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September 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - Day One

By Chaz Valenza

Protesters Occupy Wall Street: Day One reporting from the event. On Saturday, September 17, thousands of protesters took to the streets of lower Manhattan to mount a sustained effort to organize against a financial system that they say favors the wealthy and powerful at the expense of 99% of Americans.


September 17, 2011 – Bowling Green Triangle, NYC:   Hundreds are gathered at 10 a.m. around the bronze bull.   Hundreds of NYPD officers of all stripes look on.   Hundreds of tourists riding double decked buses down South Broadway snap pictures and roll video.   An "illegal" read: non-permitted protest is off to a good start by refusing to be fenced in the official protest area.

People Not Profits
(Image by Chaz Valenza)
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Beginning at 10 a.m. thousands of protesters took to the streets of lower Manhattan to mount a sustained effort to organize against a financial system that they say favors the wealthy and powerful at the expense of 99% of Americans.  

It was not, however the 20,000 strong action the organizers set as a goal.

More information: OccupyWallStreet.org

The numbers:

The NYPD did not release an official count of the number of protesters; neither did it list the protest or the closure of all streets leading to the New York Stock exchange in its daily NYC traffic advisory.   This never happened and is officially still not happening.

The organizers wanted to start with 20,000.   By my unofficial estimate they got somewhere between 3,000 - 5,000 protesters at the largest gathering at Bowling Green.  This includes hundreds of others were in smaller groups scattered throughout the Manhattan's financial district.

The kick-off to occupy Wall Street was notable for who was there and who wasn't.

Who was there:

Supporters from Anonymous, Code Pink, Socialist Party USA, the URPE, International Action Center, October2011.org, the Workers World Party, LaRouchePAC and at least two people supporting Ron Paul for President were represented.

The majority, by my estimate 90%, were individuals who had traveled from all parts of the United States on their own dime, learning about the event from limited social media platforms.   I identified representatives from: NJ, CT, PA, OH, upstate NY, CO, GA, FL, MA, and RI.

Smallest Crowd On Day One: 10AM
(Image by Chaz Valenza)
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Who wasn't there:

From what I could gather the NYC representation was small.   Representation from mainstream political and media organizations was non-existent or so insignificant I could not find them.  

AFSME, the powerful NY labor union who recently called for Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein to surrender one of his powerful dual roles could not be found, neither could any other labor unions.  

The major political parties were unrepresented.  And, the major social support organizations were not represented. In short, there was nobody there from the organized mainstream world of powerful charities and special interests.  

Please correct me in the comments section if I am wrong but there was no NOW, no ACLU, no ALF-CIO, no Progress Now, no Planned Parenthood, no Progressive Democrats for America, no Human Rights Campaign, no AARP, and no Working Families Party just to call out a few of the major no shows.

And finally, few people from NYC itself with an unemployment rate of 8.8%, but where under16% live in poverty and 75% of the household have incomes of over $25,000.

Arrests: Two people were arrested for trying to enter a Bank of America wearing masks.   Question: we're they protesters or bank robbers, and how stupid is that and does it make any point?

The Situation:

Wall Street and the streets leading to Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange were locked down in a 007 world of security devices: multiple layers of turntable barricades, rising steel blockades, bulletproof black box security personnel vaults, video surveillance and dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police, the former sporting bundles of nylon strap handcuffs.

What were they afraid of?   

They NYPD will tell you they were there to protect the important infrastructures of the financial district.   I will tell you they are afraid of images of people, regular people, protesting on Wall Street in front of the iconic NYSE.   It's just too inflammatory at this point-in-time.   The American rage at the banks and the financial system might be set off and the occupation might just get traction should large numbers of other Americans be privy to what's going down.

In the late afternoon we march up Broadway against the traffic and against the wishes of the NYPD to Zuccotti Park under the shadow of the new Freedom Tower at 9/11 Ground Zero to the west.  

The General Assembly:

Those who wanted to have an active voice in next steps met in four large groups, each of more than 200 participants.   Everyone who wanted a say had a say.   Themes ranged from the ending corporate personhood, to breaking up the too big to fail banks, to ending the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the wealthy, to medical and financial care for first 9/11 First Responders, to worker ownership of corporations and various suggestions to achieve same.

One of the main goals for the group I participated in was to organize the movement itself which was purposefully, according to the leadership, loosely organized.  

The main organizing tool is the Google Group: September 17

Next Days:

More people encamped, more people as daily supporters, more organizations sending groups of supporters every day or this thing will fizzle.

Submitters Bio:

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook's book "Challenger Revealed." He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: www.WordsWillNever.com