Protest Like an Egyptian: An Occupation of Wall Street

Updated: October 3, 2011 at 10:26 AM

On Oct. 1, Occupy Wall Street protesters marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The protesters, along with several of the country's largest worker's unions, are planning an even larger march on Oct. 5. AP/Stephanie Keith.

On Oct. 1, the two-week anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest, 700 protesters and one New York Times reporter were arrested in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. Many other protesters marched over the pedestrian pathway and were not arrested.

“Those who took over the Brooklyn-bound roadway, and impeded vehicle traffic, were arrested,” said Paul Browne, chief spokesperson for the NYPD.

While some videos show NYPD officials warning those marching over the roadway they would be arrested, the police have come under criticism for making no apparent effort to stop the protesters from taking the bridge. Photos reveal police officers walking in front of the protesters as they entered the vehicular lane, reported the New York Times.

Over the weekend, it was widely reported that JP Morgan recently made a $4.6 million donation to the NYPD — the largest donation in the department’s history. The bank is one of the targets of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to other American cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. The New York protesters say they’re committed to staying in Lower Manhattan’s  Zucotti Park at least until winter. They’ve created an organized infrastructure in the park, where they’ve established a library, a media center, a kitchen to feed the hundreds now living in the park and their own newspaper.

Their newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, describes Zucotti Park as a place where “thousands gather every day to debate, discuss and organize what to do about our failed system that has allowed the 400 Americans at the top to hoard more wealth than the 180 million Americans at the bottom.” While this is the process of the protest, it’s also the central point  — to bring together the Americans who feel like they lack a voice within the current political system.

On Oct. 1, the protesters voted on and released their first official list of grievances, titled the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. At their nightly general assembly on Oct. 2, the park swelled to nearly standing-room-only capacity.

The protesters moved their nightly general assembly at police headquarters on Sept. 30. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis.

On Sept. 30, after a hoax convinced many people that the band Radiohead would be playing in the park, about 2,000 people marched to NYPD headquarters near City Hall to protest police brutality, reported the Guardian. On the same day, the Postal Service recognized the protesters’ headquarters by delivering a package to “Liberty Plaza,” the protesters’ new name for Zucotti Park in Lower Manhattan.

On Sept. 29, following celebrity appearances at Zucotti Park from the likes of Cornell West, Russell Simmons, Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon, Occupy Wall Street received its most powerful new supporters to date: the 38,000 members of the Tranport Worker’s Local Union 100, who will be offering financial backing to the protest movement, reported WNYC.

On Oct. 5, more labor unions, including the Communications Workers of America and the United Federation of Teachers, will march with the protesters from City Hall to Zucotti Park.

On Sept. 24, the NYPD arrested about 80 people in the area where Occupy Wall Street protesters were marching. Among those arrested was MetroFocus web editor John Farley, who was working on a story. Since then, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained significant international media attention.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstration is different from most American political protests. Despite what some media outlets have reported, it was not organized by any single group. It wasn’t “led” by anyone, although it began when the magazine Adbusters put out a call for people to occupy Wall Street. It’s not a march. No one sought official  permission. (The police found out through Twitter that the event was happening.)

Instead, the protest evolved organically, modeled after the social media-fueled Egyptian Revolution that began with the occupation of Tahrir Square. At the present, the protesters intention is to create a space for inclusive, often painstakingly slow, democratic discussion, rather than to create a set list of demands — to the confusion of several news anchors which MetroFocus has observed at Zucotti Park. You can watch the 24-hour live stream of their activities.

MetroFocus was down by Wall Street on Sept. 17, the first day of the protest, to talk with the demonstrators and capture photos of the action.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

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