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Occupy Origins: An Oral History

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, dubbed the "anti-leader of Occupy Wall Street" by Bloomberg Businessweek, David Graeber, an American anthropologist at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years,  talks about where OWS goes from here.

While David Graeber is not personally taking part in today’s massive protests in lower Manhattan, he does have a great deal of insight into what brought the Occupy Wall Street movement to this point.  

On August 2nd, Graeber attended a protest in Manhattan’s Bowling Green Park in Manhattan where there was going to be a general assembly meeting. He was back in New York that summer after time spent working in London, and looking to catch up on what the activists in the city were working on. At the time, he said, there was talk around an idea being floated by Adbusters of some sort of occupation, but many activists were skeptical that an action would be successful in such a heavily-policed part of the city. A general assembly meeting seemed necessary to determine what course of action might be most viable.

So a few of us, me and my friends, showed up at this announced general assembly on August 2nd to plan the Wall street action on September 17th. And we were rather disgruntled to discover that it wasn’t a general assembly at all.

Graeber characterized what they found instead as organizers standing on a stage, rallying through microphones, calling for the assembled people to march with a list of demands the organizers had already printed.

You know, the whole conventional thing. And some of us looked at each other and said we don’t have to do this.

He said there was a feeling that many actions use radical language, but fall into a pattern in which a few leaders tell the masses what to do. Graeber and his friends decided this was the moment to change structure and embrace a what he called “direct democracy.”

Have a group of people, without a leadership structure, come together and make decisions collectively. And people within the anarchist, anti-authoritarian and also feminist traditions in America have been working for years on how to do that, people kind of knowhow you can conduct a meeting in a real democratic way. There’s been a lot of people putting a lot of thought into that. But he hadn’t really done it on a mass basis. So we thought, let’s try.

He said that organizers tried to keep control of the action and would not shift the structure to one he would find more democratic.

So we formed a circle on the other side of Bowling Green, and gradually everyone started breaking off from the rally and came over to ours, and that was the real birth of the movement.

Eventually, he said, even those who created the rally were convinced to come take part. The group split into subgroups to think about structure and consensus, and then reported back to the group as a whole.

Zuccotti Park was not the originally planned gathering spot—Graeber said it was number four or five on their list. Initially the marchers favored Chase Plaza, but it quickly became evident that that would not work.

We mapped out all these places and we announced one, but the thing is, if you announce something, even if it’s just on a listserve for other activists, you always know there’s going to be at least one cop on the listserv. And sure enough, the whole place was surrounded by giant fencing, even the night before. So that spot was blocked off.

He said maps were distributed with several options on them, and about thirty minutes before the meeting was due to begin, word went out to go to Zuccotti Park. That first night there, Graeber said, the mood was celebratory.

We’d had the sort of action at Bowling Green, we were assembling and doing various teach-ins, the Reverend Billy preached, there was music, there was yoga. It was sort of a little festival.

He said at that first the gathered numbers didn’t seem very large.

We had this thing thrown in our laps. August 2nd  to September17th isn’t a lot of time. So if we’re going to bus in tens of thousands of people, which was what Adbusters was imagining, you need months, and also you need money. We had no money at all.

But by the time the meeting began, there were already over two thousand present.

We had to have two thousand people meet together and come to a collective decision, democratically, about what course of action to take. And believe me, that’s quite challenging. Not just doing it democratically, but doing it in a space where people can’t hear each other.

The decision to camp out was adopted partly out of practicality. The protesters knew a number of people would be coming in from out of town. At first they considered sleeping on the sidewalk on Wall Street, while others were in favor of occupying the park and setting up a model community.

It was fairly well-divided. More people were for the park, but we were working by consensus... we weren’t sure if the police were going to allow us to stay, but we figured the one thing the police least wanted was us to go to Wall Street, so we decided we would stay in the park and if they evicted us, we’d go straight to Wall Street.

They let the police know their plan. Graeber said that, while he thinks this influenced the police decision to allow the protesters to stay, the NYPD seemed determined to make things as difficult for the protesters as possible, arresting them for things like wearing bandannas around their neck or writing on the sidewalk in chalk.

Now the movement finds itself with a lot of unexpected financial support. Graeber said a friendly NGO has lent an account to keep the donations in for the meantime.

Almost as soon as it started people started sending in contributions, and almost all of it small twenty-dollar contributions, we don’t have any corporate sponsors, obviously, we don’t have any big institutions, even labor unions giving us big money. Little people have given money, and so much…It being a group that is decentralized and democratic, we don’t like have a funding base. It could create a hierarchy and people are a little worried about that.

Graeber had to leave Zuccotti Park after the first few days for personal reasons, but he said he felt it appropriate to leave as well for fear that he might end up being seen as some sort of leader. But Graeber said he still supports the movement whole-heartedly.

I’ll be back in a week, and participating as much as I can.

http://www.wnyc.org/articles/its-free-country/2011/nov/17/oral-history-beginning-occupy-wall-street/

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Comments [78]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Sounds to me like Brian just got trolled...Take the mike and hold it...or flood the blog with comments to make your extreme POV seem mainstream.

And next week's memo....OWS is all a plot funded by Soros.

Depressingly predictable on the Right's part. Too bad it works so well.

Nov. 20 2011 10:13 AM
Edward

Why is this nut getting so much air time? He's just harassing Brian at this point.

Nov. 18 2011 10:29 AM
francklazare from NYC

This is so pathetic. At least the Tea Party was able to co-opt the Republican Party. The OWS will have a twitter general assembly to decide if they should get their heads knocked out by the cops! They have not proposed anything substantial to solve any of the current problems we are facing, besides we are cry babies upset with the system, but we love our smart phones. Hey how can they afford those smart phones? Pathetic!

Nov. 17 2011 03:40 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

DarkSymbolist.....one thing you said jumped out at me, and that is: "The left always fights with itself." Which is definitely true. But given that a few sentences later you also said that in the last 10 years, the left has been ineffectual and "conformist," I have to wonder how blindly supporting a movement like OWS, and therefore "conforming" to a particular liberal agenda, really helps.

In my experience, people who easily and readily conform to an ideal are people who tend not to do a lot of exploration in their physical, religious, and emotional lives. They easily join any movement/religion/political party that seems to be speaking to their base values, and don't do the kind of research or introspection needed to examine whether or not the thing they're joining is effective, smart, etc.

I am wholly glad everyone is starting to talk about "the issues" on a wider scale, but I left anarchy and socialism behind in my punk rock 20's.

And to make base assumptions that anyone who works in downtown Manhattan is a "Wall Street guy" who "couldn't get his morning Machhifrappucrappo" shows how limited your own physical exploration has been. Do you have ANY idea how many middle class people, immigrants, and low-wage earners work in Lower Manhattan? How many hospitals and doctors work down there who provide needed healthcare to all of us?

Maybe "liberals" don't conform to each other so easily, because we have a more nuanced approach to life. But we should take a page from the Tea Party and get POLITICALLY mobilized, and demonstrate closer to the movers and shakers of who make decisions.

Nov. 17 2011 11:57 AM

@DarkSymbolist from NYC!

... couldn't have said it better myself.

Thanks!

Nov. 17 2011 11:33 AM
kathleen from New York

Pomposity en grande...i.e. Graeber...
Does he want us capitalist pigs to take our
dirty dollars and buy his book so he can be a rich anarchist!!!

Nov. 17 2011 11:32 AM
John A.

Most of the "best hits of the OWS" for me have been from NPR & PBS and not from the OWS itself. George McGovern and William Cohen on modern Republicanism. Jeffrey Sachs and Tim Dickinson taxation and society. Paul Solomon, Nicholas Kristof, David Leonhardt reporting on inequality. This forum mentioning for just one example, the existence of the OWS nycga.net website, just today. So I don't curse any little mistakes made, but praise the positive results that having an OWS with it's foot in the door gave us.

Nov. 17 2011 11:28 AM
Barbara Ruether from Manhattan

I am very disturbed by the reports of brutal police arrests while the media is being kept away from the scene. You want to verify, just check with Tim Pool who has been with a camera and mike alll morning for The Other 99. I am sick of this administration under the book burning Mayor Bloomberg. I want to leave the United States at my age, 76 , to go to a civilzed place. 11a Right now, he is showing the police at Zucotti attacking the protestors with the metal barricades as a weapon on a photograper. This should be what you are talking about this morning NOW.

Nov. 17 2011 11:12 AM

Carnivals don't make history. Mass movements do. If OWS wants to make history, it must focus its message and broaden its appeal to average middle-class voters.

I'm a life-long liberal, a natural OWS ally, yet I'm cringing at this guest's ideas and language. Imagine the reaction of middle-America. Anarchy and socialism - like it's conservative analogues - fail as ideas and systems. Only the naive and willfully ignorant believe otherwise.

OWS will lose support and fizzle into another fringe lefty-group if it doesn't transition into a mainstream organization, which means leaving the Socialists and Anarchists behind.

Nov. 17 2011 11:05 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

This page speaks to why the right wing and the oligarchs have been successful at destroying our democracy for the last 30 years

The left always fights with itself. It amazes me that so many people on this page who claim to be "liberal" are so against OWS who it seems to me are just continuing the great tradition of civil disobedience to resist the establishment and effect social change that changed so many things for the BETTER in this country's history.....and yet there are ridiculous comments about getting "permits" or the guy's voice being annoying, etc, etc

The left always drags itself down, the right is always unified. At least OWS is DOING SOMETHING as opposed to just listening to WNYC and doing NOTHING

To effect change you have to be willing to put pressure on the system and yes, sometimes inconvenience people (awwwww, boohoo Wall Street guy couldn;t get his morning Machhifrappucrappo when he went to work, boohoo-- gimme a freaking break!).

So yes, this page perfectly illustrates why the left and so-called "liberals" will always lose..because when someone on the left tries to do anything, there's someone else on the left (or so they claim) who is there to knock them down.

DIVIDED WE FALL

This page perfectly illustrates why the right wing extremists will continue to destroy the tatters of our democracy.

OWS is trying to do something...maybe I don't agree with all of their varied messages but I respect that they are doing something and I support them for that...which is more than I can say about the" left" in general for the last 10 years which has been meek, scared, conformist and ineffectual

Nov. 17 2011 11:03 AM
MP from Brooklyn

Inquisigal - glad I could make you laugh - god knows we could all use one!

Nov. 17 2011 11:03 AM
Your mean DOUSE the "Liberty Torches" dont you ? from NYC


Liberty flames burning in Zuccotti park in protest ?
Will the mayor allow it ?
Who knows ?
Is it legal ?
What is a protected symbol to the 1st ammendent ? Who knows ?

(But I think you meant the Mayor will DOUSE not DOSE your Liberty flames).

Nov. 17 2011 11:01 AM
April from Manhattan

I'm not allowed by my doctor to be arrested. When they took my meds, I'd die. But I support you 1oo% from a distance. I was in the civil rights movement, like many other white southerners, in Vietnam War protests, and others. In my truly humble opinion, t's time for a change in strategy. One idea is from Quakers that we used to protest the War in Chapel Hill. We held a silent vigil along the side walks of the main street, to the side, not disrupting the movement of others, some of us holding signs. Imagine a line of vigils down the length of Manhattan on a different Avenue each week or day, especially on the East Side, making diversions where necessary, converging at Wall St, but not disruptive. Picketing, which we did during the civll rights movement, can be done in legal ways, not disrupting foot traffic, but chanting or singing. (Not too loudly; the drumming at Zuccotti would have driven me nuts if I'd lived there, even if it were good drumming.) Many of Bob Dylan's songs are still relevant. I'm sure others are being written. We sang We Shall Overcome and Black and White together, among others, during rallies, which were usually held in churches. (My last name then was White and a black friend was named Cordell Black, so it had special resonance and humor for us.) Ultimately, we should all converge on the DC mall, after getting a license to do so, if necessary. Creating a big traffic jam there gets attention. (Glenn Beck can do it and we can't?) Use the money to get people from all over the country there. No need to choose an issue. There are so many. Bring your own signs. Politically I believe it's irresponsible for Michael Moore and Naomi Klein to suggest the two parties are the same. As I recall, Obama has been trying to tax millionaires and corporations, even though he gets donations from them. The Republicans want to get rid of all social programs but cut taxes on the wealthy further. No difference? Let's not forget that Ralph Nader gave us W, Eugene McCarthy gave us Nixon, and Teddy Kennedy and John Anderson gave us Reagan, who started the attempt to eliminate unions. I blame us and myself for not showing up there two and a half years ago, to demand single payer and get a public option, instead of waiting for Messiah Obama to do it for us, and leaving the field to the Tea Party, though the MSM isn't good on covering lefter issues and movements, especially after the purge of Bill Moyers, Now, and World Focus on one night from PBS. Occupy Together at the mall! And worldwide on the same day.

Nov. 17 2011 10:58 AM
The Mayor will Dose your torches ? from Better see a judge eh


Mayor Bloomberg will probably not allow you to carry burning torches in NYC - even as a first amendment political expression. He will quench or douse you.

He won't let you march with the "Liberty torches", and he won't let you keep a vigil in the park with them - or at least I doubt he will.

If you are even thinking of doing this, you better speak with your lawyers first to make sure it is legal.

Better still, you better find a fair-minded judge who values freedom and find her EARLY in the process.

The mayor is a billionaire and also runs a major media empire. Someone like that always has lots and lots of friends....
These "friends" will be jumping over each other trying to please him, he won't even have to ask. Sadly, some judges might be in this group of courtiers - hopefully not, but if you try this you will probably find out soon.

Nov. 17 2011 10:57 AM

Yesterday I heard the following comment -- can't remember where:

Capitalism successfully brought down Communism in the 90s and now was bringing down Democracy.

I was startled by its truth. The idea of libertarian capitalism took hold in this country during the Reagan years and has completely run amok since then. The effects are what we are seeing today. It's dangerous and we must do something to replace it. OWS isn't the answer but it's certainly a beginning.

Nov. 17 2011 10:55 AM
Can Peaceful protesters carry a Liberty Flame ? from Lady Liberty

Can Peaceful protesters carry a Liberty Flame ?
The flame on a lit torch can give us warmth.
The flame on a lit torch can give us light.
But far more important than this is that
the flame on a lit torch is a powerful and ancient symbol,
it is a symbol sacred to our society and widely used throughout history,
it is the symbol of Freedom.
The Statue of Liberty graces our harbor.
She welcomes all with her lit torch promising hope
and freedom not just for the wealthy and influential
but also for the poor and downtrodden.
But legally, can Peaceful protesters in NYC carry a Liberty Flame ?
Surely, there must be historical and legal precident.
Many protesters during much of America's early history will have carried
lit torches.
Even earlier throughout Europe, protesters will have carried
lit torches. (I suppose many of them would have also carried Pitchforks,
but clearly that would be illegal in NYC - it'd be considered a weapon,
and in NYC the Right to Bear arms does not apply. Far more importantly,
it is Essential that protests remain peaceful and pitchforks would cause
too much alarm).
But a lit torch is the symbol of liberty - it is at the core of our freedoms.
Can Peaceful protesters in the US carry a Liberty Flame, or will justices
in our current system find a pretext to declare them illegal and quench
our essentail national symbol ?
"Let the flame of liberty burn in your heart.
Let the light of liberty shine forth
Banishing the shaddows of corruption and the darkness of iniquity"

Nov. 17 2011 10:52 AM
John A.

To the 'general assembly of Brian':
Please check out yesterday's NPR/PRI "Fresh Air". It was on taxation history in the USA, of both sane and insane varieties.

Nov. 17 2011 10:50 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

MP from Brooklyn...you totally nailed my feelings - and made me laugh about this for the first time since we've all been subjected to countless hours of OWS coverage on WNYC.

I encourage all disgruntled liberals to switch over to WBGO; it's refershing to listen to some talented jazz musicians after listening to all the inflated hoo-hah about OWS.

Nov. 17 2011 10:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

When I was a kid, no regular person could get a large loan without substantial collateral, unless you went to the Mafia, in which case your arms and legs were your "collateral." Then suddenly, staring in the mid-'60s, credit started getting easier and easier, till it finally collapsed in 2008.

It's all quite simple.

Nov. 17 2011 10:47 AM
EF Slattery from New York, NY

I find the coverage of OWS to be interesting, but Graeber's tone is so condescending that it's hard to focus on what he's actually saying.

Nov. 17 2011 10:46 AM
john from office

Brian, I lost respect for you today.

Nov. 17 2011 10:46 AM
Dana

Ughh! This guy is still on!!!!! Get him off. Enough!

Nov. 17 2011 10:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

As I predicted well over 20 years ago, the STANDARD OF LIVING in the US will fall by 50% no matter what "system" we have, call it capitalism, socialism, or whatever! Our so-called "American dream," of everyone having a 3,000 square foot home in the suburbs based on borrowing huge amounts from banks with no way of repaying, was going to have to come to an end. It's not the fault of capitalism. It is the fault of the government that made people believe they have the right live on cloud 9 based on easy credit without visible means of repaying.

Nov. 17 2011 10:43 AM
Chris from Brooklyn

I would disagree with the guest that our current system of systemic bribery and purchased politicians is not capitalism. It is exactly what capitalism is - those with the capital make all the rules.

Nov. 17 2011 10:42 AM
seamus moran from west village

Wondering if David Graeber knows of this book, " Courtesans and Fishcakes, Daily Life in Ancient Athens", the author James Davidson describes a lottery machine in downtown athens that elected citizens in good standing to the official posts of the city, this was their mechanism to prevent the formation of political parties seizing control, which they reckoned was the single greatest danger of democracy! So different than our effective two party system

Nov. 17 2011 10:41 AM
Kirk from Hoboken

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street

Graeber is Pompous and Brian is not far behind

Nov. 17 2011 10:41 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Why does this guy get a wopping 40+ minutes on this show?

Nov. 17 2011 10:39 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

@ JoeCorrao...To do that (if that's the thing to do) requires the coordinated action of an INFORMED group, that knows for instance, why that's necessary (if it is)...Ergo, my recommendations.

Nov. 17 2011 10:38 AM
Ken

This is going to be an iconic image of the movement going forward - protesters being arrested en masse while the people who caused the problems that caused them to protest in the first place are allowed to go about their business.

Nov. 17 2011 10:37 AM
MP from Brooklyn

This site is a fascinating bellwether. Like many of your listeners, I would identify myself as politically liberal, yet I have felt little to no sympathy with this movement and with self-important windbags like your first guest. Organizers of this movement should take note. They've made a crucial mistake - they alienated their base.

Nov. 17 2011 10:36 AM

joeC
The fed is just doing what the elected government orders them to do

Nov. 17 2011 10:36 AM
RL

it's not the protesters; it's the cops and barracades that are gumming up the works. no one was blocking my JZ subway stop, but cops made me walk all the way around my building just to get in.

Nov. 17 2011 10:33 AM

@hjs11211
the Fed is one of the problems...it's the money machine that creaates the bubbles and phoney economy... ...Wall St and Banks are nasty people (most of the time) trying to game the system, but our government regulators are asleep at the switch or turning a blind eyeits the crony capitalism that is the problem

Nov. 17 2011 10:31 AM
al from nyc

i just came from there on the 4,6 train...there is nothing

Nov. 17 2011 10:31 AM
Dana

Brian -
Please don't ever have this guest on again. He is the most annoying person I have every had to listen to on your show, and I will certain turn off if he is brought on again (as I was forced to do this time.)

Nov. 17 2011 10:31 AM
Ellie from Washington Heights

I am also having to turn off my radio. David Graeber sounds like a pompous dufus to me. And I'm a pretty hardcore liberal.

Nov. 17 2011 10:30 AM
Kurt from UWS

Why not rent some port-a-johns for the folks in Z park?

Nov. 17 2011 10:29 AM
Robert from NYC

How would the actions of the police in our cities be reported by the media if these same actions were done in, oh say Iran or some other non western friendly country in the middle east, asia, africa...? That the police with the "blessing" of the mayor just trashed the personal stuff of the protesters makes a sad statement about what we consider a democratic society. It's ok for us to do this but not for these other places.

Nov. 17 2011 10:29 AM
w in nyc from manhattan

Dear Brian - I am a long time listener of your show and have always been able to count on you for providing even-handed and fair analysis of stories.

However, I agree with the other posters here who are saying that your coverage of OWS has been completely slanted. Almost every time I tune-in I hear guests who are supportive of the movement, and I don't feel you have asked them enough pressing or challenging questions as you usually do with other guests.

I would like to see more guests who represent the other side of the story, more challenging questions of the supporters of the movement, and move coverage of other aspects of the story - such as the costs of police overtime, disruption of local businesses, etc etc.

To the OWS crowd - I support your right to express yourself, but not your right to keep other people from using the park, or to keep other people from going about their daily lives. Get a message, get a permit, and get yourselves heard legally and peacefully.

Nov. 17 2011 10:29 AM
Shawna from Brooklyn

Hi Brian, Can you ask David Graeber about his thoughts on the Occupy38 incident and other activities conducted by Georgia Sagri and her followers. From what I understand, they were together on that first day, August 2nd. Are they still in agreement, given Occupy38?

Nov. 17 2011 10:28 AM
m on wall st from wall street

BRIAN THEY DID BLOCK THE SUBWAYS - when i tried to get to the 1-2 they said "take the day off" - absolutely ridiculous

Nov. 17 2011 10:27 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

This is all too meta; celebrating the 2-month anniversary of a movement that is just barely evolving? This is media overkill, an sadly like a first-time, teenaged romance marking a period of 2 months like it's 2 years to the rest of us.

How odd - I am becoming an angry liberal railing against something I should be wholly in support of - but I just can't get behind this, or Brian's DAILY need to report on it. It's a whole lot of reporting on a whole lot of nothing.

I'd rather hear about the Scott Walker recall in Wisconsin - a movement actually mobilizing toward a clearly-defined goal.

Nov. 17 2011 10:27 AM

fed is just a boogie man
not the real problem

Nov. 17 2011 10:26 AM
Jim E from NYC

Brian,
You are giving David all the credit for " occupy wall street" ? This is insulting to the protesters and to intelligent people.... and David be proud to be part of a movement stop trying to attach it to your socialist/anarchist resume.....What about adbusters????? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street

Nov. 17 2011 10:26 AM
Cecilia Dougherty from Brooklyn

One criticism I've heard of OWS is from people of color, who are suspicious of the movement because it seems to be chiefly white and middle class, as though young white people have woken up to the situation that has always been plaguing people of color, and have not offered active support until the situation effected them (young whites). Also wary of the ease with which funding has been obtained when grass roots organizations of people of color are struggling to survive.

Nov. 17 2011 10:26 AM
Pierrot from NYC

No structure, no point - OWS get it together.

I don't care who this guy is in relation to the movement - he's one of the more boring guests I've heard on BL in ages and I'm tempted to move on to another station

Nov. 17 2011 10:26 AM
Dana

How about the group channel their energy and manpower into something productive . . . open a soup kitchen, feed the poor and hungry. It's an interesting exercise to bang your drum all day and say "I'm against the 1%", but time, energy and resources can be better spent. This is all assuming they want to lift up the downtrodden, but then again, we don't really know what they want? Just banging the drum will achieve nothing but noise.

Nov. 17 2011 10:25 AM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

Hope it all leads to a real change with Laws being applied equally.

My photos from truthdig.com

http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/slideshow_occupy_wall_street_the_day_after_eviction_20111115/

Nov. 17 2011 10:25 AM

a model society Brian? really?

Nov. 17 2011 10:25 AM
Kurt from UWS

Regarding the money, why not rent some port-a-johns to deal with the bathroom situation since that is a major community complaint?

Nov. 17 2011 10:24 AM
Kurt from UWS

Regarding the money, why not rent some port-a-johns to deal with the bathroom situation since that is a major community complaint?

Nov. 17 2011 10:24 AM
MP from Brooklyn

I just turned the sound off on my radio. I couldn't take it anymore.

I have a hypothetical question. If subway service is disrupted as planned, I may be late getting home to pick up my son from his afterschool program. That means he will be waiting outside (maybe in the rain) with his counselors, and I will have to pay a late fee. How might this encourage me to support this action?

Nov. 17 2011 10:23 AM
Robert from NYC

Seems German efficiency still grates on some folks' nerves. Why don't we just follow the example instead of making a joke of it.

Nov. 17 2011 10:23 AM
Stephen from Prospect Heights

Nobody ever alludes to Paris Commune when discussing OWS alternative society. Can your guest comment?

Nov. 17 2011 10:22 AM

@fuva from Harlemworld
we need to audit the fed and then end the fed to get control of our money back.
we need to allow capitalism to work

Nov. 17 2011 10:21 AM

While I don’t think we know what the movement stands for they have sparked a discussion about income inequality.
By the way there is class warfare and the 99 % have lost. Will we just accept it? Time will tell.

Nov. 17 2011 10:21 AM
m on wall street from Wall Street

what's the point of blocking subways? how many of the 1% take the subway?

Nov. 17 2011 10:20 AM
Robert from NYC

Why are the police getting away with these kinds of arrests for non-illegal activities? Why? Why is there no uprising to the mayor and police top brass with complaints about this? Why is there no rage from the general public. Why doesn't the media question such behavior.

Nov. 17 2011 10:20 AM
Mygrain from LIC

This guy is making me doubt all of my feelings about OWS. He is a true Acti-geek and super boring.

Nov. 17 2011 10:20 AM
john from office

Brian, ask how they are going to reimburse the people who are losing money because of this. Your bias is showing here, you are giddy over this. Get up off your knees of worship.

Nov. 17 2011 10:19 AM
John from Brooklyn

Ugh, the way this guy talks is killing me...

Nov. 17 2011 10:18 AM
AL from nyc

what would it take for Obama and Washington to start talking about this issue??? ...the sooner this is being discussed the better...

Nov. 17 2011 10:18 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Time for OWS to

- Develop or enhance the information component of revolution; to address the financial and socioeconomic illiteracy that prevails on today's message board and amongst most citizens and activists, and that set the stage for the mess this country's in.

- Promote more shared inquiry; create venues for collective strategizing, to expand the range of civic and civil actions, to exert sociopolitical pressure

Nov. 17 2011 10:17 AM
Dana

This guy has the most annoying voice I have ever heard . . . I can't listen anymore.

Nov. 17 2011 10:16 AM
Edward from NJ

Is the general assembly concept of any use in a setting where people aren't basically like-minded?

Nov. 17 2011 10:15 AM
Cubicle Ben from Lower Manhattan

For two months I have watched Occupy Wall Street from a safe distance. I began by spending my lunches away from my civil servant cubicle job a few blocks north of Zucotti Park, walking past the park reading the witty signs (all of which I agree with or at some point in my life I agreed with) and grabbing a copy of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. I expanded my Occupy explorations venturing into the camp wanting to see the occupy kitchen, the sleeping area, the computer lab. Inspired by what I saw, I spent short breaks during my job reading the general assembly website, even creating my own account and drafting remarks for the comment pages. I even passively joined a Occupy march as it passed my office building I left work silently joining the walk to Zuccotti Park.

I believe that the world is heading in the wrong direction, and vested interests are pushing toward unsustainable and unjust growth. I have seen this in the exploitation of landscape; the industrialization of our food; the waging of unjust wars at the expense of our entitled rights as human beings. I believe that corporate interests currently occupy the United States. I believe that our policies are shaped by continuing the unfettered growth of financial markets. I believe in the sharing of these ideas and strategizing for a massive change (I have lots of ideas).

But what I never believed in was that occupying Zuccotti park was the way to act out on the things I believe in. The park became a site where logistics of living in that park began to trump the ideas that were being broadcast from that space. The park appeared to me to be insulating movement from the larger issues. The park shifted the narrative from renewable energy for all to power generators in the; from ending global hunger to pizza deliveries to protesters; from environmental activism to park sanitation. It became about architecture competitions whose goal was to provide shelter for the occupiers in the park rather then solicit images of a better future. The logistics narratives began to drown out the message that were slowly seeping from the park.

In these two months I never fully Occupied. I never shouted the things I believed in. I never made my witty sign. I never felt comfortable in the big Occupy Wall Street tent in Zucotti park. I know this movement is about more than a park. I know this movement attempts to make space for the exchange of ideas that can create massive change. I know that the abrupt insensitive eviction of the OWS encampment was wrong and unjust, a clear example of power infiltrating our everyday life. I am afraid that this movement will get stuck in the cat and mouse game of protesters vs police; a legal battle over park rules. The movement cannot ignore its narrative. But now that this movement moves past the logistical burdens of the park maybe I will begin to Occupy.

Nov. 17 2011 10:15 AM
gary from queens

continued:

(B) Not Open to the Public:

Mitch, you forget that I listen to NPR everyday. Lefty Brian Lehrer has had a segment about OWS every day. (He too must be getting misty for the 60s.) Yesterday, his guest discussed Roberts Rules of Order and the fact that it's being used at OWS. How wonderful! But there are only a couple of hundred people there, and far less who are participating in this parlaimentary process.

I complained that OWS has not published their agenda. You wrote to me yesterday and said that I need to go down there to hear their "chants." That's the problem. Just showing up (and not looking too wealthy or jewish), and "putting in a lot of time" (as you wrote), is the only qualification for having a say in what OWS will stand for. (i suppose that means a homeless person will be best qualified?)

But that process excludes many people who don't live in NYC. or manahttan. Or handicapped or otherwise homebound people. I suppose women who are willing to risk rape or assault are not excluded though. Mitch, a couple of hundred people is not representative of a small town, let alone NYC, or the nation. OWS does not deserve the attention it is getting, no matter how loud they "chant".

Taken together, A and B makes OWS more like a mob. Not a movement. A bunch of angry people showing up at one place, with myriad complaints is a mob.

LAST point. you imply that i can develop patience by participating in OWS. Mitch, I exhibit patience everyday on this list by explaining my views to liberals like you. over the last two days, i sent you 20 private emails addressing your comments and your political views. I also explained my views. This email took patience to write. I hope you will benefit from it.

And I benefit by talking to you and other liberals on this list. It keeps me up to date on the liberal mind----such as it is.

Nov. 17 2011 10:14 AM
Robert from NYC

This is becoming what it should not become, a police v us thing. The city has handled this situation incorrectly and unjustly. The police are armed like soldiers and act violently and without provocation. I've seen vicious criminals handled less violently by police. They are acting like thugs with a license to kill and they are getting away with it. Where are NYers on this? Why aren't the people of the city protesting to the mayor and the police chief who should be fired. Ray Kelly is nothing more than a thug granted some kind of respect and given free reign by a press that has no idea how to handle this themselves. The mayor and police chief should be held with feet to the fire by the press and instead they're treated like honored guests on any of the shows where they make their illegitimate case for the horror they are causing. Nice, an 84 y/o woman was pepper sprayed. Would that same cop spray his mother or grandmother if she was there? Where are our priorities. Where is our dignity as a society that considers itself civilized? There is no democracy here we fool ourselves into believing we're the same people who founded this country. We're not!

Nov. 17 2011 10:13 AM
gary from queens

Brian's nostalgia for the 60s is showing. But there were mistakes made back then. One of them was that Nixon's popularity went up in the polls following anti war demonstrations. And today, the polls show that the public is as angry as the students at OWS, but they dislike the method of protest.

I will prove that (A) it's an illegal assembly, (B) it's closed to most of the public, and therefore (C) it's a mob, and not a movement.

(A) An illegal Assembly:

1. the only way OWS exists and functions is to violate the public spaces. it literally occupies spaces intended to serve the public. The fact that they are not arrested does not mean that what OWS is doing is legal. it is illegal.

2. The violation is not limited to displacing the public from the commons. The violation involves the act of forcing one to pay attention to the demonstration. That is the purpose of a demonstration----to force youself on others. One reason protest rallies and such are tolerated at all is because they're restricted by time and place. You need a permit to use the public space for a few hours. That's how it works. Whereas OWS is non stop and multiple locations.

3. Unlike a homeless person who might occupy a public space solely for his personal use, OWS forces the public to pay attention to them. This constitutes an additional public nuisance. No, I will not cite the rapes or assaults again (And I do not believe the Daily News ever since it went liberal), which is bad enough, and would have terminated the tea party movement had ONE instance of violence could be proven. No, I'm just talking about the community board complaints of the drum noise, and garbage, and drug use, and passersby being accosted and criticized for going to work, or wearing a yamakah (still lots of anti semitic anti israel sentiment), or looking wealthy, blocking traffic, etc. Local businesses are suffering too. OWS therefore cannot exist without destroying quality of life for the larger public that legally resides there.

4. Given that OWS is breaking the law, the students at OWS obviously didnt read Henry Thoreau. The PURPOSE of illegal nonviolent protest is to get arrested. MLK walked into all white dinners in the South EXPECTING to get arrested. The purpose is to demonstrate your willingness to endure hardship from an unjust law. You don't fight the police. You don't complain about the arrest. You complain about an existing law, and offer an alternative. OWS has not offered either. They refuse to even admit that they are breaking any laws. They just allege that others are (the "one percent").

Nov. 17 2011 10:13 AM

does anyone know what OWS folks stand for?

Nov. 17 2011 10:13 AM
John A.

Just watch your 'flaming torches of Bong', guys.
-
Joe Carrano,
Its because the Occupy Washington movement already exists, its led by Grover Norquist. OWS should be seen as a remedy to that.

Nov. 17 2011 10:12 AM

And we shouldn't be working for a democracy as much as working to protect our Constitutional Republic

Nov. 17 2011 10:11 AM

In reality we should be marching on the Federal Reserve Bank and the White House.

Nov. 17 2011 10:06 AM
Can Peaceful protesters carry a Liberty Flame ? from Lady Liberty

The flame on a lit torch can give us warmth.
The flame on a lit torch can give us light.

But far more important than this is that
the flame on a lit torch is a powerful and ancient symbol,
it is a symbol sacred to our society and widely used throughout history,
it is the symbol of Freedom.

The Statue of Liberty graces our harbor.
She welcomes all with her lit torch promising hope
and freedom not just for the wealthy and influential
but also for the poor and downtrodden.

But legally, can Peaceful protesters in NYC carry a Liberty Flame ?
Surely, there must be historical and legal precident.
Many protesters during much of America's early history will have carried
lit torches.

Even earlier throughout Europe, protesters will have carried
lit torches. (I suppose many of them would have also carried Pitchforks,
but clearly that would be illegal in NYC - it'd be considered a weapon,
and in NYC the Right to Bear arms does not apply. Far more importantly,
it is Essential that protests remain peaceful and pitchforks would cause
too much alarm).

But a lit torch is the symbol of liberty - it is at the core of our freedoms.
Can Peaceful protesters in the US carry a Liberty Flame, or will justices
in our current system find a pretext to declare them illegal and quench
our essentail national symbol ?

"Let the flame of liberty burn in your heart.
Let the light of liberty shine forth
Banishing the shaddows of corruption and the darkness of iniquity"

Nov. 17 2011 10:05 AM
John A.

NYPD had their say but the OWS remain. Good thing.

Nov. 17 2011 09:59 AM
John from office

You are right, you can hear it in Brian's voice. He is all atwitter over this. Truth is a bunch of kids holding signs will result in nothing.

Nov. 17 2011 09:33 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Bravo, john from office.

Nah..... Brian is swept up in the breathless exaggeration of this story about fringe slackers and the newly rebranded former ACORN movement. It was almost over this week, so they had to raise the stakes today in order to keep it at the top of WNYC's news line.

LOL, these fools actually believe their own hype that "the whole world is watching".
What a yuck.

Nov. 17 2011 09:10 AM
john from office

Brian, do a story on the people who will be unable to make a living because of these "protest", like the coffee cart guys or the drivers or the people that cannot get to their offices. These are the real "workers" not those that rather carry a sign, thinking they are effecting change.

Nov. 17 2011 07:54 AM

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