“Something Has Started”: Michael Moore on the Occupy Wall Street Protests That Could Spark a Movement

Oscar-winning filmmaker, best-selling author,and provocateur laureate Michael Moore joins us for the hour. One of the world’s most acclaimed — and notorious — independent filmmakers and rabble-rousers, his documentary films include Roger and Me; Bowling for Columbine for which he won the Academy Award, Fahrenheit 9/11, SICKO; and Capitalism: A Love Story. In the first part of our interview, Moore talks about the growing “Occupy Wall Street” protests in Lower Manhattan, which he visited on Monday night. “This is literally an uprising of people who have had it,” Moore says. “It has already started to spread across the country in other cities. It will continue to spread. … It will be tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people … Their work ahead is not as difficult as other movements in the past … The majority of Americans are really upset at Wall Street … So you have already got an army of Americans who are just waiting for somebody to do something, and something has started.”

AMY GOODMAN: Today we spend the hour with one of the most famous independent filmmakers in the world, Michael Moore. For more than two decades, Michael’s been one of the most politically active, provocative and successful documentary filmmakers in the business. His films include Roger and me, Bowling for Columbine, for which he won the Academy Award, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, and Capitalism: A Love Story.” Today, we speak with Michael Moore about his new book that just came out, it’s called, Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life. It comprises 20 vignettes from his life that illustrate how his political and sociological view points developed. As far back as 20 years ago, when Michael Moore made his award winning debut documentary, Roger and Me, he knew he was anything but an average child.

MICHAEL MOORE: I was kind of a strange child. My parents knew early on something must be wrong with me. I crawled backwards until I was years old, but I had Kennedy’s inaugural address memorized by the time I was six. It all began when my mother didn’t show up with my first birthday party because she was having my sister. My dad tried to cheer me up by letting me eat the whole cake. I knew then there had been warned to life than this.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Moore in his award winning 1989 documentary, Roger & Me. Well, today he’s one of the world’s most acclaimed and notorious independant film-makers and rabble-rousers. On Monday night, Michael visited the Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan. Police have barred the protesters from using any form of public address system at the encampment, so the crowd amplified Michael’s comments by repeating them in unison.

MICHAEL MOORE: Whatever you do, don’t despair because this is the hard part. You are in the hard part right now.

CROWD: Whatever you do, don’t despair because this is the hard part. You are in the hard part right now.

MICHAEL MOORE: But, everyone will remember,

CROWD: But, everyone will remember,

MICHAEL MOORE: three months from now,

CROWD: three months from now,

MICHAEL MOORE: six months from now,

CROWD: six months from now,

MICHAEL MOORE: 100 years from now,

CROWD: 100 years from now,

MICHAEL MOORE: that you came down to this Plaza,

CROWD: that you came down to this Plaza,

MICHAEL MOORE: and you started this movement.

CROWD: and you started this movement.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Moore addressing the Occupy Wall Street protesters in Lower Manhattan. Well, for the remainder of the hour, we’re delighted to have him here in studio and we won’t be repeating everything you say, Michael, although it is ingenious when you’re not allowed to use a microphone.

MICHAEL MOORE: It’s a little weird at first because it sounds either like your reciting the Rosary and church or that seen in, Life of Brian, where the whole crowd just repeats everything that Brian says. But, the reason they do it is because the police have not allowed them to have an amplification. So, in order for the people to hear in the back, everyone around you just shouts out what you just said so everybody can hear it. I thought it was, actually, kind of an interesting and a workable idea.

AMY GOODMAN: Well we’ve put out to the world that you’re coming in today. Of course, the questions came in on Facebook. We tweeted this and people can tweet back right now. But, when we posted the question on Facebook, “What you want to ask Michael Moore?”, Tausif Khan wrote, “What do you think is the next step the protesters need to take to get Washington and Wall Street to listen and to make real change?”

MICHAEL MOORE: They don’t need to worry about a next step. It’s already happening. This is something that has, sort of, sprung up. There’s no group, organized group, no dues-paying, members only organization behind this. This is literally an uprising of people who have had it. And It has already started to spread across the country in other cities. It will continue to spread. It has to start somewhere. It started here with a few hundred. It will grow, and really already has grown here to a few thousand. And will be tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people because, what I was in them other night, the great thing about what they are doing, and great in the sense that their work ahead is not as difficult as other movements in the past; when the Women’s Liberation Movement began, when people began protesting against the Vietnam War, civil-rights movement. At the beginning of those movements, the majority of the country was not with them, did not believe the basic principles of any of those philosophies. That’s not true right now. The majority of Americans are really upset at Wall Street. Millions of Americans have lost their homes or are facing foreclosure right now. Fifty Million do not have health insurance. Fourteen Million officially are unemployed, and it’s probably well up into the 20 million-plus people that are actually unemployed. So you’ve already got an army of Americans who are just waiting for somebody to do something, and the something has started.

AMY GOODMAN: And it is so interesting, if you had 2000 people, as the first weekend, whatever, 12 days ago, 2000 Tea Party activists down on Wall Street, you probably have double the number of reporters there. But, at the beginning of this, very little coverage. This is day 12. And, I wanted to talk about what happened this past weekend; the New York Police Department’s handling of the arrest of 80 protesters over the weekend that’s come under fire as a number of videos have emerged showing officers using heavy handed tactics to say the least. Protesters captured some of the attacks on video, including the arrest of a 21-year-old Bronx resident named, Hero Vincent. He was trying to calm the crowd and organize people to leave. This is a clip from after he was released from jail.

HERO VINCENT: That’s when the police charged at me, and just started, you know, swinging at me, and another policeman pushed me, and I’m backing up, and as I’m backing up I hit the barricade. And then I look at them and they come at me. I go over and then four policeman just started beating on me, yelling at me, “Stop resisting arrest,” while I’m just laying there, I’m not fighting back. They kick me in my stomach, knock the breath out me. Hit me with their baton. They put their knees into my face, not into my head, into my face, into the ground, and just laughing.

AMY GOODMAN: While other demonstrators were charged with blocking traffic and resisting arrest, Vincent faces the most serious charge of assaulting a police officer. The NYPD says they acted appropriately, but Vincent said he’s confident the videos of the attack will exonerate him and has vowed to continue to participating in the Occupy Wall Street protest.

HERO VINCENT: If there’s anything called the epitome of a struggle, me and my family lived it. We were foreclosed on. My father had trouble finding a job, still hasn’t found one. I had trouble finding a job, still haven’t found one. My sister is in college, the tuition is doubling. They’re trying to fight for her financial aid. We struggle with food. I even slept on a bench for a few nights before this occasion. So, I’m here for everybody in my family, not just myself, and everybody who goes through the same struggles, that I can empathize with.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael, your comments on Hero Vincent and all that are down there?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, it’s highly ironic that now over 100 of the protesters have been arrested and not a single banker, a CEO from Wall Street, anyone from corporate America — nobody, not one arrest of any of these people who brought down the economy in 2008. Who created schemes, financial schemes that not only destroyed the economy, but took away the future of this generation, of this young man and his children in the future. They have completely ruined it for people while they have become filthy rich. Not one of them arrested, but 100 of these people who have stood up non-violently against this madness, and they’re arrested? This just boggles the mind. I want to say something, too, because, Amy, you’ve lived here, in this area, in the city for probably most of your life. I have been here for many years. By and large, the New York City cops are actually pretty good as police forces go. I can tell you from filming around the country, you know…

AMY GOODMAN: I think it depends where we live.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, this is what I was going to say; yes, what’s rough here, is that when you have the bad apples, they are really bad here, and it’s not just one or two. I think it’s very important, also, when you look at this videotape and the other video that was shot that day of the people—-especially the one individual who was pepper spraying women in their eyes when they were standing there doing nothing—-those were the white-shirted management types. They were not just the street officers. These were the guys that were supposed to be in charge of them. They were the ones going up there. It’s one thing if you’ve got a rogue cop behaving violently, but when you have management, when have the white shirts there of the NYPD doing this, that’s not rogue, that’s policy. That’s coming from somewhere else. They’ve been told by those in charge to corral this thing, end this thing, stop this thing. Somebody should inform them that everybody is a filmmaker now. Everybody has a camera. You cannot just treat people like this and get away with it, and I hope they don’t get away with it.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Michael Moore, and when we come back, we’ve got an interesting Twitter question that has to do with comparing protests here to, well, what was happening around GM a while ago. Michael Moore is our guest for the hour. He has a new book called, Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life, Stay with us.