Occupy Everywhere: Political Carnival

This installment of Kim Boekbinder’s ongoing Occupy Everywhere series is supplemented by our longtime chum, photographer Neil Girling. Neil recently traveled from California to New York to document various aspects of the Occupation there. Check out his Flickrstream for dozens more OWS/NYC pictures. ~Mer

All photos and photo captions for this post © Neil Girling.

I’m sitting on a wall in the South West corner of Liberty Plaza, across from a solar energy truck and a CNN van, listening to snippets of conversations as people pass me by.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for something like this to happen” is the thing I hear the most.

“This is so much nicer than a protest.”

“This is the real America.”

“This is leverage.”

The weather is beautiful and the park is full of people, jam-packed today; it’s too many to be comfortable, but the growth of the movement is amazing. Tourists and hippies are all together: arguing, dancing, taking pictures of each other.

An estimated 3,000 showed up at Zuccotti Park at 6am Friday morning (10/14/2011) to defend the occupation against the intended eviction by NYPD.

Everybody is talking to everybody else here, and they are not always agreeing.

Next to me, a woman from Armenia explains that poverty is the fault of the people who are poor. Not only that, but people who are poor are poor by choice; they want to be poor. The man she is talking to has large hoops in his stretched ears, he holds a sign that says, “Fuck: money, war, police brutality…”

Protester, Times Square (10/15/2011).

The drum circle is jubilant and loud. Attractive and dirty young people lounge on plastic-wrapped mattresses, smoking hand rolled cigarettes. There are lots of funny haircuts and piercings. Some of the people sleeping here look like they’d be sleeping on the street anyway.

Occupy Wall Street is a political carnival, a free-for-all of information, misinformation, good times, protest, and personal political expression. The drum circle never stops, not even for the General Assembly. It’s annoying and frustrating to some organizers. But it’s not any louder than NYC is at any time – subways, hovering helicopters, sirens, jackhammers, traffic.

Guy Fawkes-masked protester. October 14, 2011.

There are people here trying to end capitalism, people who want to end Columbus Day, people who want to end meat-eating, war, or the war on drugs. There are artists and musicians, politicians and writers; there are mini-celebrities looking to enhance their image, activists looking to garner support for their own objectives, hippies just getting high on the revolutionary life. Everybody is trying to co-opt the movement, for fun or profit or cool factor or political gain.  But Occupy Wall Street shrugs them all off: all of the celebrities, all of the politicians, even the free-loving, drum-circling, dreadlocked occupiers.

While Occupy Wall Street embraces the spectacle it has become, it is also not letting the spectacle undermine its status as a powerful agent of change.

Occupy Wall Street at Times Square. The crowd was estimated at over 20,000.

Some people come for the information. Some people come for the drums. Some people come because the girls here are really cute. Some people come to co-opt or adopt. Some people come for the theatre. Right now, what matters most is that people are coming: to see, to learn, to engage. And the movement remains clear on its objective; even though it has made no clear demands, the goal is strong:

The system is broken. We will change it. Now.

Watching Occupy Wall Street from their high-rise Friday morning.

Paul Armstrong. Union Ironworker Local 433 from Los Angeles, CA.

“Wall Street Movement Goes Worldwide.” Times Square. Saturday, October 15th, 2011. An estimated 20K were in attendance.

Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to remove protesters under the pretense of “cleaning the park;” instead, the protesters have cleaned it themselves.

Derek Joseph. Transport Workers Union Local 100.

Landscaping volunteer removes dead flowers and plants new ones at Zuccotti Park. (10/13/2011)

Omar Lopez. Policy Analyst in NYC, has been at Occupy Wall Street for two weeks; wants “corporate influence out of government.”

Lucy Bailey. Social worker in Masters Program at Columbia. “People are my business.”

John Hovey. Veteran with five tours of duty, including Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

8 Responses to “Occupy Everywhere: Political Carnival”

  1. Reelah Says:

    Thank you for this series, it is great to be able to see and hear what is happening from an untainted source.

  2. Filipe Says:

    I’m loving these Occupy posts in coilhouse.

  3. Ramona Little Says:

    The guy in the Guy Fawkes mask is probably an undercover cop. Apparently they wear colorful arm bands so they can recognize each other. See for instance this video starting at about 2:20: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2011/10/11/girls-fight-with-police-after-being-caught-not-paying-for-subway/ Or see this thread (about Portland, but same idea): http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/08/295839.shtml

  4. Ross Wolfe Says:

    Occupy Wall Street has so far been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. The protestors have successfully stood their ground against Bloomberg’s attempt to evict them.

    But this victory can by no means considered final. Rather, it tasks us with the question: “Where do we go from here?”

    If this successful moment of resistance against the coercion of the State is to signal a turning-point for this movement, it must now address the more serious political problems that confront it. It is crucial that the participants in these demonstrations ask themselves where they stand in history, and more adequately conceptualize the problem of capitalist society.

    Though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. To this point, most of the protests have only expressed a sort of intuitive discontent with the status quo. In order to get a better sense of what they are up against, they must develop a more adequate understanding of the prevailing social order. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What it Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies

  5. Endif Says:

    Yours are some of the best posts on OWS, keep them coming!

  6. Adrian James Says:

    @Ramona Little, actually, judging by the colour, he might be from the SaferSpaces Working Group [last I knew, they were wearing the pink arm bands/bandanas], which is organized on making the space more accessible/safer for queer and trans people, survivors, and anyone else who feels that the various atmospheres of the Occupation life are inaccessible or hostile to them. But really, if the cops are using that tactic, it’s impossible to saw for sure; more the an FYI some of the working groups use an arm-band system, too. I’m more suspect of his cop-hood because he’s got a Guy Fawkes on.

  7. Asher Says:

    LOL at the anti-corporate protestor in the Guy Fawkes mask, a popular item which has been making money for Time Warner since Anonymous popularized it as trendy anarcho-gear.

  8. Occupy Everything - Nerdcore Says:

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