Occupy held a spirited one-year anniversary over the September 15-17 weekend that tallied the movement’s real accomplishments, demonstrated its evolution and anticipated a dynamic and effective future.
On Saturday, September 15th, an afternoon of small discussion groups at the”Occupy Town Square” gave way to an exuberant march, resulting in 33 arrests, primarily for wearing masks (based on a 150-year-old New York City law) and for attempting to de-arrest other demonstrators. While Occupiers were marching, police threw out all of the bedding at the encampment outside of Trinity Church (where Occupiers had been sleeping for over 100 days) because it was”public storage of removal property.” Internal frustrations erupted, with several activists accusing one Occupier of getting protesters arrested by leading a poorly conceived march.
On Sunday, activists channeled their zeal into more harmonious activities. A musical protest led by “Guitarmy” marched to Foley Square, where an Occupy concert showed the range of folks touched by the movement, including members of Occupy the Hood, unionized postal workers, and “The Raging Grannies.” The day closed with a “spokes council” (a decision-making structure) to prepare tactics for “S17.”
At 7 a.m. on Monday, Occupiers assembled into four blocs – Education, Eco, Debt and 99% – in designated zones in the financial district. The protesters had planned to converge on the New York Stock Exchange, but the NYPD had prepared barricades around the stock exchange area with metal gates and mechanized cement slabs built into the streets, permitting passage to Wall Street workers with proper ID only. Occupiers transitioned into “99 revolutions,” a series of pop-up demonstrations at various intersections, which dissolved into a general stream of Occupiers (several thousand) circling the NYSE area, playing music, hoisting puppets and tossing birthday balloons. The police reacted harshly, filling a school bus-style paddy wagon with protesters, including several journalists. Still, many maintained the playfulness of the afternoon as they regrouped at Zuccotti Park.
Many passersby stopped to check out the festivities at Zuccotti, and by the evening, spirits were high and many Occupiers were moved to see the park full again. At 6 p.m., activists convened for the “popular assembly,” at which representatives from the National Lawyers Guild announced the arrests (now recorded as 185) and called for jail support. The day closed with a meal prepared by Occupy Kitchen – birthday cake included.
While tensions occasionally flared (for example, when anarchists were angered that Green Party candidates spoke at an assembly), most Occupiers were re-energized and optimistic as they talked about”Occupy 2.0″ Many felt that Occupy would move into local, community-based organizing, and help groups (not necessarily under the Occupy label) to get started, to connect with pre-existing campaigns (particularly in long-time oppressed urban communities), and to build a network. The localized, positive, and inclusive spirit may signify a potential for broader appeal in the movement’s second year.
This video attempts to portray the weekend’s events, and share the perspective of several Occupiers about where the movement is, and is heading, after one year.