October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Decision Delayed

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 10:57 am


I haven’t had much time to follow this the last few days, so I don’t know yet why the assault was postponed. The “authorities” are saying it’s because the private property owner asked them to refrain. I don’t know if such a request was made.
The one thing clear is that over the longer run, the only thing that can keep us in a park, in the streets, in our homes, in our rights at all, is bottom-up defiance and will to fight. I’ve read several accounts of the 99 pledging this will. I don’t know how much this pledge of defiance went into the decision to postpone. Bullies, by their nature, may back down at any point if you fight back.
But in the long run it sure won’t come down to the alleged whim of a property owner. It’ll come down to the will of the people to directly take back the country, including the physical seizure of ground.
(Besides, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to grow food, assuming we want to keep eating.)


  1. The police want to bust people up when nobody is looking (or expecting them to do so). I predict this Monday morning at 2 A.M. EDT.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 14, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

    • That’s a likely outcome. People ought to be expecting it by now, though, especially since it’s already been done or attempted against the 99ers in other places. Not to mention that it’s a historically common move.

      Let’s keep in mind, though, that the preferred route of Bloomberg and his fellow thugs was to drive them out in broad daylight; indeed to make them “voluntarily” vacate the premises. But they had to back down from this.

      (Incredibly, even when there was a spontaneous assembly of people there on Friday morning implicitly ready to at least passively resist, there were Cub Scout Leader astroturf types there trying to separate the crowd according to the “permitted non-violent protest” playbook.

      A speaker was trying to circulate information about legal aid and sort out those willing to be arrested from those not; the willing were to stay in the park, the others to retire to the sidewalks adjacent and lend moral support and bear witness.

      That’s according to this account.


      Such attempts to prevent real protest action are criminal. Let’s see: I’m occupying a piece of public space. The police intend to physically attack me. I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t believe I was right, that my being there was a expression of real citizenship, and that anyone who would drive me out of there would be acting tyrannically. I of course believe as many people as possible should be doing the exact same thing. I’m a full-blown Kantian here.

      So there’s some people standing there with me who perhaps aren’t as fully convinced and committed as I, but who sympathize. What kind of fucking idiot would I have to be to tell them to go stand over there, making it easier for the thugs to assault me, while depriving the others of the visceral experience of being assaulted, which is often the most convincing education of all; indeed making it more likely that others would see the isolated me as the real troublemaker? That’s what this kind of official protest management always tries to accomplish.)

      So if they do go ahead with a midnight assault, it’ll be an admission of partial weakness, that even given their proximate preponderance of force they couldn’t carry out the assault in what they considered the optimal way.

      Comment by Russ — October 15, 2011 @ 2:43 am

  2. Expulsion from the park will lead to moving to the office provided by residents for the mayor.

    Comment by tawal — October 15, 2011 @ 5:18 am

    • The people paid for that residence. It belongs to us.

      Comment by Russ — October 15, 2011 @ 8:44 am

      • Right On Russ!

        Comment by William — October 15, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  3. Was at Occupy Toronto for a while this afternoon/evening. A few observations:

    -The occupied space is St James Park, which is about the only public space that can hold the number of people that showed up anywhere near the financial district. From a symbolic point of view, it’s suboptimal because it’s not actually in the financial district, and the area actually has more in common with my hood (run down ghetto) than it does with the spaces that the 1% occupy. The occupation itself will be out of sight for the financial district and therefore out of mind- regular forays onto Bay Street will need to be made if there’s to be any meaningful contact with that world at all. At the same time, because the park is typically occupied more by the homeless than by the wealthy, the police are unlikely to feel pressed to clear it. Probably the best that could have been done in the circumstances, an occupation of the narrow Bay street itself almost certainly would have resulted in police clearance before Monday.

    -Police presence was almost non-existent, about 10 or 12 bike cops, a few undercover. They don’t seem to be too worried so far, which is positive.

    -Things seemed well organised overall. Media center and medics were ready to go, and a significant number of the occupiers seemed to already be familiar with the “People’s mic” stuff. There were existing proposals and recommendations from the committees, so they hit the ground running.

    -The People’s Mic is excruciatingly slow, but I think it almost entirely avoids the “Tiannanmen loudspeaker” syndrome where various factions end up vying for control of an amplification system. If the people you’re speaking to don’t consent to listen and repeat, you’re not getting amplified, period. It also forces “active listening” in the sense that you’ve got to really focus on what’s being said, and gives a lot of time to consider what’s being said. The assembly is going to need time to get used to doing this, as there were a lot of problems with amplification (particularly due to uneven terrain- the current assembly spot has a hill at its back and if you’re behind it and the “people’s mic” falters, you’re lost), and some of the speakers were speaking too quickly and in too long sentence fragments. The speakers also will need to become significantly more concise.

    -From a Canadian perspective, October was not a great time for this thing to start. I ended up leaving before the first GA adjourned, as my girlfriend was shivering herself half to death and I was starting to get pretty frosty myself. The logistical problems associated with keeping people warm and fed through the winter are going to be extremely challenging. I hope that a hard core can brave the winter and provide some organisational memory from the Oct-Dec period before the heavy snows set in for the spring. We’ll see, in any case.

    -Lots of obvious communists, not many obvious anarchists, although I have the feeling that’s at least partially because anarchists don’t tend to walk around with huge red-and-black flags very much. Communists didn’t seem too interested in the actual general assembly/democratic process part of things, which doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

    Comment by paper mac — October 15, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    • Thanks for that write-up, PM. It sounds like the people’s mic system may have some discovered virtues (in accounts at NYC it’s generally represented as a suboptimal adaptation to amplification being “forbidden”).

      The weather has been an issue for awhile. Indeed, I’ve seen skeptics claim that proves the original organizers were scammers, since who would start something this late in the year if they wanted the occupation to be indefinite? I think that’s too paranoid a way of looking at it. If Egypt and the rest of the Arab world was the proximate inspiration for this, and if on the other hand the streets here aren’t exactly exploding yet, so that you need time and repeated messaging to convince people to take an action seriously, then how long would one expect it to take to put out a call for this and organize for it? I first started hearing of it sometime during the summer.

      So you’re right, it’ll be interesting to see if a hard core, perhaps rotating on a kind of sentry duty, could maintain encampments through the winter. Of course it’s possible to disperse for winter but set a date to start again in spring, and then actually do so stronger than ever. What’s already been done should be a great encouragement to everyone. I’m sure encouraged. So next season we’ll do even better, when we resume the Occupation. If everyone looks at it that way, that’s how it’ll be.

      I didn’t know Canada had so many conventional communists. The last I heard of US communists, they were calling upon people to vote Democratic in 2010.

      Comment by Russ — October 16, 2011 @ 3:06 am

  4. In other news, it won’t be long before I can join auto workers in the “replaced by robots” club, LOL: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/10/robot-biologist/

    Comment by paper mac — October 15, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

    • So that solves the mystery of where capitalism’s consumers are going to come from after all workers have been liquidated. Robots are going to buy all that crap.

      Comment by Russ — October 16, 2011 @ 3:08 am

  5. Quick update from Chicago. 2000 marched earlier yesterday and 175 arrested last night trying to squat (in human chain form) in Congress Plaza/Grant Park. Archduke Rahm had them hauled off in the paddy wagons and central transit buses. This a rather bland corporate account of the story but it would appear there’s plenty of positive momentum building here based on its tenor. You gotta love the guy yelling, “I’m going down with the ship!” as the police dismantle his tent while he’s in it.

    Comment by Pete — October 16, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

    • Thanks Pete. No surprise from that swine. But it’s great to hear about the assertive action and the positive momentum.

      Comment by Russ — October 16, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  6. Russ,

    In case you missed it, Kunstler was in rare form this morning, with a few gems such as the following:

    “Thousands of demon-like beings upstairs in the curtain-wall towers around Zuccotti Park, people wearing neckties and cultured pearls in warm offices with cappuccino machines down the hall, are at this very moment setting loose trading algorithms that will swindle us out of our future! You can see them up there at their evil, glowing screens!….”

    “Just as a horrific accident in finance is about to happen, a ready-made revolutionary mob is conveniently parked outside the pilot-houses of the world’s great money vessels, so as to receive the crews directly into their open arms after the smash up.”

    Kunstler’s fun to read, but he does tend to get carried away at times. For instance, I’m not so sure I would call this a ready-made revolutionary mob just yet. Let’s wait until at least one percent of the population gets on board, then we’ll see…..

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — October 17, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

    • That was pretty good. The first paragraph was the best. I’m going to rip that off.

      Comment by Russ — October 17, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

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