One of the nice things about living in New York is that I have the opportunity to experience the Occupy Wall St. protests directly, without the filter of any secondary source. Last weekend, I was in the financial district, so I took a short walk to Zuccotti Park, the campground that protesters now dub ‘Liberty Park’. At the bottom are two of my favorite pictures from the trip.
After seeing the protests firsthand, all I can say is this: these people aren’t kidding around.
I can’t say that I agree with all of their concrete goals. But whether or not you do agree with them, it’s clear that this isn’t some temporary fad. Before, I was shocked when Mayor Bloomberg backed down on his plans to clear the park, but after visiting the park, I can see why. On this Saturday afternoon, the park was filled with an incredibly diverse range of people – not at all some easily dismissed ‘fringe group’. But here’s the kicker – the part that should really terrify anybody who wishes that the Occupy Wall Street protests would just go away:
These people look happy.
I’ve seen my fair share of protests before, and people tend to look fired up and ready for action. Sure, the OWS protesters are angry and ready for action too. But they’re also clearly comfortable where they are – camping in sleeping bags on a semi-private park in downtown Manhattan. With a band playing in one corner and street cart food vendors all around the edge of the park, it wasn’t too hard to close my eyes and imagine myself in a modern-day Woodstock. I talked briefly to a few people, and they seemed like a political protest was exactly what they wanted to be doing on a Saturday afternoon, thank you very much.
And that was only a few hours before thousands of them stormed Times Square.
When the weather gets cooler around mid-November, I expect the crowd in Zuccotti Park to shrink, but that doesn’t mean I think Occupy Wall Street will die down. Already there are signs that it is spreading to universities like Columbia (which, in case you’ve forgotten, has quite a history of protest).
You may not agree with the objectives of Occupy Wall St. – I find some of their goals problematic myself – one thing is clear. When you have a bunch of people protesting out of anger and frustration, there’s trouble ahead. But when you have a bunch of people protesting from anger and frustration and genuinely enjoying the fight, you’d better believe that they won’t just fade away.
(I’ve spoken to some friends in other cities who are under the impression that this is a ‘dreads vs. suits’ battle. These two photos that I took last week tell a different story – one of the reasons I believe that this isn’t going away anytime soon.)