Perrierberet at Occupy Wall Street

An experiment in rural journalism

Demonstrations, Symbolic Victory and Financial Woes Define 4 Month O.W.S. Anniversary

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In an eventful week for Occupy Wall Street, activists staged a fresh round of demonstrations, won a symbolic victory and tackled fiscal challenges facing the fledgling movement for social and economic justice.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday brought ‘occupiers’ together with civil rights and union activists in demonstrations across lower Manhattan. Events over the holiday weekend included a march Monday morning of more than a hundred activists from the African Burial Ground to the Federal Reserve Building near Wall St. Activists later assembled at Union Square in a demonstration for jobs and economic equality.

A memorial service for Dr. King Sunday night drew full capacity to the voluminous Riverside Church on the Upper West Side. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Singer Patti Smith were among the slate of speakers who linked King’s legacy to the ‘Occupy’ movement that has spread across the country in recent months. The event also featured music amid temporary disruptions from several people in the audience who “mic-checked” in order to vent their own thoughts on the movement.

Many activists, both within and outside Occupy Wall Street, said the movement has slowed down in recent weeks due to winter weather but efforts are ongoing to bring together civil rights groups, unions and other progressive organizations in a fresh round of demonstrations in the spring.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement re-ignited, revitalized, rekindled the spirit of struggle, the spirit of movement building among all peoples,” said Dr. Benjamin Chavis, an organizer for Occupy The Dream and associate of Dr. King in the 1960s.

“An American spring, it’s coming,” he added. “You are going to see mass mobilizations, but they are going to be orderly. They are going to be organized. They are going to be disciplined … it’s our responsibility to out-maneuver, out-smart, out-organize the enemies of the movement.”

NYPD deployed dozens of officers to accompany the events Monday. Media reports stated that four activists were arrested on trespassing charges at a Bank of America branch in Manhattan.

A week before the four month anniversary of the movement, Brookfield Properties dismantled the metal barriers Jan. 10 which had encircled Zuccotti Park since a Nov. 15 NYPD raid ended the ‘Occupy’ encampment there. Private security along with the barriers still remain in the park however.

The move followed the release of a Jan. 9 letter from the New York Civil Liberties Union to Commissioner Robert LiMandri of the city department of buildings. The letter stated that the barriers violated first ammendment protections, city zoning ordinances and a 1968 agreement which required Brookfield Properties to allow public access to the park.

“Metal barricades, preemptive searches, and selectively enforcing ever-changing unwritten rules have become established features of Liberty Plaza,” the letter stated.

A spokesperson for Brookfield Properties declined to comment on the letter’s affect on the company’s policies in the park.

Though many activists said no new efforts at occupying public spaces in the area are currently underway, a few holdouts continue to maintain a presence at the park. Activists interviewed there over the weekend said that it was important to have information available for tourists who visit the once obscure park in addition to maintaining visibility at the symbolic center of the movement.

Ned Merrill, a resident of the Upper West Side who joined the movement in September, said that the ongoing deployment of private security in the park underscores the need to maintain a presence there.

“All we need here is a symbolic presence, you know, five, ten people is fine,” he added.

Members of the New York City General Assembly, which ostensibly governs Occupy Wall Street, reached consensus Saturday to freeze most spending. Medical services received an exemption along with the housing work group which will be allowed to submit one more funding proposal to provide housing for activists who are currently homeless, according to Christine Crowther, a member of the accounting working group.

The freeze will remain in effect for one month or until a financial assembly currently being organized develops a budget that will ensure the future financial solvency for Occupy Wall Street, said Crowther. She added that the general assembly currently has about $270,000 in the bank of which $100,000 is reserved for legal expenses.

Despite the the financial and organizational challenges facing the movement, many activists said at events over the weekend that they remain confidently patient that there movement will continue to grow in the winter.

Tony Zilka, a singer from Portland, Ore, came to New York City recently on his way to “Occupy Congress” Tuesday. He said recent media coverage suggests the movement has lost vitality though he feels that events in lower Manhattan indicate otherwise.

“Coming out and seeing all of these amazing civil rights leaders, all of these amazing mega-organizers are still here and still want to help us,” he said. “They want to see this movement grow so badly.”

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Written by Zach E.J. Williams

January 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

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