the most oppressive states. Thus the question of scale and diversity which emerges in analyzing an action such as the Wall Street Occupation is often a kind of cover through which individuals talk themselves out of taking action.
15. Anyone who understands the basis of political processes knows that if everyone simply acts their part, nothing changes. If individuals who do not have time to protest, or to write poetry for that matter, continue to act as if they do not have time to protest (or write poetry) nothing changes. Politics involves performing a power one does not have and it requires taking the time, one theoretically does not have, to perform a task one is theoretically not able to perform. What could be a more potent manifestation of that power than the protest of undocumented individuals throughout the US which transpired several years ago? But how to sustain such a ‘performance’ of a power? And how to distinguish the performance of a ‘power to’, as opposed to a ‘power over’?
16. Outside of the political strategies which have been employed since the 70‘s to depoliticize and deprive individuals the time and means to struggle for another reality, there is a sense that even in moments such as the one we are living through. The first defeat is a defeat of imagination. How do individuals talk themselves out of taking direct action? Or to transform direct action into yet another distribution of known parts? How is it that individuals go day in, day out, and complain about how things work, and yet, easily find excuses and rationalizations against participating in nascent political formations? Regarding the latter question, one recurring figure involves a certain habit of invoking ‘reality’ or ‘pragmatism.’ But how to invoke pragmatism (or reality for that matter) when their coordinates are anchored by a capitalist logic? What does it mean to attribute and give so much credence to a reality which is itself constituted through a mobilization of energies governed by fiction. There is no intrinsic value to money. And is not such an ‘investment’ of libido, of imagination, of belief, not itself the widest chasm to overcome in recognizing and acting in fidelity to an emergent political situation? That the risks of abandoning such a belief are greater for some than others is clear and not the point of contestation. But when multiplicities of individuals are workless and yet do not take political action, our analysis of political inaction must go beyond simplistic and patronizing claims that hover around privilege. The struggles of the 60’s showed that meaningful solidarity did not emerge simply by diversifying the composition of those one struggles with, but acting directly within a milieu while remaining open to affinities, accords, and acting in conjunction with others. Thus, broadening a movement requires successes, requires inspiring the imaginary, and active attempts to conjoin to other struggles through the collective enunciations. Thus those collective enunciations do not have to formulate demands to those who command. They can rather be enunciations which directly enjoin the individuals or groups one finds affinity or seeks to build solidarity with.
17. In a talk given in the early 80’s by Murray Bookchin, entitled the ‘The Forms of Freedom’, he develops a proposition that if there would be a form for negotiating through the complex arrangement of common questions and the necessity for individuated human expression, representative democracy would have to give way to more direct forms of self-organization. At the conclusion of that talk, he theorizes the political form that such a freedom could take, which could negotiate common questions and retain space for individuation, would take the shape of a General Assembly. The GA in Liberty Plaza is a practice of such a form of freedom, occurring in the midst of a global experiment, a self-education process of what a direct democracy may require, the immense power of working collectively in a horizontal process that throws out the binary and divisory logic of parties. It may last a few days in New York, or possibly months. The occupation may be destroyed by police or we may retain the right to persist and restore this private/public space to common use. But the longer term implication and experiment remains embedded within the form of politics that is being practiced there.
JC — Occupy Wall Street
1. Let me start by saying that any action taken on Wall Street is welcome and will hopefully draw attention to a banking system that is at the heart of the antiquated and unsustainable system of capital accumulation.
However, though symbolism is important, there are limits. I had gone online to sign up in May for the occupation but I knew that Wall Street is the one of the most secured public spaces in America. I had personal experience with the security there because I have a history of making art and doing agitprop performances there going back to 1992. Another issue is the erroneous comparison of Tahrir Square, a major public town square in downtown Cairo, to a pedestrian mall between the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall.
So it came as no surprise that Wall Street was completely closed off. However, I was delighted to see that the police had barricaded the Bull on Broadway. Even the officers seemed embarrassed by the absurdity of the gesture.
As some of you know I started the Aaron Burr Society in the summer of 2008, before the crash. The Society’s roots go back to 1992, when as a member of the artist collective REPOhistory, I designed a street sign titled “The Advantages of an Unregulated Free Market Economy.” The back of the sign stated that since 1890s, government deregulation and fraud was the cause of every major financial crash and the depressions/recessions that followed.
The Aaron Burr Society is dedicated to exposing the myths of Free Market and Free Trade while challenging the integrity of Wall Street and their corporate cronies. Since April Fools Day 2009, I have been spending paper currency stamped “Free Money” on one side and “Slave of Wall Street” on the other. At first most people didn’t get it but now, from Maine to North Carolina, and in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, I can personally attest to the fact that people do get it. Occupy Wall Street has a potentially large constituency.
2. There was another occupation earlier this year. It was the occupation of the State Capital Building in Madison Wisconsin by unions and their progressive supporters. I went to Madison in February to support my union sisters and brothers. As a member of AFL-CIO local 1460, United Federation of College Teachers, I was reimbursed for part of my expenses. Documentation is posted at http://aaronburrsociety.org/Unions_Madison_Wisconsin.html
The difference between Madison Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street is telling. Madison was a real spontaneous, grassroots movement that actually replicated events in Tahrir Square. It is important to understand that the state of Wisconsin has a strong socialist history. And the state’s socialist football team, owned by the people of Green Bay, won the supper bowl. The Wisconsin protests and occupation was an inspiring and joyful gathering of diverse people dedicated to social justice. I was there the day that the police and fire fighters unions joined the protesters. It wasn’t a Battleship Potemkin moment but it was a powerful. This is something that progressives should use since similar actions are taking place in Ohio and Michigan. It is also an issue that concerns New York City police officers, fire fighters, teacher and other public employees.
It is a sign of the political times that I don’t remember President Obama even mentioning the unions in Madison. But I do know that he did nothing to support their cause.
3. Because the Aaron Burr Society has been doing agitprop on Wall Street since 2008, we have had many interactions with the police. May favorite was this year’s April Fools Day action. It was a miserable day, 38 degrees and raining, only food delivery people were out on the street. I had used social media sites to announce the action including UNCUT NY; a site dedicated to resisting economic cuts to social programs. Two other hale and hardy Burrites were there. We were under the portico on the top of the steps of Federal Hall to keep dry before we started, when a man in an overcoat, jacket and tie come up and asked if we were the Aaron Burr Society. When I answered yes he pulled out a badge and then a dozen police officers appeared from nowhere.
I told the detective that I knew my rights and that we weren’t breaking any laws. Then I turned to the uniformed officers and said that I was a union man and had been to Madison Wisconsin to support our sisters and brothers occupation of the State Capital Building. They nodded with what I took to be approval. The detective then asked what I was going to do, to which I replied that I would blow my horn and call out that Wall Street Bankers are criminals and financial terrorists while marching around the block to the Federal Reserve Bank and then back to the NY Stock Exchange.
The detective gave me a police escort of three officers and sent us on our way. At the end of our march, I asked the officers what they thought. One of them responded that he “didn’t have a problem” with anything that I said.
Months later while walking to Bowling Green to join Occupy Wall Street I stopped to speak to the police. I introduced myself as a fellow union member and once again said that I had been to Madison to support the police, fire fighters, teachers and public employees. I also mentioned that the police and fire departments were losing thousands of officers through attrition and that would make their job more difficult and dangerous. I went on to say that the criminals were the bankers and they were victims of the crime as well as the people protesting in the streets. Since this was a large action as opposed to the intimate encounter I just described, only a few officers acknowledged comments.
Later in the day after we marched up Broadway to occupy the park, a detective approached me, the same community affairs detective I had met on April Fools Day. We had an interesting conversation and he went on to tell me that data seemed to indicate that crime was going up as the number of police went down. He was very factual and non-committal but he had initiated the conversation and he gave me his card.
4. Currently the Aaron Burr Society is collaborating with Noah Fischer on a series of agitprop performances on Wall Street called the “Summer of Change.” We are distributing $100 for each of the six actions: the dollar, half dollar, quarter, dine, nickel and penny. Kickstarter financed the project. Our last performance was to distribution 1,000 Franklin D. Roosevelt dimes. FDR was the greatest of the American Socialist Presidents. We used excerpts from his speeches and referenced actual programs he enacted. It’s interesting that the president that led us through the Great Depression is rarely mentioned today.
The Democratic Party ignores FDR just as they have ignored Occupy Wall Street. They also ignore or merely give lip service to what’s happening in Madison Wisconsin. We can’t expect Ad Busters to reach out to these communities but there are organizer and unions that have deep roots in communities across the country. I believe that what happened in Madison was amazing, even though they apparently lost the first battles. But the unions in Ohio had more success and the more they cut social programs, the stronger the push back.
I still hope that a strong, progressive movement can take root in America. That is the reason I have been working to rewrite history and mythology. I still hope that the symbolism of Occupy Wall Street can be made into powerful message that can transcend class, race, gender and sexuality.
All Photos Above compliments of Aaron Burr Society
JM — Some Images from Wall Street
All Photos Above by: Josh MacPhee
16B – Postface (to Journalisms)
Journalisms started at a time when blogging had not quite taken hold. The ability to share intimate or immediate thoughts and analysis with a large group of individuals was felt as one of the rich potentialities of the internet. The form was different than mailing list discussion forums in that it allowed another kind of publishing to emerge, neither news, nor strict scholarship, nor diary, nor essays, but some other form between all of those.
What differed in journalisms from what blogging has become was that these texts were not written for an abstract public, but first and foremost for an open community of individuals who had subscribed themselves to the list. And moreover, that this same community had a consistent opportunity to meet in person, in a space dedicated to meetings, readings, screenings, discussions and other activities.
Today, it is rarer that we send them out, with the influx of so many emails, announcements, and promotions, we have attempted to keep emails to a minimum.
We have elected to send this one out, rather than simply post it on our website, because it is timely and connects directly to much of what has been organized in the space at least over the last year. Moreover, many individuals who subscribe to our list live beyond New York and the US, so the news around these events will be much more abstracted with much less intimacy than what is sent below.
Some of the texts are really fragments of correspondences, others are directly formulated as reflections upon a process unfolding for this email. None of this is intended to overstate these events. Even if this occupation is a micropolitical experiment, it may have, if it resonates with others, a much larger and longer term ramifications
Screenshot of September 24th Draft of Principles