Occupy Wall Street, Vowing Spring Return, Dwindles in NY

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Protesters meeting in the atrium of 60 Wall Street, a regular gathering space for the movement. (Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

These days, it's easy to miss the Occupiers at Zuccotti Park.

Where there were once hundreds of demonstrators and a sea of tents — a roiling mini-city, complete with kitchen and laundry services -- the park that birthed Occupy Wall Street is now practically empty.

But not quite: as the movement waits out the winter, there's a handful of Occupiers who maintain a symbolic, 24-7 presence at the park. Ned Merrill does the graveyard shift, and sits through the night, regardless of whether the temperature is in the teens or it's pouring rain.

"That gives you a sense that there's something very important here," Merrill said recently, huddled in a blanket. "And there is -- it's liberty."

Since November, when the NYPD cleared Zuccotti Park of the Occupy encampment, Occupy Wall Street has continued to hold protests around the city -- but unlike in the fall -- the movement rarely generates headlines. And it's running low on cash.

Pete Dutro, who helps handle finances for the movement, said they have "around $200,000" but that $100,000 is tied up in a bail fund for protesters. The movement voted to freeze any further expenditures, but are continuing to fund a few items, such as food and payments to churches that currently house protesters.

But others say the real impact is being felt elsewhere.

(Photo: One of the latest OWS publications, on display at Zuccotti Park. Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

"President Obama's (State of the Union) speech was all our message," said protester Brendan Burke, who handles security for the Occupiers. "It was great. I mean, he didn't mention Occupy Wall Street, he doesn't have to. The conversation in the culture has changed now, over four months, and it's a blessing."

Although the protesters in New York haven't received much coverage lately, Occupiers elsewhere have. In Oakland, the 400 protesters and journalists arrested last weekend were trying to occupy a vacant, city-owned building. The police used force, and some protesters responded by throwing rocks and bottles at officers.

In New York, protesters marched in solidarity with the Oakland occupiers, but Burke says he and others are trying to keep extremist elements out of the movement. Those include "black bloc" anarchists, distinguished by their covered faces and willingness to engage in violence. In one recent incident, a Livestream video operator was assaulted by a masked protester who didn't want to be caught on video.

"We haven't had it bad," said Burke. "We haven't had it in a situation where people are setting things on fire, and going nuts, but we've had situation where people are throwing things, elevating the feeling on the street into more of a riotous and violent level, which puts people in danger.”

Although some protesters have stuck it out since the beginning, others have quit. Bill Buster was an impassioned voice of the movement early on, but left, saying it got weighed down by bureaucracy and endless discussions, including some which pitted minorities or members of marginalized groups against white men.

"I've literally seen people walk away from General Assemblies and saying 'I'm never coming back,'" said Buster. "This has happened time and time again."

At an Occupy event in Soho on Monday, supporters unveiled a lavishly produced booklet, spelling out the movement's principles. But one attendee, New York Nurses Association official Marc Beallor, spoke of growing divisions. And said the movement had recruited plenty of students, but had failed to attract people of different classes and ethnicities "to represent more of the 99 percent."

"And unless that happens, I'm afraid that this movement may not succeed," Beallor said.

Organizers say they are using the winter to unite protesters in far-flung cities, and to plan big events in the coming months. Those include protests at the G8 Summit in Chicago, and a General Strike on May 1. And at the end of February, organizer Austin Guest says they're planning an event called "Shut down the Corporations."

The movement also plans big protests outside the Republican National Convention in August, followed by the Democratic National Convention.

"We went and protested in front of banks in the fall and winter," said Guest, who is currently on an "Occutrip" bus ride through cities in the Northeast.

"In the spring we're going to shut them down. We're going to cost them money. We're maybe going to make them go bankrupt."


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Comments [11]

Joe Blow

It seems that the OWS people were the 1% - or less than 1%. Maybe less than 1/10th of 1%:

But one attendee, New York Nurses Association official Marc Beallor, spoke of growing divisions. And said the movement had recruited plenty of students, but had failed to attract people of different classes and ethnicities "to represent more of the 99 percent."

A bunch of whiny kids who don't want to pay back their student loans does not a movement make.

I mean, it ain't like Vietnam. This is just petty greed - and externalizing your problems by blaming your financial failures on "greedy banks".

Throw in a few homeless, and the anarchy kids who are always looking for something to smash, and you've got a temporary tent city.

Then.... well it got COLD! So we went home.

And, then they fought about the money - a half-million, by some counts.

Interesting. It is like real society, in a microcosm. And all the B.S. of the real world quickly raised its ugly head.

Try again, kids. But this time have a better cause than someone took your allowance away.

Apr. 03 2012 12:05 AM
loannetter from washington

Please realize we all need everyone to succeed in real and necessary change. Hearts, minds and pocketbooks. To suggest shutting down corporations in America to benefit your agenda is naive. Corporations like Microsoft, Apple, and yes, even Financial Institutions, even Congress are full of wise people who can help you if you appeal to all with a constructive attitude.

Consider peace. Ghandi knew the power of peaceful protest as did Nelson Mandela as did Martin Luther King. Violence and threats only beget violence and threats. Hatred begets hatred. Be about love and cooperation with the message to correct wrongs and your voices will be heard, appreciated, echoed. Many honest and ethical people have been stirred by a desire to see better conditions for all Americans. From the top CEO's to the lowest mailroom clerks. It works if we work it for everyone.

Mar. 03 2012 11:46 PM
Neil from mineola

We need to stand strong and go after them all !!!!!

Never stop going after them all !!!!!!

Feb. 17 2012 12:47 AM
anyone from Location

It's never easy speak to designed for at which this kind of head to help you and OPERATING-SYSTEM might tap out natural treasures through the islate advertise approaching. Though without doubt, through inventive peripherals honestly coming within a relatively rampaging swiftness, there is always most likely the fact that the individual could be the top victorious.

Feb. 14 2012 09:38 PM
Tsehai from NY

I have many scrapbooks of OWS coverage--and while lately there has not been much coverage--the Occupy movement is very much alive. The encampment may be gone and cold weather has set in--but a lot of mobilization is still happening. I truly look forward to the spring. Those who disbelieve should check out the website--particularly will see that OWS is very much alive.

Feb. 05 2012 05:14 PM

Occupiers...we are a nonviolent group....we know we can Change things this way... and this is what we want our society to be about..YES the state of the union speech was about the progress we have made because of nonviolence....sorry if u feel we pit white against the majority...please dont.. farthest from the truth....we only mention so call "race" to make a point...of unity...we are the Human Race Only....we are all the same...under the skin.. it's what color is your heart that counts....never forget our goal is world Peace thats the we may have to step on some toes to get there...we might can't take every one with been said..the meek shall inherit the Earth...but never give up my brother...but wait with brother I believe in you...and to any and ALL violent group Please do not use our name....nonviolent works for us...remember the Taliban groups..were MEN enough to admit what they did...own up to it like a man...thats more proof violence is cowardliness and ...if you believe in violence...we will let you have the streets to make your point....go for it...because when we come back they will want to set us instead of tents it will be you make us look that much better.... violence is short lived...Occupiers may be out of sight but NOT out of Minds.....this is the year 2012...not have not awaken to the power of ...non-Resistance works...can i get a joyious AMEN!!!!

Feb. 02 2012 05:22 PM


May Day dates back to the pre-Christian era. It's a Pagan celebration. The USSR was one of MANY nations to adopt it for their own purposes.

Feb. 02 2012 01:45 PM
RAY HENDERSON from 30134

poorly written screenplay advancing a 1984 style govt. which doesnt exist anywhere is the backdrop of this liberal mask opera wherein death and destruction are wrought on the innocent by "well meaning, smarter than you are " people from well to do families with the resources to bomb buildings and cause all sorts of damage to the status quo. Why these things should be done and by what authority has never come up in any reading of the OWS literature. We are left to surmise the outcome is to be "revolutionary" and "for the common good".

Finally like any hollywood commie opera those rich 1%ers behind the scenes of movie and revolution making now feel they have justified their years of being the type of people described by liberals as "the reactionary wealthy class"....they are redeemed in the eyes of the NY Times and CNN and can continue on their way with forming new hedge funds to get out the word of hope and change.

Feb. 02 2012 11:42 AM

For those who may have forgotten, May 1, or "May Day", is the day the USSR paraded its military strength. After 70 years in Russia, Communism was finally acknowledged to be a colossal failure.
Why would we want to repeat such a cataclysmic mistake?
Not all change is good.

Feb. 02 2012 12:56 AM


Feb. 01 2012 09:26 PM
Vas from Washington, DC


Feb. 01 2012 04:51 PM

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