Occupy Wall St, Part 2

I returned to Zuccotti Park today. Since I was there, I have been to Occupy St. Louis and NYC endured a surprise winter Nor’easter, which dumped a heavy wet snow. Immediate calls went out for winter gear. The city removed gasoline and electric generators in the name of safety. Mayor Bloomberg wishes that everyone would go home. If anything the resolve of the protesters is strengthened. Some serious tents now crowd the park. The path winding through the park is narrower as the tents cover about all the available space. There are now safe tents for women and soon for men.

The homeless are in evidence. Commercial sales of Occupy Wall St buttons and T-shirts are present on the outskirts of the park. Several people panhandled for money that did not seem destined for the cause. The air of camaraderie was still present. But some demands such as the American Indian protest are examples of narrow interest groups. Santa? You judge.

Members of the group got to march in the Village Halloween Parade. The neighborhood complains about the drumming. But it only occurs during the day. As loud as it seems to sound up close in the pictures, you cannot hear the drums from less than a block away. The canyons of skyscrapers absorb sound very well. And, finally portable toilets have been brought into the area. That will end the complaint of public urination. The city should have consented to do this weeks ago.

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I also attended my first political protest today. What comes to mind is, “Mr. President, you have a problem.” For the first time I saw a crowd that is unhappy with President Obama. They marched his effigy at the head of the parade. Calls for Ron Paul and the Republican Party were also seen.

Symbolically the effigy passed in front of most of the major banks of NY. The demonstrators started at Zuccotti Park and marched up to Foley Square and the steps of the New York State Supreme Court. For their part the police cooperated and let the marchers walk peacefully, clearing traffic where necessary. There was a bit of tension among the police, but there were no incidents.

There were amateurs and bystanders with cell phone cameras, and, professional videographers and photographers. NBC had a video reporter on hand. I saw no other professional media. The police presence grew steadily until, foot patrol, scooter, van, and auxiliary police were on hand at Foley Square.

The police have been doing crowd control for longer than I realized. They were efficient in handling the crowd and traffic. They had the orange nets again to hold back the crowd and to prevent them from advancing up the courthouse steps. (See the West Indian parade).

Once again the people were from all walks of life. Really, your average looking grandma ranging to college students were present. The group crosses over with Republicans and Democrats present. The news this week reported that there were homeless and mentally disabled persons who had taken advantage of the situation and had gathered in Zuccotti Park as well. My observations bore this out.

I had racial epithets hurled in my direction by one such mental case. Clearly not playing with a full deck, the homeless man wanted to call me out but couldn’t figure out what insult to hurl. So he said nasty things about the Japanese and the Chinese. Sorry. The Tea Party, no doubt, will make political hay from these knuckleheads. While largely leaderless, the Tea party has an agenda.

Unfortunately Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is all-inclusive and the agenda diffuse. Still, the crowd marched chanting, “Wall St got bailed out. We got sold out.” Lack of organization makes it particularly hard to decide whether or not you are part of the ‘99%” or whether you do not want a part.

Despite being leaderless there was some loose organization. The OWS organizers and the police both seemed to know the demonstration’s route. Once the marchers gathered on the Supreme Court steps a police official told the crowd to disperse or face arrest. Many folks started to leave, muttering that they wished to avoid arrest. The leaders gathered across the street in the plaza and around the fountain to continue with speeches.

One woman was arrested on the court steps and was quickly hustled into the courthouse. Another younger woman wearing socks ran across the street and was stopped by an undercover police officer. She was detained, but not physically abused, and then arrested. I did not see the precipitating offense. When she was cuffed, ‘Nicole’ sat down on the ground.

The police started to drag her across the street to the courthouse, thought better of it with all the witnesses on hand, and sent for the auxiliary police to escort the woman. Nicole then lay on the ground. The crowd was largely oblivious. A friend was vocally abusive to the police but did not provoke another arrest. Photographers and bystanders recorded the event.

The NBC reporter and cameraman came up to video record the arrest. The police acted with restraint and called for a police van to remove the woman. Once the van arrived she was lifted into the back accompanied by a female officer.

Her friend spoke with NBC stating that Nicole was from Virginia and that Nicole had been doing nothing wrong. She went on to say that when Nicole had run across the street, the police knocked her to the ground and then arrested her. Since I was sitting right there and had witnessed the event, I realized that I was watching news and the spin that each side uses for their own purpose.

While I agree that it did not seem Nicole did anything wrong to merit arrest, I object to slanting the news. My subsequent conversation about what I had observed planted doubt with the reporter, enough, for me to believe that this story will not play on the evening news.

Several others were arrested later. The police were not gentle. The crowd as many do when they are anonymous, shouted at the police. They were unkind. “Do your job. Let them go. Go fix a ticket.” This referred to news earlier this week during which 1500 off-duty police officers showed up at the arraignment of fellow officers for traffic ticket tampering. Also heard, “You work for us,” and “Go plant some drugs.” It makes it tough to do your job. Lately, the police have their own PR problems. I assume most of the officers had nothing to do with recent police news and they were simply there to maintain the peace.

Some thoughts occur to me now that I have seen the OWS group a couple times. There are some very angry people out there. They are fed up with our government – the whole government. They are unfocused. This is very unfortunate and perhaps a big reason why politicians are not yet embracing their cause.

The government structure in its current form will not fall by the next election cycle. OWS will have to set an agenda and decide on which candidates they will support. Even if they fire all the politicians, there must still be a government. But, big business, corporate money, and influence manipulating lobbies aside, these people out here are voters. Business doesn’t vote. And don’t forget that they (OWS) have family and friends. Yes, Mr. President, “You have a problem.” Folks want ‘change.’ And unfortunately that may mean you.

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