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The timing of the massive suit was no coincidence. “It was timed with May Day intentionally to capitalize and further the momentum of Occupy Wall Street, to bring a resurgence,” Paul Newell, the Democratic District Leader for Lower Manhattan and another plaintiff on the case, told me over the phone. To some, this direct political involvement in Occupy might seem odd—many occupiers guard their anti-authoritarian positions closely. Party politics? Anarchists don’t run that game. But to Newell, Occupy is inevitably part of a larger political conversation.
“I must say, in my entire lifetime, and I’m 36 years old, I’ve never seen any progressive movement so effective in changing the discourse in this country,” Newell says. “I’ve never seen the country talking about economic inequality the way it is now, and I really think most of that credit goes to Occupy Wall Street continuing actions, both large-scale like May Day, or small-scale, like the run on the banks.”
In many ways, the Occupy movement has never had more support from elected officials than at the present. President Obama’s State of the Union dealt heavily with the income inequality highlighted by OWS. Some New York City politicians are even more direct. At the very end of May Day events, when Occupy protesters marched down to a Vietnam Veteran memorial sandwiched in between J.P. Morgan and Standard & Poor at 55 Water Street, Councilman Jumaane Williams stood behind a large banner in the center of the memorial and used the people’s mic to address the teeming crowd on the steps:
“I’m begging with you,” he said. “I’m begging with you,” repeated the crowd three times over to the farthest reaches of people in the space. “I’m pleading with you,” he continued.
I’m pleading with you.
“History is begging with you.”
History is beg-ging you.
“History is pleading with you.”
History is pleading with you.
“That you continue to agitate.”
That you continue to agitate.
“Continue to agitate.”
Continue to agitate.
“Continue to ag-i-tate,” he finished.
Continue to ag-i-tate.
Williams held up a fist.
The Wellspring Of Anger
Though they may have been accidents, one might see fragmentation and the budding entrance of mainstream politics into the Occupy movement as inevitable. But there’s something else at stake here as well. “People were angry enough and hopeless enough that when they saw something that looked like resistance and refusal, they felt they should go occupy a park too,” Mike Andrews points out. “I’m not going to lie—if the economy got worse, that would be good for the Occupy movement.” But what about projected gradual economic growth—does that mean Occupy’s urgent, transformative energy will fade?
“I think eventually this window of opportunity will close,” Andrews says. “My thinking on how to do this is just to push this as far as we can until the window of opportunity closes.”•
Photos Sydney Brownstone
May 9, 2012