FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Six Months Later, the Cops Reignite the Occupation

by ARI PAUL

As Occupy Wall Street protesters marched toward Central Booking the evening of March 18, many took a short cut at Lafayette and Houston through the BP gas station, chanting, “Fuck BP.” In a spur-of-the-moment show of anti-corporate solidarity, a South Asian clerk ran outside from his post, waving a peace sign at the marchers, and shouted back, “Fuck BP.” It was a validation of the feeling of general outrage against the corporate state that so many feel, but yet so few often feel voicing to strangers in public. It was a reminder to this small band of protesters that they were not alone in their outrage.

The crowd of about 200 people came out as a direct response to the previous night’s violent arrest of 90 demonstrators, who had come to Zuccotti Park, the site of the original occupation, to celebrate the movement’s six-month anniversary. It all could have been a non-event. Protesters would have had some fun in Zuccotti Park March 17, gotten cold, and probably would have gone back to Left Forum at Pace University the next day leaving the small park more or less who they found it. But the cops decided to send as a message, and as a result, occupiers and the issues of police blocking access to the public space were back in the mainstream news. And more than that, the footage of police violence inspired a kind of rage that had been dying out over the summer.

As the months since the encampment was evicted in November, the OWS movement has gone in various directions: working with labor unions, targeting the education system, and even starting worker cooperatives. Had nothing happen March 17 OWS energy would have shot off in various directions, toward specific, short-term political goals. But the decision to beat, tackle and arrest a group of individuals for standing in a park in the middle of the night garnered the protest energy back to the original purpose, to occupy a physical space and to confront the capitalist system that is the root cause of all these problems that these smaller “occupy” groups are trying to confront.

The march was a direct response to police brutality, but what came alive that weekend was the centrality of the Zuccotti Park as a meeting point and the police force as a symbolic being of OWS rage. The park was completely empty that Sunday afternoon as police barricades kept anyone from coming inside and was surrounded by uniformed officers. It was a reminder of the warmer, revolutionary days of September and October. The protesters, inspired by the previous night’s violence and the cool evening air, chanted, “This is just Spring training.”

On the night of six-month anniversary, video footage showing two riot cops taking a protester into restraint and ramming his head against a glass door, smashing some of the glass, went viral, as did footage of a female protester being tackled. The next day, as the OWS protesters marched in the street in defiance, cops started their detail subdued, supported by its protest monitoring bureau, the Technical Assistance Response Unit. But as the group approached Central Booking, where arrested OWS protesters were still held and awaiting arraignment, cops began to hit and push non-violent participants. One Police Officer and a commanding officer (white shirt) took particular interest in assaulting an African American woman who wore a shirt protesting the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. One protester was arrested.

The already agitated crowded convened at Central Booking, by one window the demonstrators were able to see several protesters in a holding cell, who flashed peace signs to the chanting masses. This physical show of force from the cops, but more importantly the emotional response of being together, with comrades demonstrating directly before the eyes of those swept up on the amorphously defined charge of Disorderly Conduct, reignited a passion of the movement that began to die out after the eviction.

There was a sense even before the eviction that as cold weather approached, perhaps the physical occupation of Zuccotti Park, and in other parks and public spaces in other cities, wouldn’t be necessary. These encampments were a start, but the real fights were in government halls, neighborhoods with foreclosed homes, the courts and in front of the banks, people thought. This made practical sense, but it came at a cost: it lost the community space that invigorated so many people, brought people from different backgrounds together to see that others around them were frustrated with both corporatism the milquetoast and feckless approach of liberal reform.

This is all the more important when the OWS movement is looking toward a general strike and various disruptive actions against banks on May 1, International Solidarity Day. The more the state agitates demonstrators, the more inspired they will be to up the ante.

Ari Paul is a contributor to Free Speech Radio News and the Indypendent. His articles have also appeared in The NationThe GuardianZ Magazine and The American Prospect.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail