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From Unions to Anarchists, Wall Street Protests Draw Diverse Support

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ellis Roberts with new friends in Zuccotti Park. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The Wall Street protests have recent endorsements from interested factions — large and small — making for some strange bedfellows in Zuccotti Park, the protesters’ defacto headquarters, as businessmen, union members and anarchists are among the otherwise unlikely to rub elbows.

Major city unions – such as DC 37, 32 BJ, 1199 SEIU — with a background in protesting have recently leant their support to the activists. Many joined the protest Wednesday.

And, lesser known groups, such as the Granny Peace Brigade, visible from their yellow buttons, and white hair, have leant time too.

Others, not household names, roll off the tongue of Occupy Wall Street regulars, like Food Not Bombs and Code Pink, which have also encouraged members to join.

But the denizens of Zuccotti Park are hard to classify and define, which many says is a good thing.

“One rejoices that this movement is like mercury — if you think you can grasp it, it’s going to fractionate on all different grounds,” said Robert Reiss, a 55-year-old author on stage magic and women’s art history. “And that’s a testimony to its strength.”

On a recent afternoon, David Intrator, 55, stood out from the crowd with his blue business suit and cardboard placard emblazoned with the maroon-colored Harvard seal.

He’s a self-described “corporate person,” and says he’s a graduate of the class of 1978. Intrator is part of a small, loosely organized group called The Harvard Men for Economic Justice.

He said Harvard has not officially sanctioned his group and there are only five members now.

“I’m here to remind people, no matter who you are, if you feel the fundamental fairness of America, the thing that we love, is that things are awry, the ship is not quite right you can contribute and you can really make a difference,” Intrator said.

At a nearby table sat two personal coaches, recent graduates of Leadership That Works, a coaching school.

“I came down here, I saw a lot of people milling about seeing something they wanted to be a part of, not quite knowing how they should jump in there and do it,” said Michael Badger,  38, a trim personal coach who has been attending marches and offers advice to those in the park.

“So this table is a way of helping them find what they want to do, and then say ‘you’re the person to do it. Do it.’ ”

Before Badger ended up in Zuccotti Park he was coaching recently divorced women. He has not been sanctioned by his school, but nine members of his class have agreed to come down to coach protesters.

Terrance Freer, 46, is a member of CWA and works as a cable slicer for Verizon. He joined the protesters at the march on Wednesday. “We believe in this cause.” Freer participated in the Verizon strikes this summer. “No matter how you slice it, it affects all of us. We just went through a strike, support means everything.”

“As long as ther're here, we’ll be right there along with them,” said Angela Doyle, 62 a member of 1199 SEIU, also at Wednesday’s march. “We’re not looking to co-opt the structure, amorphous as it is. These young people will succeed, they have energy and stamina.”

Other groups, like Circle A Anarchy, who declined to speak to WNYC, were organizing dozens of members at Zuccotti Park for an off-site meeting, and confirmed that they support Occupy Wall Street.

About 30 small town activists from an Allentown, Penn., group called Rise Up have been making Zuccotti Park home for about a week and a half.

Ellis Roberts, 25, arrived with a backpack of clothes, which has since been stolen. Previously he has protested against school budget cuts, eminent domain and Mumia Abu-Jamal. He said he came to the protest hoping to learn something about organizing.

Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Grannies Peace Brigade.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
David Intrator.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Ellis Roberts with new friends in Zuccotti Park.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Personal Coaches at Zuccottie Park.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
United NY at the Wall Street protest.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Zuccotti Park full of protesters.

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Comments [4]

Ellis Roberts

I protested for not against Mumia.

Nov. 09 2012 01:42 AM
Liverpolitan from New York

Media and pundits frequently misrepresent anarchists as thugs hellbent on violence and disorder. There are unruly tendencies associated with all political outlooks. It would be helpful, then, to dwell on what anarchism actually is.

In my view, it's a form of libertarianism (in the holistic European sense of the word). It promotes direct democracy. It views all structures as temporary; erected to serve an agreed purpose and constantly appraised for their performance in promoting the interests of people and communities.

If a structure fails to deliver, it is disbanded and replaced with a different form of organization designed in form and at a level commensurate with the issue it is designed to address. The structures in question can attend to all aspects of human well being: social, economic, political, etc.

Anarchism tends not to endorse permanent structures. Permanent entities inevitably take on lives of their own and eventually become self-serving as we see with most if not all of today's institutions. Anarchism trusts people and does not infantilize them as current political discourses do. Anarchism expects economic activity to free people to acquire credit and capital, produce, distribute and consume for personal gain and public good. It guards against concentrations of assets that undermine the public good. Value is achieved through the trade of tangible goods and services. Real checks and balances prevent excess.

Anarchism presumes that people are free to practice whatever social, cultural or religious practices they wish so long as these practices do not diminish the lives of others. This is a blueprint for a civilized, respectful, fulfilling approach to life. Many of the people involved in OWS who call themselves anarchists are motivated by this outlook because they see that the current financial, economic and political system is failing them badly.

Believe it or not, NPR/WNYC is a modest example of media cast in the anarchist model. It is member-based and because of this to some extent promotes the public good. Not enough, in my view, since it cultivates a genteel, middle-class profile that does not represent the public at large. For it to be truly reflective of anarchist principles, its would be governed by people who reflect the community it broadcasts to, and its programme content would be fully in tune with the outlooks and interests of the population in the NYC area.

When anarchists are not being dismissed as hoodlums, they are dismissed as utopians. To which I would say, would you rather help build a world that embodies the ideas above, or continue tinkering with the one we live in now, which is such a manifest success, no?

Oct. 20 2011 09:28 AM
BPCLee from Manhattan

The protesters are inspiring! I walk past Zuccotti park late at night on my way home and see them huddled in their sleeping bags under tarps to shelter them from the cold rain. I applaud their tenacity and energy. They clearly have a mission.

Oct. 20 2011 12:49 AM
Johanna Clearfield from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Here are a few photos from the protest -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035524905@N01/sets/72157627704109545/

Hoping that the general assembly will be receptive to placing some equal weight on the injustice and violent abuses of animals. hoping.

Oct. 06 2011 01:17 PM

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