Yesterday was Occupy Wall Street's Day of Action, and it began with an attempt to shut down the New York Stock Exchange. It was unsuccessful—the bell rang on time. At 3 p.m., thousands gathered in Union Square for the city-wide student rally, where representatives from NYU, Hunter College, CUNY, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union and the New School (Columbia University was conspicuously absent) spoke. Later in the evening, around 5 p.m., the student rally met up with crowds at Foley Square and started marching across the bridge an hour and a half later.
Nearly 300 arrests were made, but I didn't personally witness police brutality. If anything, the police I saw were facilitating traffic and the flow of people in a helpful way, after which, a significant number of them gathered to occupy a Sabrett hot dog stand on the corner of Worth St. I did see, however, protesters directly antagonizing police by hurling words like "racist" at officers in the subway. Speeches of the day consisted of the usual mix of snappy chants, criticism, complaints and unhelpful, tossed off notions on how to fix the world. "Fuck internships! Fuck kissing ass!" cried one student speaker from the New School. However, many more student speakers pointed out tuition hikes and dire loan situations in an articulate, impassioned way. The celebrity sighting at Union Square most people are talking about is Anne Hathaway, but Ahmed Maher, co-founder of Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement, also showed up and spoke in solidarity.
Bloomberg's raid on Zuccotti Park in the early hours of Monday morning surely touched the tender part of many people's Occupy sympathies, but in some ways, the Day of Action felt like a reminder of how little change has actually been accomplished. It was a day of sensory overload, alternately thrilling, depressing and confusing. Getting on the subway to go home to one's apartment, and not a tent, it's easy to see that there's a whole slice of New York that doesn't want to be bothered with thinking about Occupy affairs. Still, the world is watching. Speeches were being translated to multiple different languages in real time, and there's no denying that what started two months ago as a few pitched tents downtown has become a worldwide effort and phenomenon.
- Union Square, 3 p.m., at the city-wide student rally in support of Occupy Wall Street. Once the square was completely packed, the crowd was told that 3,000 more would be joining.This is one of those shots taken up over one's head, hoping for the best.
- A student organizer drumming up enthusiasm before speeches. "50,000 are watching!"
- Without a massive PA system, this man has to coordinate the "people's microphone." There were at least five waves of echoes for any given phrase uttered by a speaker. The number of fingers he holds up lets the speaker know when to continue.
- Dacia Mitchell, 34, a doctoral student and adjunct professor at NYU with her two-year-old daughter. Mitchell told the crowd she had been working for NYU without contract since 2005 and today can't afford childcare. NYU gives Mitchell a $200 stipend toward childcare per semester.
- The student representative from Hunter College.
- College students weren't the only ones protesting. High school and grade school students were represented as well, albeit in smaller numbers.
- Soon after the CUNY rep had finished speaking, a sudden, violent, fist-throwing fight broke out between this dude and those on the steps. Still not quite sure what it was about, but...
- Three gentle shepherd types quickly cocooned the agitator and he calmed down. "Hey man, you don't have to do this."
- Social justice star power: Ahmed Maher, a co-founder of Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement, spoke in solidarity with the protesters.
- Rallying at Foley Square before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.