There seems to be a general consensus of confusion of why the “protesters” are in Dewey Square and how the whole Occupy movement came about. The background of the movement is short and brief but the reasons that bring people to Occupy their local cities have been haunting them for years.
Adbusters Media Foundation is a not-for-profit, anti-consumerist, and pro-environment organization. They are famous for their spoofs of popular advertisements and international campaigns such as “Joe Chemo” and “Buy Nothing Day.”
On July 13, 2011 Adbusters stated “The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street.” They called for “20,000 people [to] flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.”
It seems the most common statement from mainstream media personalities and passer-byers is that “they don’t have a message. They don’t even know what they’re protesting for.” But that is simply not true. In the first call for Occupation by Adbusters on July 13th, the one simple demand was explained.
In The Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln called for a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. In my opinion, it seems this country has been torn off this track and we are now a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. And it’s simply unfair.
Although Adbusters first proclaimed “one simple demand,” since then they have somewhat retracted it. They still fully endorse their first demand but they’ve realized that one singular demand is not enough to represent all of the economical and social injustices in America today. Since then Occupy Wall Street has started a living document titled “End the Monied Corruption of America,” which is a manifesto consisting of many beliefs of how to make the United States a more equal, fair place to live and work.
“Charging Bull” is a 7,100 pound, 11 foot tall, 16-foot long, bronze sculpture in Bowling Green Park, near Wall Street in Manhattan, New York City. The bull was made to symbolize aggressive financial optimism and prosperity and has recently become “one of the most iconic images of New York.” This was a fitting location for a meeting place.
On September 17, 2011 5,000 people congregated and marched into the financial district of Lower Manhattan. They waved signs, held banners, beat drums, and chanted slogans. However, New York Police were quick to lock down the symbolic street with barricades and checkpoints. Protesters, undeterred, proceeded to lap the area until the people’s assembly later that evening. The people’s assembly was held at the semi-permanent protest encampment that went up in Zuccotti Park, which is conveniently located between Wall Street and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The park sits on Liberty Street, and therefore the protesters fittingly renamed the park Liberty Square. Three hundred people spent the night and were met by several hundred reinforcements the next morning.
When word got out on Twitter that the Occupiers were hungry, a nearby pizzeria received $2,800 in orders for delivery to the encampment in a single hour. People from all over the world, who were not necessarily able to make it down to Liberty Square themselves, were showing their support by donating funds and food.
Many Occupiers adopted the slogan “we are the 99%.” Many people I’ve overheard believe that the 99% analogy is something with no meaning that they can all stand behind. I would like to urge those people to take another look at the facts.
Joseph Stiglitz is an American economist and professor at Columbia University and the recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In May 2011 he published an article in Vanity Fair “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” He stated, The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”
Many mainstream media personalities keep referring to Wall Street as a symbol for the protestors’ frustrations. Although it is a symbol, there is also massive disparity in financial investment ownership that makes Wall Street a very fitting place to Occupy. 1% of Americans own half of the county’s socks, bonds, and mutual funds, while the bottom 50% of Americans only own 0.5% of investments.
The Occupy movement grew larger and larger in New York and finally took the stage in national news coverage when NYPD officers were caught on camera macing women completely unprovoked, reaching behind barricade lines to grab protesters by the throat, and arresting people with professional grade video cameras. One incident in particular gained lots of media attention.
Captain Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna was caught on camera using pepper spray on four women who were on the sidewalk, behind orange mesh netting that other police officers had used to corral protester, and spraying another unprovoked citizen. The first comments from Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesperson defended the use of pepper spray as being “appropriate.” National outrage for these and other obvious abuse of force caught the attention of thousands of others who respect the right to protest.
On Tuesday, September 27th Boston had their first General Assembly in solidarity to the Occupy Wall Street protest. At the meeting people congregated to express their outrage of corporate greed and the NYPD’s response to the Occupiers. At the second meeting, which was held the following day, it was decided that Occupy Boston would not get a permit for their protest because it seemed impractical to ask for a permit that would restrict and restrain their efforts. It was also decided that Occupy Boston would stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and officially start in Dewey Square on Friday, September 30th.
Since then thousands of citizens, labor unions, and even political leaders have visited the encampment by South Station. The encampment has media, medical, law, logistical, food, and wellness groups to protect the Occupiers while they Occupy Dewey Square. Food Not Bombs, a non-profit organization from Allston, has been a great contributor to the movement with free hot meals everyday for the Occupiers. And donations such as sleeping bags, umbrellas, and duck tape have been piling up from people all around the state who support the cause. The Occupy movement did not sit well with many Boston officials, including the mayor. He took to twitter to say:
On Monday, October 10th the movement took to the streets with men, women, children, families, union members, students, homeless, and veterans to march in an unpermitted protest. The march was from the Boston Common to Dewey Square and then proceeded on to the North Washington Bridge. This march was 10,000 people strong. That same day Occupy Boston expanded to the adjoining section of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy to accomadate the daily expansion of the Occupation. At 6:00 that night the Boston Police Department informed Occupy Boston that if they did not clear the site by nightfall, they would be forcibly removed from the site.
At 1:30 AM the Boston Police arrived at Occupy Boston with more than 16 police vans along with police cruisers and unmarked vehicles on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Boston. Officers were dressed in all black, wore riot gear, and were equipped with dozens of plastic handcuffs. They surrounded the camp and protesters were given five minutes to leave or be arrested.
Most protesters remained, linked arms, and peacefully stood their ground. Police moved in and according to Boston.com, “each protestor was individually put on his or her stomach, cable-tied, and dragged off as others tore down tents and arrested and detained people on the fringe of the park.” Photographs and video show that Boston Police made no distinction between veterans, medics, and legal observers while making the mass arrests.
Although 141 protesters were arrested, the Occupy Boston movement has grown even larger since the Boston Police’s attempt to make them leave. Mainstream and social media coverage of the arrests sparked even more initiative of local people to join the movement. The Occupiers are still in Dewey Square and say they will move back to the Rose Kennedy Greenway if they require more space again.
The surge of participants and acceptance of the Occupation has made Boston officials reexamine their official position on the movement.
Occupy Boston has had lots of exciting additions to their efforts including their own distributed and online newspaper, Occupy Boston Globe (http://www.occupyboston.org/). The paper covers breaking news about the movement, announces guests and speakers visiting the camp, and upcoming events. Famous guests include Governor Deval Patrick and John Carolos, one of the two athletes who raised the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics. Noam Chomsky spoke at Occupy Boston on Saturday, October 22 at 6:00PM as part of their Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series.
Still, some politicians are calling for Occupy to leave Dewey Square once again because of public safety reasons. There have been a spike in thefts at the camp and there was one incident last week involving a homeless man pulling a knife. Police officers on hand were able to seize the man and confiscated the blade and a hypodermic needle. It is my own opinion that that Occupiers should not be forced to leave because of an altercation involving an unrelated homeless man. And, if there are a spike in homeless people stealing jackets from the Occupation, the city of Boston should be doing more for them everyday so they do not have a need to. And the continuance of comments from leaders who say there must be an end to the Occupation seems Constitutionally wrong. Occupiers have the right to free speech and peaceful protest and assembly. And even those who may not completely agree with all of the issues of the Occupy movement are out on Atlantic Avenue along side them supporting their right to be there.
If you are inspired to join the movement or simply want to explore, ask questions, and see Tent City for yourself- go down to Dewey Square anytime day or night and make your way over to the Welcome Desk. There you will find any information you may want and an update of current events at the camp. Events include lectures, music performances, arts and crafts, and zine making.