Die-Hard Occupiers Stay for the Meetings

November 21st, 2011 at 2:16 am | 16 Comments |

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I had made plans to go to New York to see the “Occupy” encampment at Zuccotti Park before the NYPD broke it up on November 15th. This didn’t stop me from stopping by on Saturday November 19th; I was curious to see how the movement would adapt to not being allowed to have tents in the park.

The early verdict: the park may no longer be packed but some diehards still want to hold meetings in the cold.

Zuccotti Park is now surrounded by fences and has a both a police and janitor presence. The fences mean there are only two entrances to the parks. Anyone who enters the park is greeted by a panhandler who calls himself Ben.

Ben greeted me with the refrain of “They can take the park but they can’t take our freedom!” before asking me for some money so he can buy a new sleeping bag.

Ben is a 28 year old homeless man who has been out of a job for 3 months. He was a waiter, but he says that he was unable to keep his work because of his bipolar disorder. He currently sleeps in an “abandonedminium” and says that the police separated him from his sleeping bags during Tuesday’s raid on the park.

When the Occupiers are not in their drum circle, they are in a semi-circle listening to announcements. A lot of these announcements take place with the famed ‘people’s mic’, as one person shouts and the crowd repeats.

-Occupiers gather at the North end of the park to make announcements.

Sometimes the people’s mic is used to announce missing items. While I was there I heard an announcement that a flip-cam had been found as well as a social security card.

Other times people will announce their plans or agendas for other ‘Occupy’ events. One person announced a plan to march on Mayor Bloomberg’s house on Sunday since it was his birthday. Another announced the formation of a new working group: the GSD group, or “Get Shit Done” group, since presumably nothing was getting done so a new group was needed.

In the General Assembly, meetings are long yet people stick through it despite the cold. There is an arduous process of having each person who is going to be moderating the discussion to first announce their name, and get the permission from everyone present that they consent to their moderation.

So a lot of time is spent on dialogue like this:

Andy: My name is Andy!

Crowd: My name is Andy!

Andy: I am the facilitator.

Crowd: I am the facilitator.

Andy: Is everyone ok with that?

Crowd: Is everyone ok with that?

Followed by waiting to see if anyone objects. (Yes, this has echoes of Monty Python and the Life of Brian.)

There is still a healthy side-show attached to the affair. 9/11 truthers picket on the outskirts, as does the occasional banjo player.

One particularly amusing sideshow was a person standing outside the park with a giant Chinese flag, arguing about the virtues of Communism with a group of Chinese immigrant Americans, who pointed out that if they thought Communism was great, they would not have left. (Even Ben, our panhandling greeter, though the Communist was nuts.)

I estimate that at most there were 500 people in the park while I was there. Maybe more came by later but this is surely less than when the park was a giant encampment with tents. These meetings don’t even take up the whole space, if anyone else wanted to enjoy the park, they would have been able to find spots to have some solitude.

The leaders of the movement are still around and there are still followers, but its probably going to be harder to keep people interested in this movement as long as it defines itself as a bunch of people gathering in the park and saying “Mic check! Mic Check!” over and over again.

(All photo credits in this piece courtesy of Mara Kristula-Green.)

-Some occupiers were busy rolling their own cigarettes.

-One of the signs from the meeting.

Recent Posts by Noah Kristula-Green

16 Comments so far ↓

  • djmeph

    Thank you for this, this is the first honest and fair article I’ve read on Frum Forum about Occupy Wall Street.

    When I was there a few weeks ago, the freak show was out in full force. They were using the human mic to argue over how long they could play drums, and it got very heated. I found that it would be easy for Fox News to walk around the park and film the freak show, and they need to do something about it. Bloomberg did them a favor on November 15th, IMO.

    It looks like what is left of the movement is the other side of the story, the part that I only saw for myself because the media had completely ignored it. That is the people who were standing around talking and having a dialogue. Because of that, I could even respect the pro-communism people, and some of the other nutters that were there. The point is that people were talking about the issues, they were trying to define the problem and crowdsourcing solutions. This is much better to me than a movement built on absolutes where there is no dialogue, just monologue spoon-fed to them by Andrew Breitbart and Sean Hannity.

    I’m glad to see things are going better at Occupy Wall Street and I hope no one expects this to go away anytime soon.

  • mlindroo


    These people are doing themselves (and the cause they claim to represent) no favors.
    They have every reason to be upset about the recession and the hardship it has inflicted on “the 99%”. But they should do what the Tea Partiers already have done, i.e. organize politically and put pressure on politicians to address the problem!

    Right now between 1/4 and 1/6 of the headlines at NATIONAL REVIEW, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, WSJ, Commentary, HotAir etc. refer to real and perceived OWS scandals. They are openly gloating about it too.
    Does the OWS movement really want to give free ammo to these groups?


    • Fart Carbuncle

      I think you had had too much hope to begin with.

      The only reason why this pseudo-Marxist group of groupies, hippies, and bums got the media they did is because of the mainstream media’s desires to have an antidote for the hated Tea Party.

      • jakester

        Thanks Archie
        Also, unlike the teabaggers, they are colorful and interesting if a bit rowdy, They are not a bunch of dull sheep on some quasi religious pilgrimage, playing the role of the obedient flock. Face it, if nothing else, cons are boring.

    • jakester

      I agree, these OWS shanty towns attract a lot of riff raff, especially in the heart of old worn out cities. But it really amazes me how these uptight squares on the right are so obsessed about these OWS encampments. They are so white and sterile they can’t stand anyone not clean cut like they are. Then you add psychotic vermin in the media like Michael Savage who goes on about how the OWS is fomenting not just class but race war. Well, what does he have to worry about, he has no class anyways.

  • SteveThompson

    As shown in this article, the Congressional Budget Office found that banking industry executives, managers, supervisors and financial professionals accounted for 60 percent of the increase in income accruing to the top 1 percent in America between 1979 and 2005:


    Apparently, too much is never enough of a good thing for the top of the income heap in the United States.

  • armstp

    The real estate really does not matter.

    It is about the message. The message is primarily about equality, social mobility, the distribution of wealth, etc. Basically a system that does not work or is unfair for the majority of people in this country.

    The core message will not got away anytime soon, whether there are sleeping bags or not.

  • SteveT

    Does anyone really not think that if there is another financial meltdown –as appears very possible– that there won’t be millions in the street protesting/rioting about the very same thing these guys are?

  • Graychin

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. – Ghandi

  • Traveler51

    The leaders of the movement are still around and there are still followers, but its probably going to be harder to keep people interested in this movement as long as it defines itself as a bunch of people gathering in the park and saying “Mic check! Mic Check!” over and over again.

    Glad to see a bit of humor in this. However, the sleeping giant has awakened and will not be brushed aside. April is soon here with 6 months of warm weather right behind leading to election day. Internal organizing will occur during the winter.

  • paul_gs

    All revolutions start with a good drum circle. ;)

    Thanks for the insights Noah.

  • NRA Liberal

    Instead of walking around with a bemused smile, NKG, you should have actually participated.

    The early days of OWS were amazing. Real “public square” stuff, total strangers excitedly debating the important issues of the day. Like they taught us in civics class, but never actually happens in this society.