A little after 7 last Thursday morning, hundreds of protesters marched from Zuccotti Park, the scene of a massive police eviction two days earlier, into the warren of streets that surround the New York Stock Exchange. It was the two month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, which has introduced a new language of political confrontation—the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, Occupy!, “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”—to the national conversation. An entire “Day of Action” was in the works. For the early morning event, marchers hoped to reach Wall Street itself, or as near to Wall Street as they could get given the metal barricades, police vans, motorcycles, and riot police that have effectively privatized that narrow strip of once-public land. It was perhaps the movement’s most carefully-orchestrated action—though you might not have known it by watching the news that day.
Occupy Wall Street’s unorthodox approach to direct action was on full display Thursday morning as multiple columns of marchers encircled Wall Street. The flood of protesters stopped to chant or quickly moved on, depending on the density of police personnel arrayed to corral and disperse the crowd. Others sat down in front of barricades when the police refused further access to the public. This seemingly chaotic rhythm of the protest was, in fact, intentional.
For many days prior to the November 17 day of action, Occupiers met to map out the multiple stages of the action, noting the various intersections where police would try to bottleneck marchers, and devising routes of retreat that would allow them to re-group when faced with overwhelming police force. In order to spread out the police presence, the march was staggered; different strands would leave minutes apart and aim for different access points to Wall Street. Although these general contours of the action were planned en masse, over a dozen affinity groups—self-organizing sets of volunteers—met on their own to plan actions-within-the action: some would break off from the main march to proceed directly to Wall Street through a Duane Reade on Pine; others planned acts of civil disobedience at strategic locations.
This organized randomness frustrated police tactics, which are best suited to corralling a single-minded mass. As a result, the police did as much as the marchers to block access to Wall Street, manhandling pedestrians and “freezing” intersections in order to stanch the unpredictable flow of protest. Perhaps the chief breakdown of police control occurred at the intersection of Broad and Beaver at around 10 a.m., where several strands of the march met after earlier sit-ins on Pine Street. Unprepared for this secondary flow, the police initially allowed the marchers to take to the street, dancing and singing—free from police violence, if only for a few minutes.
Click Here to continue reading this interesting article, particularly if you read Naomi Wolf’s just-posted article.
- Don’t Let Them Confuse You about Violence – Op-Ed by Nathan Schneider (Waging Non-violence) (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Occupy Wall Street to World: This Is So Not Over! – from Yes! Magazine (jhaines6.wordpress.com)