occupy wall street

Until yesterday, I couldn’t have started this post with “as you know.” But yesterday, (estimates are that) 800 people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the national media began to cover the Occupy Wall St. protests more earnestly. (In New York, we’ve been getting news about the occupation of a park in lower Manhattan for 15 days, since it began.)

I went down today and spent a few hours. My observations are obviously scattershot and superficial. I look forward to learning more and becoming more involved.

If you want to get more information about the movement and its objectives, I recommend you go to their website occupywallst.org. There are other sources of information from within the movement, which is a loose coalition of groups (with differing perspectives, of course) including anonymous, which claims to have created this video.

The remainder of the post is comprised of images I took. You should ask my permission before you repost/reuse them.

This brave Marine has been covered extensively by the media.

I hope this image is a start at explaining how diverse the groups are in the square. Anonymous is present, and so are the hippies, the anti-nuke folks, the Unions (especially the Teamsters and the teachers), parents with kids, hipsters, Europeans, anarchists, the homeless, veterans, food truck workers, police, 9-11 memorial tourists, drum players, college students, artists, conspiracy theorists, the elderly, the handicapped, the mentally ill…it is a real united nations.

The square is loosely organized into different regions, and I captured most of them on camera (I chose not to capture people sleeping, so you won’t see the sleeping area). In the next picture, you can see the digital media area, which is cordoned off and has an entrance.

Media center

In the center are several of the four-top marble tables built into the square. There are electrical outlets and four to a dozen computers being used at any moment.

These folks help to maintain Twitter feeds, websites, correspondence with movements in other cities, and communication within the square, and around the city. Some people were authorized to use walkie talkies, which they clipped to their shirts or belt loops.


When I arrived, as you can see, breakfast was still being served. It looked more appetizing than most business breakfast buffets I’ve seen. By the time I left, lunch was out and it looked like they were feeding at least a hundred people, if not more. Preparing all of this food–keeping the supplies flowing in, a group of people tasked to prepare it, basic sanitary procedures followed…it is an amazing feat.

Sign display

People ring the eastern entrance to the park, holding signs. There are a few stationed at the western corners, the northern one of which abuts the entrance to the 9-11 memorial. Signs cover everything, from corporate greed to nuclear weapons. They are signed with names, with ages, with organizational affiliations. Some make no sense, some make so much sense it hurts (“Treat your neighbor as you would be treated.”).

In the shadow of the World Trade Center

This picture shows the rebuilding happening on the northwest corner of the park. The road to the left of the image leads to the entry point for the still reservation-only 9-11 memorial. I’ve only been down here once after going down to help during that fall. I still find it totally eerie, more so with the camera crews around again.

Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera is there in the center of the image, with the powder blue sweater on. He appears to be doing interviews for some kind of television show–he had a sound guy and a guy with one of those big cameras. The place was swarmed with photographers (with press badges) which has to be a good thing for the movement, but I’d say there’s an uneasy relationship with the celebrity side of getting press. So far, Susan Serandon, Russell Simmons, and several politicians have gone down to the square and joined in for a bit. On the one hand, it’s a movement for everyone and anyone, and I think artists especially might feel a sympathy with the aims of the movement. On the other hand, crass opportunism isn’t ever welcome, particularly not in a place that has such a feeling of communitas. This guy in the blazer–who I had earlier seen having a really earnest conversation with one of the residents of the park, was positioning himself so his friend could take a picture with Geraldo in the background. (Side note: he was Australian. Just saying.)

Trash patrol

During the few hours I was there, I saw three guys taking care of garbage. One was going around to the city trashcans inside the park, taking the bags to the curb. Another was walking around with a single, plastic glove, picking up cigarette butts from the perimeter of the park (no smoking inside, or that’s supposed to be true). Then this guy was working his way across the whole square, sweeping and dumping the trash into public cans.

There’s a really beautiful four-page, broadside paper created by people in and sympathetic with those in the square. It is called the Occupied Wall Street Journal. It is easily the most beautiful, full-color newspaper I’ve ever seen. It includes the platform of the group, an “occupying for dummies” section on the back, and a “why I occupy” section, which includes beautiful photographs of those interviewed for the piece.

The Occupied Wall Street Journal

There were also a group of teachers, first from New Jersey public schools, later joined by faculty from CUNY, sitting in the quiet corner of the park, reading.

Teachers, grading and protesting.

Two final pictures, both taken with sociologists in mind. The first has already found it’s mark: Sarah S. I thought this guy really captured one of the strongest links between this action and the “Arab Spring.”

Use You Tube

And the next one is for my friends at Org Theory. Two organizational boards: the one on the left is dedicated to figuring out the strategy of using “Charlie’s Green Bus” (see on the right side: greenbustour.com?). Charlie’s green bus is willing to drive a few dozen people to D.C. to meet with organizers, willing to host meetings, willing to provide a safe and quiet space. Seems like Charlie’s Green Bus is an awesome resource, and it’s parked just a block away. On the right board, you can see the results of working group meetings.

Organizational board

You can see the information is organized into sections–media, education, legal, labor, community relations. Under each, you can find news bits, requests for assistance, discussion topics for future meetings, and so forth. This same information does not appear to be online–not on the official Twitter feed, I know for sure. Not on the website, that I’ve seen. Are groups around the country and globe using the same strategies? How much of this is being shared between groups?

That’s probably all I can handle for the day. I hope the pictures give you a better sense of what’s going on. Happy to answer–or try to answer–questions in the comments.



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10 responses to “occupy wall street

  1. Love the photographs Jenn! Thanks for posting them.

    And yes, the board is an awesome. I have to imagine that just keeping people organized (in not running into each other, orchestrating meals and other necessities) is a gargantuan organizational undertaking. Add on top of that the incredible public relations activities and you have quite the movement machine.

    The question that I keep coming to is, where does all of this end? Where is the energy going to? Almost none of the media coverage I’ve read is about issues or policies at all. There aren’t even any specific targets here. The objectives of the protests seem so multifaceted and abstract that it’s hard to imagine how this is going to have any impact on social or political change other than to mobilize more people around various, only tangentially related causes. And maybe that’s just it: the ultimate goal of the movement is just to mobilize more people in left-leaning causes. What is your sense of all this?

  2. Jenn Lena

    I’m glad you could see and enjoy the pictures. Spreading some accurate information about the movement is really important at this stage.
    You ask: what are the targets or objectives of the group? As I understand it, the objective is a process. The process is a General Assembly. That objective is met each day because the occupiers require it. The conditions of membership are only a commitment to the participatory process. The objectives of discussion are civility and democracy. The very fact of a daily General Assembly governing a group existing in a park on the island of Manhattan poses an implicit threat to the necessity of the system around it.
    This video does a good job of explaining things as I understand them.

    Maybe sometime in the future, the General Assembly will resolve to make specific requests or demands of other groups, but at this point, that’s not the point.

  3. Jenn Lena

    I’ve just remembered a few small items I forgot to mention that may be of interest: there are welcome “centers” (tables, really) at the west and east sides of the park, and a “people’s library” arranged along a long seating area–pamphlets and books in plastic bins by type…from novels to political non-fiction. (I think I would suggest they move the library to the west side of the park, because it is just inches from the drum circle–not always a comfortable spot to browse.)
    Also: there are two pieces of public art in the plaza. One is “Double Check” by J. Seward Johnson (pictures of which were often featured in post 9-11 essays), and Joie de Vivre, by Mark di Suvero, which is sometimes referred to as “the Red Thing.”

  4. Wow, thank you. Better than any news channel.

  5. This is such great news for folks across the Atlantic – it has the power to put the whole US in a totally different light here. Jennifer, it’s tempting to send this to some Dutch newspapers.

  6. Audrey Sperano

    Jenn, I live only a few blocks away but haven’t had the time to make it there, which is so frustrating. Your coverage has been so helpful and eye-opening, and more comprehensive than most that I’ve seen thus far! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Pingback: occupy wall street and change « orgtheory.net

  8. Pingback: Occupy Wall Street Blog Round-Up, and a Thought on Climate Change « A (Budding) Sociologist’s Commonplace Book

  9. Jenn Lena

    Thanks Audrey! Maybe we can meet for coffee sometime soon and take a walk down to check it out! Summer will love the drums!

  10. In LA, it seems like there is a different relationship between elected representatives and the people protesting right outside their doors. Today the city council invited protesters to the day’s meetings and is considering a formal resolution supporting the protest. No live Twitter updates on how those meetings are progressing.

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