Dustin M. Slaughter of the David and Goliath Project has been with Occupy Wall Street since the first week. He has posted a reflection on his time with the occupation that is very similar to a conclusion that I and others are making: the occupation is the message. It doesn’t need a set of demands. The movement only needs to continue to build and grow itself.
The occupation at Liberty Plaza may outwardly appear to be just a large encampment of hundreds of tired, exuberant, unwashed people. But it’s an incredibly subversive idea. What the occupation has managed to do thus far is set up a center for agitation on Wall Street’s doorstep, while simultaneously stand up to the most militarized police force in America. In that brave act of defiance, they’ve begun the process of recapturing public space to assemble and foment resistance against a corrupt system, a public space lost to us after 9/11 (with the introduction of “free speech zones”) and just as importantly, begin to remedy the fear and cynicism so many Americans have been feeling for well over a decade now under the hand of a police state and a domestic intelligence apparatus unparalleled in American history. The Founders clearly understood that the right to assemble was of key importance to those who wanted to correct wrongs done by their government. If they could not assemble, they could not achieve their goals. Liberty Plaza is a long-overdue civics lesson.
Slaughter writes eloquently of the movement that has sprouted. Angus Johnson, who runs StudentActivism.net, also eloquently explains why the movement need not issue a set of demands:
What’s going to change the dynamic in Washington DC, if anything will, is the continued growth of this movement. If you want to see Occupy Wall Street lead to a transaction tax, you want the movement to grow. If you want it to compel the demise of the legal concept of corporate personhood, you want the movement to grow. If you want it to overthrow global capitalism, you want the movement to grow…
…The crucial task for Occupy Wall Street right now isn’t coherence, any more than it’s the articulation of specific demands. It’s resonance as an idea, as a movement.
You don’t win by making demands. You win by taking power or by forcing power to bend. Either way your stated demands are peripheral to the outcome — what you demand has only the vaguest relationship to what you win.
The two pieces nicely complement my post at The Dissenter this morning, which is titled, “Occupy Wall Street Doesn’t Need to Make Any Demands (Yet).” The post gets into the important conversation that must be had about what to do with endorsements from big unions and well-known liberal advocacy organizations. It attempts to tackle what to do with any support on display at the “Take Back the American Dream” conference in Washington, DC.
The organizers of Occupy Wall Street should not be afraid of liberal organizations or big unions that endorse the occupation but they should be wary of the fact that individuals with these organizations or unions may become the face of the occupation. Media and politicians may ask to speak to the organizations or unions instead of speaking to the occupiers themselves. The identity of Occupy Wall Street could shift and then the momentum could be channeled into a fairly conventional reform campaign that aims to deflate the movement. The occupation will have to decide how to handle the diversion of their movement because the Democratic Party’s history includes a rich history of corralling movements into dead-end politics that do not shake the foundation of society too much (e.g. the Wisconsin uprising being directed into recall elections).
FDL’s premier live blog on Occupy Wall Street continues. Here’s the Twitter list of people to follow.
LIVE STREAM OF OCCUPY WALL STREET VIA GLOBAL REVOLUTION
12:10 PM Michael Moore on special edition of “Countdown”:
11:51 PM First segment from “Countdown” tonight. The show hosted by Keith Olbermann was a special edition, giving particular attention to the occupation action. Intro features a bit of Peter Yarrow singing with occupiers. In this segment, Democracy Now!‘s Ryan Devereaux is interviewed on the Brooklyn Bridge arrests and then economist Jeff Madrick comes on to talk about the teach-in he did with Joseph Stiglitz on Sunday.
11:47 PM Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz at Occupy Wall Street
11:46 PM Watch for this hashtag on Twitter: #OccupyColleges — several colleges/universities are going to be joining the Occupy Together movement.
7:19 PM Now, in honor of the great people commenting and posting updates on the live blog, here is an RSS feed for comments posted at The Dissenter.
6:53 PM The movement should be proud. Today, the White House was forced to respond to Occupy Wall Street’s presence. Greg Sargent has posted the question and answer:
QUESTION: Have the “Occupy Wall Street” protests reached a level of the President’s engaged awareness? Is he sympathizing with the protestors? Is he concerned about the protests at all?
CARNEY: I haven’t discussed it with him. I’m sure he’s aware of it because he follows the news. I would simply say that, to the extent that people are frustrated with the economic situation, we understand. And that’s why we’re so urgently trying to focus Congress’s attention on the need to take action on the economy and job creation.
And as regards Wall Street, I mean, one of the things that this President is very proud of is the consumer protections that were put into place through legislation that Republicans are now eager to try to dismantle. We think that’s a bad idea…Because these are common-sense consumer protections that would prevent the kind of abuse that credit card companies engaged in against credit card holders, that would protect against some of the actions that were taken that led to, or contributed to, the financial crisis that we saw in 2008. These were measures that the President felt were very important, and there’s a clear effort within the Congress to prevent the full implementation of legislation by holding up this nomination. We think that’s cynical and a bad idea.
Not surprisingly, Carney’s answer is a kind of answer you get from someone doing damage control. His celebration of so-called consumer protections passed that prevent credit card abuse isn’t going to cut it especially when the banks are now using debit card fees to gouge customers. Banks and corporations on Wall Street own the Obama Administration. They own Congress. That is why the Occupy Together movement is growing in America and the world.
But, congratulations Occupy Wall Street. You’re beginning to make power tremble. Power has to tremble for any meaningful change to happen.
5:26 PM LUCKYMW at myFDL has a diary, “You Can’t Judge a Revolution by Its Cover“:
What the rest of the country has been seeing in 2 dimensions on television or reading about from an extremely snarky print media can’t possibly transmit the level of intelligence, energy, commitment and humanity being produced by this assembly. This is an amazingly diverse crowd, I had a long talk with an economist from Bakersfield California, a blogger from Philadelphia, a teacher from Albany, as well as a collection of old school radicals who’ve been waiting almost 40 years for something like this to reappear.
The first thing you notice is just how incredibly nice everyone is. From the outside, one might think this is just a bunch of scraggly slackers who have found a new venue for their drum circles, dancing, guitar playing, and some who may just be there for the free food and the general hang. But walking around the park the political dimension is infectious. At any given moment, in any corner or on any bench, a spontaneous dialogue will break out about the current state of affairs we find ourselves in as Americans and citizens of the planet.
5:09 PM Report on part of the press conference at NY City Hall –
Aton Edwards of the International Preparedness Network talks about how he is going to be helping occupiers take measures to deal with the weather changes. He says someone yesterday almost got hypothermia and this is something they have to prevent from happening because the police can say the occupiers are a threat to their own safety. They can then use that to justify forcing the occupation out of the park. So, in the coming months, Edwards will help teach occupiers how to survive and they will get creative. They will try to get people to donate vehicles so they can have “warming stations.” Or, they will see if local colleges or universities will let occupiers come in and get warm.
International lawyer Alexander Penley says until two Saturdays ago the police had pretty fair to the occupiers. Then they decided to go crazy on the protesters. There were a number of false arrests but he told the occupiers not to worry because this can be dealt with in a lawsuit. He says the protesters have behaved very well and showed a lot of control, as they could have physically responded to Officer Bologna when he pepper-sprayed protesters. They didn’t. He says he hopes the police union stands up and mentions a report that one hundred NYPD refused to show up for duty after police went crazy (that may or may not be true). He specifically highlights the $4.6 million payoff to the NYPD from the JP Morgan Chase, which is clearly designed to buy protection. It should be illegal for a corporation to give money to a police agency, he concludes.
4:32 PM In case you missed it: TWU President John Samuelson, according New York Daily News, called the city’s use of MTA to bus arrestees on Saturday “a blatant act of political retaliation.”
“TWU Local 100 supports the protesters on Wall Street and takes great offense that the mayor and NYPD have ordered operators to transport citizens who were exercising their constitutional right to protest – and shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” Samuelsen said Sunday night.
At least five empty buses were commandeered from terminal points on both sides of the bridge, Samuelsen said.
TWU plans to take the NYPD to court.
4:29 PM Economic journalist William Greider gets why people are occupying Wall Street. He writes:
The wisdom of those young people (and old people) who planted their flag in Wall Street is in recognizing that the first step is not drafting policy manifestos for government (government is itself brain-dead, by the way). The essential first step is liberating the minds of people themselves—people everywhere who have been intimidated and abused by the Central Ministry of Official Propaganda. Giddy celebration of self-respect—that is what they are selling at Liberty Park. And it truly is subversive. If the word spreads, if there are 500 or 1,000 liberated public spaces around the country, then we can start to talk about politics or issues. The first lesson they are teaching us is that democracy should be fun.
4:20 PM A zombie stock trader gets ready to march (via @courtneycgross)
2:49 PM Lisa Derrick at FDL’s La Figa on Day 2 of Occupy LA:
A mini-tent city which now holds about 300 people most in their 20s and 30s, though there some in their 40s and upwards, and an array of Anonymous. Drum circles, a massage table, dogs and a crystal healing area make it a mini-fest, while the bacon wrapped hotdogs lend a truly Angeleno flavor (they are a revolution in food!).
2:47 PM CNN talking heads on Occupy Wall Street, from earlier today:
SUSANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And Alison, I understand this is a group that’s kind of a bit disorganized, to say the least. It’s not clear who is actually participating.
But tell us who is behind these protests. And really, what are they protesting? What’s the main point here, if there is one?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That’s a really good question. You know, they’re protesting just a whole list of things. It’s pretty much you name it — you know, corruption. They think that our political and economic systems are broken.
You know, there really isn’t one clear leader with Occupy Wall Street. What you’re seeing is a lot of people coming even from across the country to come right here to New York to protest, and just protest their frustrations.
So, day after day, they’re standing out there holding signs, hoping that someone will listen. But no, there is no cohesive message this point. But, you name it, corporate greed, everything in between, they even want a four-day work week, but they’re pretty much blaming Wall Street for all of the ills facing the U.S. at this point — Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Well, all of us would love a four-day work week. But it’s fascinating what is taking place down there.
More on the above video from Raw Story.
2:09 PM TIME magazine on occupiers dressing up as “zombies”:
Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for the group, says Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are being urged to dress in business wear with white faces and blood, and will march while eating monopoly money. He says financial workers should see them “reflecting the metaphor of their actions.”
An idea proposed on September 27 during the General Assembly:
Participatory democracy in action.
2:03 PM Plutocracy Files puts together a list of unions and community groups that support the occupation.
1:54 PM Occupy Houston has a list of the do’s and don’ts of occupations
1:44 PM The Nation‘s Allison Kilkenny reports on “The Ever-Changing Narrative of Occupy Wall Street Mass Arrests“:
When the arrests began, they “seemed random and aggressive.” Indeed, when the Times first reported on the mass arrests, the blame for the chaos was heaped upon the shoulders of the NYPD.
“After allowing them onto the bridge, the police cut off and arrested dozens of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators,” the lead paragraph of the initial report by Colin Moynihan reads.
Twenty minutes later, the lead paragraph was updated to, “In a tense showdown over the East River, police arrested hundreds of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators after they marched onto the bridge’s Brooklyn-bound roadway.” Now, the blame belongs to the protesters.