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.