A View From the Occupy Wall Street Protests

by Garret Ean
Sept 25 2011

Ongoing large-scale protests have been taking place on Wall Street in Manhattan since September 17. The corporate media has for the most part ignored these protests, as social media has been exploding with videos and accounts from the scene. Yesterday, it was reported that between eighty to a hundred protesters were fenced in and then arrested. Max Hodes, originally from Concord, NH, who now resides in Brooklyn, was arrested Monday morning for the crime of wearing a mask (as reported by the Atlantic Wire). He was present at the protest since it began on Saturday and returned following his release from custody. Max wrote about his experience at the Vertigo Crossing blog. From Max on the spontaneous order of the occupation:

The General Assembly

The NYT confuses this with an organized group. It is not. It is the name for a gathering of participants who need not be named or declare any affiliation or ever have been here or anywhere else before. It uses a consensus-building model to make discuss and make decisions democratically. Nearly everyone who is at the site seems inexperienced using this model. There are frequent arguments over abuse of process. These conflicts diminish with passing days. New committees and working groups are formed every day to deal with whatever issues have recently arrived. For example, when we arrived there was already a media team. They took it upon themselves to create a 24-hour broadcast on the internet, in addition to shooting and compiling footage with multiple cameras, also on a 24-hour schedule. It was later determined by the GA that there should be a separate Media Outreach committee, dealing with inventing PR tactics and training participants in same. There is a comfort committee, dealing with blankets, cardboard supply, soft things, to increase longevity. There is a medical team. There is a sanitation committee. All volunteers who notice problems and fix them as they see them. Anyone who has an idea is basically free to enact it unless someone in the GA has some principled concern about it. Each participant is given full license to use their time however they see fit. Volunteers are called for where needed, and usually appear in droves. There is a committee of facilitators who might, to the untrained eye, appear to be leaders of the outfit. While facilitating, they do not participate in discussion in the offering of opinions.

Why are we protesting

No one knows. Everybody is enraged and everyone has a unique focus. We have not decided on a single demand, and I don’t want to. I would like this to turn into a Burning Man-esque event. An ongoing party of the political, artistic and spiritual avant-garde, that becomes an ever-updated cultural institution; a continual protest against the status quo with real political consequences. For that to happen, we will need to find ways of becoming genuinely disruptive. That means we will more than likely be struck down, unless we can somehow strike a perfect balance of necessity and aggravation. If the world demands we stay because we are stirring up right conflict, then we’ve got a chance at perpetuation. More likely, the cold will get us before too long. The blue-shirt cops seem to like us. The city cut their overtime hours, possibly as a way to get at their pensions, and this is the best chance they’ve got to log hours before retirement. It’s the police lieutenants who are doing the dicking around.

Free Concord caught up with Max and asked a few questions about his arrest.

What type of mask were you wearing?

A black bandanna.

Were you given any warning about the legality of wearing a mask before you were arrested?

I knew there was a law prohibiting groups of two or more from wearing masks. I didn’t see anyone else masked. The police said nothing except “get ‘im!”

How was your treatment by NYPD?

They arrested me without telling me why. They arrested me for the pure and evil purpose of halting a public display of dissent. Following the actual detaining, individual officers were cordial enough, and one even appeared curious and kind.  Another waited outside an open cell to ensure my privacy while I took a shit. I didn’t expect any privacy anywhere so this was welcome. However, even though the officers into whose custody I was placed following my detention seemed like decent, hardworking folks with families and lives and gods and TV shows to care about, they still didn’t seem to understand that state power is out of control, the power of private wealth is out of control, military initiative and funding is out of control; there’s no accountability or real public participation in decisions and actions that are killing people by the millions right now and actually destroying our ability to live on this planet. The police are one of the main arms of state power blocking the participation that could change that situation. The people are afraid of their government and the cops are the big reason why. Many of the problems the occupation is addressing fund the police force. Given that, their little attempts at being nice were insulting.

Do you know how many people were arrested for wearing masks?

Three others were arrested at the same time I was. One was wearing a mask, two were not. They possessed masks, but were not wearing them. So they seem to have been arrested for being next to the people with masks.

There were also reports of people being arrested after using chalk on the sidewalk for “destruction of property”. Did you see any chalkings occur or notice any in the area?

I didn’t see the chalking in question. Regardless, that’s an unreasonable arrest…Someone temporarily altered the color of the sidewalk. Sidewalks are boring anyway. The property in question was most likely enhanced, not destroyed.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We’re more organized now. The occupation forces are getting much better at using and maintaining the process and making decisions quickly. The struggles we had with consensus-building in the first few days are history belonging mostly to the first few days when we were still getting our shit together. Activity is at an all-time high.

Video of Max’s arrest is linked below:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=kevXKRROF6I

A video on YouTube of protesters discussing the arrests for chalking from the scene is embedded:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=QNDenTH5mpU

For more information on the Wall Street Occupation, check out occupywallst.org. Stay tuned for news on how NYC prosecutors handle charges against the many arrested for various violations at the Occupy Wall Street protests.

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7 Responses to A View From the Occupy Wall Street Protests

  1. Julia says:

    Just saying, but if the streets were the private property of an absentee landlord under an “anarcho”-capitalist system, wouldn’t freedom of assembly and freedom of speech on those streets be far less than it is now, since the landlord would have the power to use force against whomever he wanted to a much greater extent than the state can/does? To complain about lack of freedom of speech under state control (which I agree whole-heartedly with) and then propose a solution for those assets to be handed over to a different (probably worse) master makes no sense.

    I also hear a lot of right-libertarians asking us who attended the protests why we didn’t go after the Federal Reserve as opposed to Wall St. I find this to be absolutely ridiculous. The Fed exists BECAUSE of Wall St., not the other way around. All the time I hear, “Well, do you think Wall St. could exist without the Fed?”. And to that I respond, “Now? Probably not. But I can tell you that’s every reason why those corporate fatcats would resist statelessness, because they know they’d be screwed assuming your assumptions are true.” Get rid of the Fed without getting rid of Wall St. and Wall St. will just recreate the Fed; get rid of Wall St. and the Fed will follow.

  2. Julia says:

    But yeah, the cops there are terrible. I saw the footage of the activists getting “netted” and attacked. The whole area is a police state.

  3. Doing yo mom says:

    Julia, your response to this blog is severely uneducated and lacks true conceptual design.

  4. Julia says:

    “Doing yo mom”,

    Mind giving me some details? I can’t exactly respond to your criticisms unless I know what exactly you’re criticizing me about.

  5. Bill Walker says:

    >Just saying, but if the streets were the private property of an absentee landlord under an “anarcho”-capitalist system, wouldn’t freedom of assembly and freedom of speech on those streets be far less than it is now

    Yes, but they’d be paying for them instead of us.

    And the point about protesting the Fed instead is dead on. Without the Fed, Goldman Sachs couldn’t rip anyone off… they couldn’t exist in their present form.

  6. So when are we occupying Concord?

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