Occupy 2.0: One Month After Raid, Protesters Look Beyond Zuccotti
Shortly before the New York Police Department forcefully evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15, The Huffington Post spent 24 hours surveying life in their tent city. One month later, with the tents long since slashed open and thrown away and almost every sign of what happened there erased from the park, HuffPost surveyed those same protesters to see whose occupation continues and who has moved on.
But as protesters gear up for Saturday’s “Occupy 2.0” and the three-month anniversary of OWS, they’re also looking beyond Zuccotti. And most still say the movement is more than a moment.
‘IT’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE’
On a bright, brisk Saturday morning in November, Katy Ryan, 35, marched with hundreds of Occupy protesters from Zuccotti up Broadway, beyond City Hall to Foley Square. Ryan’s 8-year-old daughter, Mary Jane Thorne, held her hand and marched alongside.
They’d traveled from Jersey City to take part in the march, organized in conjunction with a campaign to encourage people to transfer their savings from large financial institutions to community banks and credit unions.
“I want her to see what it is to be an active citizen of her country,” Ryan said during a quick break. When asked what she thought about the march, Mary Jane looked bashfully at her mother, then at the ground. She did voice her opinions on another matter, however, when they resumed walking. “My sock is so annoying,” she said, yanking at the offending footwear. “It won’t stay up.”
The marchers spilled over the sidewalks of lower Manhattan, stalling traffic. The driver of a paralyzed SUV honked his horn, while passengers stuck their hands out from beyond tinted windows and made peace signs.
It was the first protest for Mary Jane, whom her mother calls MJ. “I put everything to her in the simplest of terms,” Ryan said of her daughter. “I did tell her about the bailouts, and how the average person is suffering more due to irresponsibility by the banks and our government.” Later in the day, MJ appeared on the OWS video livestream, sticking her tongue out at each bank as she marched by.
Little over a week before the NYPD raid on Zuccotti Park, Ryan speculated about the future of Occupy Wall Street. “Of course, I hope something more tangible comes of it,” she said. “I think we’ve only seen the beginning. It’s not going anywhere, even if they did come in and dismantle the park.”
In the month since police did just that, slashing tents, trashing books and arresting bus-loads of protesters, Ryan has become more involved in OWS. She says she visited the park the morning after the raid to see what was left and found herself galvanized.
Ryan has since joined Occupy Wall Street’s “direct action” working group, which currently meets in community spaces and office buildings within a few blocks’ radius of Zuccotti — which she and other protesters call “Liberty Square.”
The NYPD raid may have provided the jolt that Occupy Wall Street needed, Ryan said. A month ago, she had grown frustrated with what she saw as stagnation: a packed, stifling encampment beset by people more interested in photo ops than protest. “They made what we were all passionate about look ridiculous from the outside,” she said.
With those hangers-on mostly gone, Ryan said, it’s been easier to focus on “day of action” events. Most recently, she and her daughter visited Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood as part of a protest that occupied a foreclosed home.
But for Ryan, those events have been fewer and farther between as the holiday season has approached. A freelance makeup artist and hair colorist, she still manages to make meetings two or three times a week during “mom-allotted hours.” Mary Jane spends half the week with her father — Ryan used to spend those nights in the park.
“This time last year I was working at a salon for the 1 percent 10-12hrs a day,” Ryan said in an email Friday. “My old schedule wouldn’t have allowed for this, and who knows how my old employer would have responded considering the clientele.”
Still, she plans to make time for Occupy 2.0, the next major OWS event, scheduled for Saturday.
“We are re-occupying,” Ryan said in an email. “I’m glad I didn’t put my sleeping bag and tent back in storage yet too!”
Ryan said Friday that MJ will be attending the new occupation, carrying a yellow balloon identifying children of Occupiers and wearing a beloved T-shirt she made at an art station in Zuccotti. It features two scenes, as Ryan describes them: “In the first scene it was the banks stealing our money. The second scene was her strongest Pokemon taking it back and giving it to people.”
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
Some Occupiers are part of the movement more in mind than body, and have been less focused on protest in the month since the raid on Zuccotti, a key access point for both originators and onlookers.
Desiree Frias, 18, a student at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, was a casual Occupier in November. She and her fiance, Hector Acevedo, 22, who studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, attended rallies on weekends when they weren’t busy studying.
Frias was arrested after the OWS Move Your Money protest arrived at Foley Square. Hundreds of protesters flooded the square, which is usually a deserted public space surrounded by mammoth government buildings, and began an hours-long standoff with police who tried to disperse them.
Uniformed NYPD officers lined up across the street on the steps of the New York State Supreme Court building. After a couple of failed attempts to shoo the protesters away via megaphone — “We don’t want nobody to get hurt!” was the last such warning — police unfurled orange netting and began pushing the crowd, including a HuffPost reporter, back off the sidewalk. Others shoved protesters who resisted.
In the chaos, the police made an example of Frias, dragging her, sobbing, up the courthouse steps and cuffing her beneath the words of George Washington etched into its edifice: “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.”
“I just want to go back to college,” Frias cried as officers walked her back down the steps and beyond the barricade. She asked for help finding her fiance.
At the Manhattan Criminal Court Building, where Frias was expected to be arraigned, a security officer barred HuffPost from entering. Occupy Wall Street protesters had arrived to decry the arrests of Frias and at least 21 others, according to figures later provided by Moira Meltzer of the National Lawyers Guild. Authorities had the court building on lockdown until the crowd dispersed back to Zuccotti.
According to the court clerk, Frias was charged with assaulting an officer, a felony, as well as with obstructing government administration and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.
“She’s freaking out, keeps saying over and over, ‘I want to get out of here,'” her fiance Acevedo told HuffPost that night, back at the OWS kitchen in Zuccotti. “She doesn’t even know what happened … I’m just staying here for the night, because that’s what we were going to do. If she doesn’t get out tomorrow, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
That was the only night Acevedo spent in Zuccotti. Frias spent it in jail. Since then, they’ve had to worry more about finals, work — Acevedo holds a full-time job — and Frias’ legal issues.
“Her trial isn’t over,” Acevedo said in an email. “We’re both still not completely over all that has happened.” He said he and Frias could not comment any further, given the pending court decision.
The crash course in political protest has not thwarted their interest in Occupy Wall Street. “If anything, it just made us want to do more than we already were,” Acevedo said.
In the last few weeks, he has switched majors, from criminal justice to political science.
- Happy Anniversary! #OWS seeks to occupy Trinity Church owned Duarte Square in Manhattan! (politicsandfinance.blogspot.com)
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- Can you still have OWS without Occupying Wall Street? (thesexypolitico.wordpress.com)
- OWS Protesters Calling For ‘Day Of Action’ Following Loss Of Camp In Zuccotti Park (newyork.cbslocal.com)