Every night, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters gather in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, which they call “Liberty Square,” to participate in a “General Assembly.” The Assembly is a participatory decision-making body which works towards consensus on how occupiers should share and manage their resources.
As the protesters created their own democratic system, MetroFocus looked to New York’s elected representatives to see how they had responded to the Occupy Wall Street movement — both in the beginning, when scant attention was being paid to the demonstration, and today, now that the protest has gained traction.
NEW YORK GOV. ANDREW CUOMO
Initial Reaction: Talking to reporters on Oct. 6, Cuomo said that he understood the “frustration” the demonstrators had with the financial industry. However, he explained that New York State relies on revenues from that industry to help balance the budget.
Latest Response: When asked about the impact Occupy Wall Street may have on public policy in Albany, Cuomo said, “on the main point that there is frustration with this economy, you don’t have to go to Occupy Wall Street hear that, you will hear it from anyone.”
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighs in on the Occupy Wall Street protest. Capitol Correspondent Susan Arbetter reports.
U.S. SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND
Initial Reaction: Gillibrand stayed mum on the issue when the protest first began.
Latest Response: On Oct. 10, Gillibrand told The National Memo, “I think it [Occupy Wall Street] has become a vehicle for people to vent their frustration with the economy.” She added, “Everywhere I travel across New York State I meet with every day families and small businesses, and they are deeply worried about the economy. I share the frustration at how broken Washington has become in forging solutions.”
U.S. SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER
Initial Reaction: Like his compatriots, Schumer waited more than three weeks to make a public statement about Occupy Wall Street.
Latest Response: “There is a great deal of economic frustration in America today, not only among the protestors. Even middle class Americans who have jobs — and too many don’t — are finding that their incomes are not keeping up with costs and it’s getting more difficult to make ends meet,” Schumer said in an emailed statement on Oct. 13.
“The right to protest has always been a part of American political tradition and should be protected, but protestors should make sure they don’t get in the way of every day New Yorkers getting to and from work and going about their daily business,” he added.
U.S. REP. CHARLES RANGEL
Initial Reaction: Rangel, who represents Harlem, tried to show his support for the ongoing occupation. He spoke informally to a crowd of people at Zuccotti Park on Oct. 1, but he was heckled by one of the protesters. He left before the protesters took to the Brooklyn Bridge, which resulted in a mass arrest of more than 700 people.
Latest Response: On Oct. 11, Rangel spoke with The Root, saying, “I believe they’re symbolic of the frustration and pain that people are feeling all over the country. I was very surprised, but very pleased, that this group of people just came out. I don’t really think that they have to have any solutions for the problem. It reminds me of the movie “Network,” where the guy just yells out his window, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!'”
On Oct. 12, Rangel called on religious leaders from all faiths to reach out and encourage the Occupy Wall Street protesters to become politically active in Congress.
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
Initial Reaction: “What they’re trying to do is take the jobs away from people working in this city. They’re trying to take away the tax base we have, because none of this is good for tourism. And, at the same time, I’m sympathetic to some of their complaints. There are ways to do it without hurting people and making the problem worse,” Bloomberg said three days into the occupation, Capital New York reported.
Latest Response: Bloomberg stopped by Zuccotti Park on Wenesday Oct. 12, to inform the demonstrators that he was sending work crews to cleanup the park on Friday morning. Participants and supporters of Occupy Wall Street quickly mobilized nearly 1,000 people to help cleanup their camp, and the city announced the planned cleanup had been postponed, averting a possible confrontation between police and protesters, CNN reported.
Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway wrote in a statement,“Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park – Brookfield Properties – that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation.”
NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER CHRISTINE QUINN
Initial Reaction: Quinn has kept her distance from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, even after the massive union backed rally in Foley Square. Other council members, including Jumaane Williams and Charles Barron, had previously dropped by the park for a “General Assembly.”
Latest Response:: “The speaker said that she felt sympathy with Americans who were worried about the economy, but that she was not sure what the protesters’ agenda was and that she would not be visiting them,” the New York Times reported on Oct. 5.
And while he’s not a New York pol, we thought it was worth including what the U.S. president had to say:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Initial Reaction: Until protesters showed up on Capitol Hill, Obama shied away from making a public statement about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Latest Response:: “I think people are frustrated. And the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,” Obama said at a press conference on Oct. 6.
MetroFocus intern Samantha Riddell contributed reporting.