For weeks I’ve been receiving emails concerning a protest of our nation’s insane economic policies to take place on Wall Street. Called alternatively, A Day of Action Against Global Capital or the United States Day of Rage or simply Occupying Wall Street, the protest began yesterday, lasted through the night, and is set to begin again today.
Even as my labors and family responsibilities keep me from joining in for the long haul, I wanted to show my support for the effort so after my Sunday coffee I cycled downtown to do so. The first thing I noticed upon nearing City Hall was an army of cops—some of them evidentially trained by or perhaps even evolved from Doberman Pinchers — everywhere you looked.
There were so many of them and they were so busy making sure I and everyone kept moving that I rode right past the protestors gathered at a private park at Broadway and Liberty without even seeing them. Who knows, perhaps that was the intent.
What I did see, however, was that in an effort to nip the protest in the bud, every conceivable avenue to Wall Street was blocked off and strictly verboten for mere mortals such as you and I.
The city has, in effect, walled off Wall Street.
At the sight of this I could not help but be reminded that the original Wall of Wall Street (built of sharpened poles that stood from the Hudson to the East River ) was erected by the Dutch to protect them and New Amsterdam from attacks by both British New Englanders and very, very angry and displaced Native Americans, the latter having once roamed the continent as free as bees. With this in mind, the protest struck me as having some kind of imperfect symmetry about it. Certainly there are more and more and more people feeling very, very angry and increasingly displaced. And everybody I know feels more caged in all the time.
At the barricades erected at Wall St and Broadway I met a middle aged Canadian couple who were staying in a hotel nearby. They told me that last night they saw at least 100 cop cars go down Broadway with sirens blaring and lights flashing in an obvious attempt to intimidate the protesters with a bit a state power. It did not work, the man added, smiling.
We walked down the road a bit, the Canadians and I, and encountered Arturo Di Modica’s ten ton Wall Street Bull penned off and guarded by four cops as if to keep some clever bandito from carting the snarling colossus off when no one was looking.
“Where do you get the money to pay four cops to guard a statue,” asked the man, “when you have people who are living in the streets?”
I had no answer. No sane answer, in any case.
At length, with the help of a pleasant female cop, I found the protesters and mingled among them for a bit. They were, one and all, a very pleasant lot, perhaps 150 in total and mostly students in their early 20’s from what I could tell. They had renamed the park where they slept “Liberty Square.” The police had made no attempt to stop them from sleeping there.
Most were sipping coffee, still in the process of waking. Someone started to strum a badly tuned guitar and I took that as my cue to get back to the work that I needed to get done, grateful for what they were doing and happy to see young people standing up for what they believe is right. I told the few that I spoke with that they would see me later.
And they will.