On movement's one-year anniversary.
One year after it vaulted to international attention by exploiting a gray area in Manhattan’s zoning laws, Occupy Wall Street marked its anniversary with demonstrations in New York City on Monday. Hundreds of protesters gathered in the area surrounding Wall Street, clogging intersections and leading to about 100 arrests. OWS’s last major attempt at a resurgence, on May 1, failed to return the protest movement to the prominence it achieved before being kicked from its home in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan last November.
The protests shook the world—then faded amid internal struggles and worries about being co-opted. At its first anniversary, can Occupy Wall Street come up with a second act?
As Occupy Wall Street protesters geared up to mark their first anniversary in Manhattan on Monday, they found themselves operating almost alone, without much of the outside support from celebrities, labor unions, and other progressive groups and leaders that had helped to create a palpable sense of momentum last fall.
Occupy Wall Street protesters Cecilia Watson, 19, and Chris Parker, 18, sit in Zuccotti Park hours after they were forcefully removed by police in November 2011. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)
When Occupy began on Sept. 17, 2011, many of the core activists were veterans of Bloombergville, a series of encampments set up in Manhattan earlier that year to protest New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s budget cuts. These folks were committed to open, consensus-based dialogue and angry about the wealth and power of the nation’s richest 1 percent.
They staged a dramatic occupation of a park in the backyard of America’s major financial institutions, and the combination of tepid labor sentiment toward the Obama presidency, massive student debt and unemployment, and a widespread feeling that the bad actors behind the financial crash had slipped away unscathed helped bring out tens of thousands of people to New York and cities across the world.
A year later, just a few hundred hard-core occupiers were on hand for the first two days of celebration leading up to Monday’s anniversary action, which will include what organizers called “an historic act of civil disobedience,” a sit-in demonstration in the streets surrounding the New York Stock Exchange at around 7 a.m.
But it would appear that, some tepid local union supporters in the city notwithstanding, the broader progressive coalition—including organized labor—is sitting this one out, having seen the Occupy movement descend into internal squabbling in recent months over how, and whether, to engage the political system directly.
An intensive and intrusive new DNA-collection regime appears to suffer a high-profile embarrassment, reports Jesse Singal.
Wednesday, the nation was peppered with breathless, if thinly sourced, reports of a shocking link between two very different, seemingly unrelated crimes: a match between DNA samples lifted from the CD player owned by and found near the corpse of slain Julliard student Sarah Fox in 2004 and ones taken from a chain used to open a gate in a free-subway-rides stunt backed by Occupy Wall Street in March. OWS MURDER LINK, blared the New York Post cover.
It was a high-profile embarrassment for New York State’s use of DNA samples that also raised new questions about the NYPD’s much-criticized treatment of Occupy Wall Street. (Occupy was also in the news Wednesday after a group marching from Philadelphia briefly returned to Zuccotti Park) Perhaps foremost among those questions: How was the apparent error missed, and the Occupy-murder angle pushed to the press, when the ME’s office contends that it has records of all its workers’ DNA to avoid just this sort of false match?
In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law greatly expanding the state’s databank, which now collects DNA from anyone convicted of any crime, even a misdemeanor (the sole exception is for those without criminal records convicted of public possession of small amounts of marijuana)—giving the state one of the nation’s most extensive and intrusive DNA policies. At the time, critics, including The New York Times, charged that the law was unfairly tilted in favor of prosecuting alleged criminals rather than exonerating falsely convicted ones.
In one sense, the current investigation is a separate issue—no one is arguing that police don’t have the right to collect evidence from a crime scene and test it for DNA, which the law views in a far different light than the more invasive process of collecting DNA from a human being. So the NYPD could have tested the chain even before the new law went into effect. But this incident still fits firmly into the broader set of concerns civil liberties groups have about the manner in which New York deals with DNA evidence.
“There are plenty of entirely innocent reasons and explanations as to why one’s DNA may turn up at a crime scene,” said Robert Perry, Legislative Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “but in the popular imagination and even in the minds of some law enforcement professionals, DNA evidence takes on almost magical properties. Meaning its very presence at a crime scene may come to signify guilt.”
Inequality isn’t only plaguing America—the Arab Spring flowered because international capitalism is broken. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz says the world is finally rising up and demanding a democracy where people, not dollars, matter.
There are times in history when people all over the world seem to rise up, to say that something is wrong and to ask for change. This was true of the tumultuous years of 1848 and 1968. It was certainly true in 2011. In many countries there was anger and unhappiness about joblessness, income distribution, and inequality and a feeling that the system is unfair and even broken.
Both 1848 and 1968 came to signify the start of a new era. The year 2011 may also. The modern era of globalization also played a role. It helped the ferment and spread of ideas across borders. The youth uprising that began in Tunisia, a little country on the coast of North Africa, spread to nearby Egypt, then to other countries of the Middle East, to Spain and Greece, to the United Kingdom and to Wall Street, and to cities around the world. In some cases, the spark of protest seemed, at least temporarily, quenched. In others, though, small protests precipitated societal upheavals, taking down Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and other governments and government officials.
Something Is Wrong
That the young people would rise up in the dictatorships of Tunisia and Egypt was understandable. They had no opportunities to call for change through democratic processes. But electoral politics had also failed in Western democracies. There was increasing disillusionment with the political process. Youth participation in the 2010 U.S. election was telling: an unacceptably low voter turnout of 20 percent that was commensurate with the unacceptably high unemployment rate. President Barack Obama had promised “change we can believe in,” but he had delivered economic policies that seemed like more of the same—designed and implemented by some of the same individuals who were the architects of the economic calamity. In countries like Tunisia and Egypt, the youth were tired of aging, sclerotic leaders who protected their own interests at the expense of the rest of society.
And yet, there were, in these youthful protesters of the Occupy Movement—joined by their parents, grandparents, and teachers—signs of hope. The protesters were not revolutionaries or anarchists. They were not trying to overthrow the system. They still had the belief that the electoral process might work, if only there was a strong enough voice from the street. The protesters took to the street in order to push the system to change, to remind governments that they are accountable to the people.
Zuccotti Park is gone, and so is Occupy Wall Street’s mojo. Harry Siegel on whether the movement was able to capitalize on May Day.
Seven months in, Occupy Wall Street hit its half-life with Tuesday’s May Day "general strike." As the small but dedicated group of occupiers that outlasted the occupation of Zuccotti Park set out to demonstrate their continued relevance, New Yorkers went on with business as usual.
Demonstrators march in front of the News Corp. building during a May Day protest in New York City (John Moore / Getty Images)
Without the park itself—and the media attention that came with it—the occupiers have been working hard to regain their footing and to define themselves without the massive press coverage that, together with the police response, had given the movement much of its early shape. The May Day events reconnected those activists with two distinct groups that have at times found themselves under the Occupy umbrella—organized labor and black-bloc protesters. The tensions between those groups point to some of the core contradictions the movement has yet to work out as it tries to maintain its relevance.
In its reflexively snide and belligerent coverage of Occupy Wall Street, the New York Post correctly noted the obvious today: there was no general strike, and New Yorkers went to work as usual. For most of what was billed as a “major day of action,” there were just a couple thousand protesters spread around the city of more than 8 million, not counting gawkers and the couple hundred journalists following them around.
That small core was augmented at the end of the work day by a huge by-the-hour labor contingent that, unlike the protest crowd, was as organized as ever—showing up on time at Union Square, marching on time and with a permit down Broadway, and then calling it a day on time. If Occupy is a sexy story in part because it’s chaotic, the unions, who provided the bulk of the more than 10,000 marchers, are orderly to a fault. And of course, the members were mostly coming from their jobs, never mind the “general strike.”
The day’s planners, who have embraced “diversity of tactics” –a particularly ungainly euphemism for less civil or sometimes criminal actions—did their best to keep the anything but predictable black-bloc protesters at arm’s length from organized labor. It’s no coincidence that while the bulk of marchers moved north to south over the day, from Bryant Park to Union Square Park to Wall Street, the black bloc protesters were moving in the opposite direction, with several marching over the Williamsburg Bridge and triggering confrontations with the police and members of the press around Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park.
Thousands marched through Manhattan with OWS to celebrate May Day. Union marchers and arrests made headlines, but will the movement be able to capitalize on its momentum? Matt DeLuca reports.
Occupy Wall Street was back in force Tuesday in Manhattan, but questions remain as to what’s next for the protest movement. In a series of demonstrations planned across the city, supporters of Occupy joined with labor unions and immigration-rights activists to mount marches and pickets, culminating in a procession down Broadway to the Financial District that drew massive crowds.
Protesters associated with Occupy Wall Street briefly occupy a Vietnam-memorial park in lower Manhattan (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
The call to a day of action on May 1, recognized internationally as a day to celebrate labor, was also heard outside New York. Protesters took to the streets in Chicago and San Francisco, and abroad in London, Sydney, Barcelona, and other cities. Some of those protests turned violent. In Oakland, Calif., protesters clashed with law enforcement, and tear gas was used to disperse crowds. A few dozen black-clad protesters in Seattle raced through the city’s downtown and smashed shop windows.
The marches in New York went off with few incidents. They started slowly, with the main body of protesters gathering in the morning at Bryant Park in midtown. From there, groups of one or two hundred went to picket locations, including Bank of America.
Protesters said that they hoped May Day would be a moment of resurgence for Occupy Wall Street, which has mostly flown below the radar after its eviction from Zuccotti Park last November.
Cashwan Pratt, an 18-year-old Upper West Side resident, said he wanted “to see the shift from worried and privileged college students to workers who see they have a voice.” Pratt was one of about 30 protesters on bicycles who gathered at about 9 a.m. at Union Square, and then rode to protests around the city.
Occupy Wall Street is planning demonstrations around the country on Tuesday, May 1. Follow our live blog with reports from the street.
To bring you a real-time look at the resurgence of the movement, The Daily Beast will be live-blogging the action, collecting tweets from our reporters—Harry Siegel and Matthew DeLuca—out in the field, and reports from around the Web.
Stay with this page for a real-time feed of the action. Or follow our May Day Twitter list, with tweets from a mix of journalists and occupiers expected to be tracking the events of Occupy's general strike.
Occupy Wall Street to march in U.S.
Workers across the globe carried out strikes and marches to demand better labor conditions on Tuesday, while Occupy Wall Street launched the Spring phase of its movement in New York. Protesters marched all over Manhattan, chanting "get a job" at bankers. Several were arrested on the Lower East Side, and others as the group moved on the Williamsburg Brudge. Meanwhile, thousands of workers in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan marched for pay hikes, saying that their pay has not been on par with global consumer prices. Greek workers, subject to harsh austerity cuts in the wake of a European Union bailout, also planned rallies for Tuesday.
Occupy Wall Street is planning demonstrations around the country on Tuesday, May 1. Follow tweets from reporters and occupiers alike.
To follow the action, The Daily Beast’s Harry Siegel has compiled a must-follow May Day Twitter list to see tweets from a mix of journalists and occupiers expected to be tracking the New York City–specific events of May Day.
Stay with this page for a real-time feed of the action. Or, for a more curated approach, follow our live blog, with real-time reports collected by The Daily Beast’s social media team.
The radical icon has spent 50 years in social movements—and 20 years running for office.
“It went without saying that the time would come, it was just a question of what the scenario would be,” veteran radical Tom Hayden tells me about Occupy Wall Street’s eviction from Zuccotti Park, a scenario he had predicted five weeks before it finally happened.
Activist Tom Hayden, in a 2007 photograph (Michael Buckner / Getty Images)
“The political reason is that it’s disturbing to property owners and to politicians because it’s an insult and aggression against their view of proper order ... watering the grass and allowing people with their pooper scoopers to walk their little dogs in peace and read The New York Times and sit on the bench or make out during approved hours in the park. And if there’s 200 people there, it’s an offense to all these other people.”
It’s a perspective one would expect from the senior statesman with impeccable movement bona fides. As an Occupy activist, I was eager to listen to Hayden, primary author of the Port Huron Statement that served as his generation’s call to action and list of demands—the latter something the movement I participate in, Occupy Wall Street, has been criticized for neglecting (“But what do they want?”).
But then Hayden—who’s been making the rounds to mark the statement’s 50th anniversary and tie it to the occupation, arguing in short that movements need to come to terms with electoral politics and the powers-that-be to produce change—turned enigmatic. “If something happens, you know the things that are alleged—rape, disease, sexually transmitted disease. You never know who’s down there, homeless people. The mayors can’t tolerate it. It’s unfair, but they’re the ones who are going to get blamed if anything happens to anyone ... all the blame, whatever the real reason, will be [on] the mayor. And the cops will be accused of being weak.”
“The only mayor I’ve talked to [is] Villaraigosa,” says Hayden, turning to his home turf of Los Angeles, where more than 200 occupiers were arrested in November when their encampment was evicted from City Hall Park.
Occupy Wall Street, thought by many to have gone into hibernation for the winter, says it’s planning a massive series of demonstrations in New York on May 1.
It’s mere days from what Occupy Wall Street organizers say will be one of their biggest protests yet, and the people down in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan’s Financial District are hopping mad. Well, at least they’re hopping.
An Occupy Wall Street protester holds a sign during a march towards midtown's Bryant Park, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in New York. There was a heavy police presence around the 42nd Street area as the demonstration began Wednesday morning. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)
On the afternoon of April 27 in the park, one Occupier called out a signal, and the 100 or so demonstrators-in-training began jumping up and down and converging around a single protester—a tactic intended to keep marchers together in the event of police action. It was the seventh in a series of “Spring Training” protest refresher courses held by Occupy Wall Street in preparation for May 1, a day rich with progressive significance: May Day is celebrated internationally as a day to recognize workers and labor.
OWS organizers say protests scheduled for that day will involve thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of protesters in Manhattan, the cradle of Occupy, and additional protests in other major cities, most notably Los Angeles, where organizers have called for a general strike.
If the protests end up being as large as organizers say, it would be Occupy’s single largest demonstration since protesters were driven from their encampment at Zuccotti Park by the New York Police last November. While smaller protests have continued through the winter and early spring, the day of action called for on May 1 is a bid to regain the national spotlight just as the presidential election campaign kicks into high gear—the question is whether in this heated environment, the Occupy movement can carry as much political weight as it did last fall.
According to an online calendar and pamphlets distributed by organizers, the May 1 protests will start at 8 a.m. in Bryant Park, in midtown Manhattan. Organizers say the park will function as a staging area for picket lines that will fan out across midtown, many of them heading to locations where unions or other labor organizations have ongoing disputes. A spokesman for the Bryant Park Corporation, which manages the space, told The Daily Beast in an email that the corporation “has not had direct contact with any entity planning activities in Bryant Park on May 1,” but that a similar event in the park on February 29 was “well-organized and its participants were very respectful.”
The movement may not have made headlines lately, but it has had a marked impact on both the Obama and Romney campaigns, and now its members are pushing for even more radical change, Douglas Schoen writes.
In a statement following the Senate’s rejection of the proposed Buffett Rule to impose a 30 percent minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million a year, President Obama accused Senate Republicans of “choosing once again to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few Americans at the expense of the middle class.”
A demonstrator holds a sign in front of a statue of George Washington at Federal Hall in New York City. (Michael Nagle / Getty Images)
And in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine this week, the president openly embraced Occupy Wall Street as “just one vivid expression of a broader anxiety.”
These remarks illustrate an important, but largely unrecognized, point about why and how the Obama campaign has retooled its message and strategy. Put simply, President Obama has effectively made class warfare the central organizing strategy of his reelection campaign.
Moreover, it is becoming increasingly clear that Occupy Wall Street (OWS)—while less visibly active in recent months following clashes with the police, infighting, and eviction from its flagship encampment in New York’s Zuccotti Park last November—is nonetheless seizing control of the political debate in America this election year.
OWS already has had a clear and demonstrable impact on both the Obama and Romney campaigns—arguably becoming the most important outside influence so far in this year’s election campaign dialogue.
Behemoths like Exxon and Apple plus ‘smaller’ companies like Qualcomm are the real 1 percent, raking in trillions and widening the gap with individuals and even nations. They must be held accountable.
The 1 percent versus the 99 percent—the haves and the have-nots; the government or the people; China versus the United States. Our conversations today are framed by these splits, yet as compelling as these are, they are each secondary to the yawning gulf that has emerged between large, multinational companies and everything else.
AP Photo (2)
The real 1 percent are the panoply of global corporations that are even now reporting astonishing profits for the first part of 2012, just as they have for nearly every quarter for the past decade—save for a brief blip at the end of 2008 and early 2009. The much-vaunted gap that has emerged in the United States and elsewhere in the world—income inequality is also increasing in countries such as Brazil and China—is a by-product of the much wider gap between companies and all the rest. So stark is the contrast between companies on the one hand and individuals, nations, and various groups on the other, that it would be better to speak of multinationals as inhabiting their own world, with their own rules, mores and rewards, and that world, call it Corporateland, is the undisputed victor in the global game of spoils.
It’s not just the behemoths like Exxon, Apple, Google, IBM, GE, Vale, Petrochina, Siemens, Wal-Mart, Samsung and Disney. It’s a host of smaller (though still quite large) companies that aren’t exactly household names but are still making billions upon billions in profits. Yes, the ones on the first list have market capitalizations in the hundreds of billions and generate revenues that would place each of them in the top 100 nations by GDP. And yes, Apple alone would crack the top 50. But then there are companies such as Qualcomm, State Street, Blackrock, Schlumberger, Potash Corporation, all of which are worth tens of billions of dollars and have profit margins in the double digits. They are generating more cash each year than they can meaningfully and productively spend, and even as they increase the amount they return to shareholders, they are collectively sitting on trillions of dollars of unspent profits. And yes, that trillions is not a typo.
Large companies have always made large profits, but the divide in recent years is so stark because the efflorescence of Corporateland is in such contrast to the general stagnation of many of the countries where they do business. As a number of analysts—including most recently the consultant and former Commerce Department official David Rothkopf, the late Tony Judt, and the political philosopher Michael Sandel—have emphasized, the success of large companies today is more detached from the fortunes of most ordinary people than at any point in decades. It may be that for much of history, the pyramid was steep and stark, but today, the scale is global.
Wealthy individuals, paying taxes or not, generate political heat and headlines in part because it is easier to personalize wealth divides between real people than between nations and corporations. And of course, banks in the past few years, and energy companies periodically, do serve as a lightning rod of popular discontent, as the Occupy Wall Street movement showed. But the issue is just as trenchant for technology companies such as Apple and Google and Microsoft and Oracle, each of which pays its senior executive tens of millions of dollars (at least) and each of which has thrived in a period of time when economic discontent and stagnation has been the rule in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
Five months after the movement's birthplace was raided, Occupy Wall Street planned marches across the country on May 1, also known as International Workers' Day.
Just in time for Occupy Wall Street's one-year anniversary, the Brooklyn-based rock band is releasing 'Crate of Gold,' a political anthem sung from the perspective of 'the man.'
Will Occupy Wall Street be able to capitalize on May Day’s momentum? By Matt DeLuca.
Lupe Fiasco, Roseanne Barr, Kanye West, and more stars who’ve shown their support for Occupy Wall Street.
We're looking back at the top stories of 2011, and at No. 3, the movement whose appearance surprised everyone and still has pundits wondering what its ultimate effects will be: Occupy Wall Street.