By John Stang
In attempt to be a real journalist, and because I happened to by in NYC visiting some relatives, I decided to head down to Zuccotti Park to see the OWS protests. One thing I will say, it is hardly a park. Zuccotti is just a small piece of land that is “occupied,” but no it doesn’t take that many people to occupy it to begin with. There were probably about 100 people there.
Mainly, I interviewed various people for my radio show, which was about 6 or 7. Most were willing to talk, in fact were eager to talk with me. There were 6 other news outlets covering the protests and many people walking by taking pictures. The protesters range from early 20 somethings to 50 year-old hippies. One claimed to be a former financier for a firm, but the details were sketchy on where he worked when I asked him. The average time most spent there was about 1-2 weeks. Most of the place is covered with tarps and tents for protesters to sleep. The scene can be described as disorganized chaos. Different booths are set up that makes it look like a homeless shelter. There is a library of donated books containing large swaths of Post-Modern philosophy genres, feminist studies books, and economics education books. A small table with a cardboard sign that says “Media relations” sits next to the library. A few steps from that is a large table covered with food, all paid for by donated money for the cause, that includes apples, grenola bars, and a big assortment of French bread.
Everyone at the protest appears to have a job assigned to them. Several are on their hands and knees scrubbing the sidewalks and picking up trash. Large garbage bags of clothes sit on the sidewalk. When I asked where the bags go, the woman rudely yelled, “It’s just laundry.” I did not ask where the laundry goes. I even saw a human microphone, where one person yells a phrase and the crowd repeats it to get the message across. Sometimes, seminars happen and other times they just interact with curious tourists walking by. The NYPD just glare at the protesters. When I attempted to interview on officer, he just shooed me away.
What do they want? The only thing they have in common is ending corporate greed and untying government and corporate interests. Beyond that, pick a cause and you can probably find it. A few protest the wars, one man wanted a “resource based economy and to end currency,” and one women was trying to convince passersby to become vegans or vegetarians. It was not a communist or anarchist rebellion that Fox News wants to describe, but its also not the perfect liberal protest.
All the protesters were polite, easy to talk to, and wanted to get their message across (that is, after all, what makes a good activists). I will say that if the OWS idea doesn’t work, they can certainly open an Apple Genius Bar of their own (it was like Mac Central down in Zuccotti). They had energy, passion, and an ideal. It’s not united in its grievances nor does it possess practical solutions. It’s just a bunch of people who are angry and frustrated that their voices are not being heard. They might not be policy wonks or politicos. They also have not sold their soul to one party or the other, which is more than I can say for a group of Founding Father worshipping protesters who wear tri-cornered hats.
Where is this leading ? I have no idea and neither do the protesters. The movement could die out tomorrow or it could live on for another 10 years, no one knows. At this point, I wouldn’t count them out and I wouldn’t brush them aside as just a bunch of hipsters with signs. They have energy and, sometimes, that is all you need. If you take what you see on the internet and bring it life, that’s OWS. How scary or happy that makes you feel is your judgement.