Occupy Wall Street protest organizers commemorated the third anniversary of the global anti-Wall Street corruption, et al movement September 17 not by overrunning the streets of Lower Manhattan alongside tens of thousands of supporters or by staging mass acts of civil disobedience as they’ve done since the movement’s birth in 2011, but by quietly strategizing for this year’s primary action events: September 21’s People’s Climate March and September 22’s “Flood Wall Street.”
A handful of OWS organizers led by Sumumba Sobukwe of OWS working group Occu Evolve rallied several dozen protestors and ran workshops throughout the day in a sparsely populated Zuccotti Park, the movement’s historic home base in the shadow of One World Trade Center just blocks from Wall Street itself.
Holding signs, chanting “We are the 99 Percent!” and distributing fliers about several upcoming marches, they spoke out about issues ranging from police brutality and income inequality to Native American rights and corporate corruption under the watchful eye of the New York City Police Department, who operated a mobile command post nearby and set up barricades throughout the financial district. Officials in both white and blue uniforms patrolled the park, guarded intersections throughout Lower Manhattan and also stood ground outside many of the financial institutions OWS has criticized.
“Not all of us are anarchists,” Sobukwe told the Press while handing out “Occupy The Media: Public Press” lanyards to dozens of news outlets and journalists who’d converged on Zuccotti that morning (outnumbering the activists) to cover the anniversary. “Not all of us are these quote-unquote crazy people. We really just wanted Occupy Wall Street to be a movement like the anti-Vietnam movement, like the Civil Rights movement, or more. We felt like the movement needed to evolve.
“Mic check!” he boomed from the south steps of the park a few moments later—signaling supporters to activate the “People’s Microphone,” whereby all those within earshot loudly echo whatever the main speaker says.
“We’re still here!” Sobukwe declared, amid a chorus of the same. “We may not be thousands, but we’re still strong. And we’re still here. Because Wall Street is still here. Committing the same crimes. Against the same people. Which are us.”
Programs included independent media workshops, meet and greets, networking sessions, discussions and teach-ins including: “Occupy The Environment: Saving Our Climate;” “Stop Mass Incarceration: From Eric Garner to Michael Brown and Beyond;” “End the Militarization of Police” and a “People’s and Workers Assembly for the 99%.”
These were warm-up preparations for “Flood Wall Street,” a massive collective act of nonviolent civil disobedience slated for Monday, September 22, beginning at 9 a.m. at Battery Park to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23. From there, protestors will march and “flood” the steps of the New York Stock Exchange at noon in a massive sit-in, according to floodwallstreet.net.
“Stop Capitalism. End the Climate Crisis,” declares a message on the site. “Flood, blockade, sit-in, and shut down the institutions that are profiting from the climate crisis. Wear blue.”
The mass OWS action comes on the heels of what is slated to be the largest march against climate change in history—the People’s Climate March—on Sunday, September 21 in New York City.
Steve Yip, an organizer associated with the nonprofit Stop Mass Incarceration Network, stressed on Wednesday the impact OWS had on “changing the discourse” about a spectrum of injustices, vowing that October would be the “Month of Resistance” replete with “nationwide walkouts” and the 19th Annual Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation on October 22.
“It is mass genocide!” shouted Yip, also from the south steps of Zuccotti. “No school. No work. Walk out!”
Self-described radical journalist, political analyst and OWS organizer Caleb Maupin told supporters that when some of his friends and colleagues heard it was OWS’ third anniversary, they responded with something along the lines of “That’s so three years ago.” Yet, he stressed, the very same injustices which helped spark the movement still persist today.
“There are still a group of businesses that are making profits from destroying our lives!” he howled. “They can’t make profits by exploiting us! So now they make profits by locking us up!”
In addition to corporate greed and mass incarceration, Maupin railed against the World Business Forum—a mass gathering of business elite to be held October 7 and 8 at Radio City Music Hall that will feature speakers including former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke—and urged all to “March against capitalism!”
“We may not be in Zuccotti Park anymore,” he declared. “But we’re everywhere!”
“We’re still here!” he continued. “We are the 99 percent!”
That message was echoed by Robert Hernandez, also of OWS’ Occu Evolve.
“Even though our numbers have dropped dramatically, we’re still here,” he told the Press prior to his turn on the People’s Mic. “We’re not giving up.”
“We’ve been here three years now and we’re going to be here another three years and longer,” he vowed. “Don’t give up! Never give up!”
“I’m a refugee in my own country,” lamented Willy Underbaggage of the Lakota Nation, who took the People’s Mic next. “The Earth is being ravaged. Stolen. Used. To control you.
“Wall Street has done so much damage here across this land,” he continued. “Wall Street was created to thrive, to steal from indigenous people!”
Double-gold US Figure Skating champion, performance artist, unofficial OWS Freedom Fairy, OWS Alternative Banking working group member and attorney Marni Halasa, dressed in a skintight police costume and pretending to club jailed bad bankers with a baton (one was a handcuffed blowup doll) equated Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout as living proof that OWS was still alive and well, citing her David-Vs-Goliath Democratic gubernatorial primary challenge against Gov. Andrew Cuomo—which was unsuccessful, but garnered the highest percentage of the vote against an incumbent since the primary’s were introduced in 1970.
“[Her campaign is] one way Occupy is still very, very relevant,” she explained to the crowd. “So if anybody said that Occupy is not relevant, we are.”
“Zephyr Teachout’s campaign was one of the most exciting things that has happened in politics in years,” Halasa told the Press afterward. “And what I love about her is she takes an examination of sort of the existing power structures—like who has power in society? Why do we allow Citibank and Chase Manhattan to allocate credit? You need credit in order to have a small business and actually succeed.
“You don’t hear Cuomo talk about that, you don’t really hear mainstream politicians talk about examining the power relationships in society,” she continued.
“The system is fkd up!” slammed a speaker introduced as “Brother Bill.” “It needs to be changed.”
Sporting a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard, he directed people to greenscissors.com, a campaign to identify and eliminate environmentally wasteful and harmful projects. The group’s 2012 report found that ending environmentally destructive federal programs would save nearly $700 billion, according to the site.
“The Occupy movement is a spiritual movement,” OWS protestor Hermes Levi told the crowd through a think West African accent. “The Occupy movement wanted to make a better world.
“Occupy cannot die because it’s the idea whose time has come,” he explained to the Press afterward. “The time is now. Whether it’s three people, five people, 100 people, but I say it’s about understanding…people will get it sooner or later, and once they get it, it will start…the same tactics used to win the battle will not work, so Occupy cannot die, it can only rise up again.”
“The three-year anniversary and things that are happening everywhere shows that Occupy is still here,” continued Levi. “It’s not the same strength because of what happened [police and government crackdowns and its eviction from Zuccotti], but this is how history works: It’s two step forwards, one step back.
“We want a better world,” he added. “The journalists come and ask us ‘What are your demands?’ We say we don’t have no demand, we want to change the world. We want to change ourselves. We ask nothing from you. So changing ourselves and changing the world is not easy, but it’s feasible, it’s plausible.”
“Occupy Wall Street: From Zuccotti Park to Times Square, The Revolution Spreads” [Press Multimedia Cover Story Package Oct. 20. 2011]