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Citizens Aim to Occupy Wall Street

For the live blog go here.

(photo: Anonops)

The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people.
— Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain

Drawing inspiration from Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt and other countries where occupations have taken place in the past months, organizers are preparing to occupy Wall Street in New York on September 17. They have spent weeks planning logistics and building support for the action and hope to see 20,000 swarm lower Manhattan and set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy the area.

The Occupy Wall Street action is not being organized by one organization. A central website was set up by independent organizers to provide support for those seeking to engage in resistance or protest. The action is the result of a call by Adbusters, a Vancouver-based anti-consumerist magazine known for “culture jamming.” The magazine put out a call on July 13, to come together like people did in Tahrir Square in Egypt and make one demand that President Barack Obama “ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”

The call to action further explained the need for such an occupation action:

This demand seems to capture the current national mood because cleaning up corruption in Washington is something all Americans, right and left, yearn for and can stand behind. If we hang in there, 20,000-strong, week after week against every police and National Guard effort to expel us from Wall Street, it would be impossible for Obama to ignore us. Our government would be forced to choose publicly between the will of the people and the lucre of the corporations.

This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America.

The hacktivist group known as Anonymous has come out strongly in support of the Occupy Wall Street action. Noting that September 17 is Constitution Day, an Anonymous flyer declares:

We will no longer choose to stand still while one of our country’s greatest achievements, the Constitution, is skewed and vandalized by the actions of corporate giants. We will no longer stay quiet while our society is destroyed by the downward spiral of mass consumer capitalism. We will stand up for our rights and the rights of everyone who call the United States their home.

The organizers are keenly aware of the fact that the police—not just any police force but the NYPD—will likely do everything they can to halt the occupation in its first few hours. Since the success of the action depends on being able to keep people engaged and interested in holding space in lower Manhattan, they will do everything they can to split up crowds and disperse them.

[A guide for people planning to participate in the action.]

Those involved hope to use the Spanish occupation in Madrid as their guide. Here’s a quote from Jérôme E. Roos, a journalist who wrote about the encampment last month:

All day long, 300 police officers kept the square hermetically sealed off, even closing the Sol metro station – one of the largest and most important in the city … When the protesters realized they couldn’t take the square, they quickly dissolved into a dozen side-streets and regrouped on a number of key locations … For hours now, protesters have been blocking all the main traffic arteries in the city center … Tens of thousands of indignados have brought Madrid to a complete standstill in a spontaneous and defiant bid to reclaim Puerta del Sol … The mass protest is now reported to be headed back towards Sol for a second time, in another attempt to take back the square.

Thus, Adbusters advises:

If the police block us temporarily from occupying Wall Street, then let’s turn all of lower Manhattan into our Tahrir Square. Let’s sing our songs in the lobby of Goldman Sachs and in Chase Manhattan Plaza; let’s wave our signs outside the SEC and the Federal Reserve; let’s convene our people’s assemblies around the Charging Bull statue at Bowling Green … and if need be, let’s set up our encampments in nearby Battery Park and other places until we’re ready to walk into Wall Street again …

The people behind this are quite literally intending to launch a siege on Wall Street. When they get into the area that Wall Street occupies, they hope to take position and use everything and anything available to show the nation and the world how people crave justice for the banksters or casino capitalists that have enjoyed impunity, despite perpetrating an inside job on the US (and global) economy in 2008.

Waging Nonviolence has a superb post up on Occupy Wall Street that addresses how the terrain of Wall Street is different from Tahrir Square or Puerta del Sol in Spain along with how the organizers know the action doesn’t require everyone to all be in one grouping. The action may be more successful if everyone is dispersed throughout the streets:

As most people in the NYC General Assembly seem to realize, their goal right now is not so much to proclaim a demand as to build a movement, to break down the habits of business-as-usual and get the public to imagine that a different kind of world is possible. They have to create a broad-based, powerful uprising if they’re going to obstruct the influence of money in politics with their own human capital. Staging a massive, centralized, unified protest mob is one impressive way, perhaps, of doing that. But it’s not the only way. It may not even be the best way.

In any case, the organizers have made it clear that their main priority is not some kind of futile clash with the police, or an orgy of tactical masterminding. The goal is to be inviting, rather than to scare potential allies off by dwelling too much on what the police will do. That’s why they’ve planned to start Saturday—well before the 3 p.m. assembly at Chase Manhattan Plaza—not with the building of barricades but with the making of art: a New York Fun Exchange, which begins at noon around the Charging Bull statue at Bowling Green, just south of Wall Street. Get ready, too, for the Michael Jackson flash mob.

It is entirely possible police are kept on their toes for a period of time tomorrow. That is because US Day of Rage (USDOR) has put together a tool to help those who swarm lower Manhattan maintain their presence. A “crowd map” is currently posted for people to post where “peaceable assemblies,” permanent and temporary, are taking place. Individuals can post locations where wifi is available, where power can be recharged and where restrooms are. And, most importantly, they can post where arrests have taken place.

Some who are likely to be participating in the occupation “tested” Wall Street on September 1. They went down and tried to set up a small camp of less than 20 people on a public sidewalk. Under Met Council v. NYPD (something “Bloombergville” used to justify their sleep-out in June), citizens hope to come out and line the streets with legally permitted assemblies.

This video shows what is likely to happen tomorrow and indicates if people are arrested they are likely to have all charges dismissed, provided they do not do anything else beyond trying to hold an assembly on the sidewalk:


For The Dissenter’s live blog go here. It can be followed on Twitter with the hashtag #occupywallst. Also, keep an eye out for these hashtags too: #usdor or #sept17 or #s17assembly or #s17arrest or#s17events or #s17wifi or #s17power

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."