Occupiers share solidarity, get fired up for S17 with art, music

Activists take time out to type up their own Occupy story at Foley Square

by John Zangas

Washington Square Park and Foley Square were the sites of strategizing, networking and lots of creative activities leading up to S17. On September 15, the first day of scheduled activities, Occupiers gathered in Washington Square Park, where they met for direct action planning. They made signs, sang songs, ate together, participated in teach-ins, painted, chalked colorful drawings and had movement emblems silk-screened on t-shirts.

September 16 was a day of celebration and entertainment at Foley Square with a multitude of art collectives, teach-ins on social and economic justice. A cacophony of art projects mingled with voices of hope, diversity and music. A young woman held her LGBT partner’s hand, a tree of hope depicted photos of people with their written messages of a better tomorrow, a quilt was sewn, and typists wrote their Occupy stories. Retired Philadelphia police Captain Ray Lewis stood proudly in his crisp, immaculate uniform. A roving musical ensemble played long horns and drums while people trailed behind them dancing.

The afternoon climaxed with musicians performing protest songs on stage, concluding with much-anticipated Tom Morello and Occupy Guitarmy.

Police Captain Ray Lewis at Occupy Congress

Occupiers surrounded retired Philadelphia police Captain Ray Lewis on the West Lawn of the Capitol this afternoon at Occupy Congress. Many thanked him profusely for his support of the movement.

Captain Lewis received much attention when he was arrested on November 17, 2011 during an Occupy Wall Street protest. He criticized Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD for their handling of the protests and forceful tactics in evicting OWS from Zuccotti Park.

Dressed in his police uniform and sunglasses, Captain Lewis chatted with attendees and took pictures with them as the wind blew across the muddy West Lawn. He offered candid opinions and full-throated support of Occupy.

“I am here to further show solidarity with the Occupy movement,” emphasizing that by attending he sought publicity for Occupy and not for himself. “I am in full agreement with the declarative statements [of Occupy Wall Street] as posted online,” he said.

There had already been two confrontations with Capitol police earlier in the day. Many protestors were openly antagonistic. I asked him what he thought when he heard them yell, “Fuck the police!”

“I fully understand,” he said. “They are so sensitive to evil and corruption in government. They tried working within the system and with Obama.”

He continued by harshly assessing President Obama. Following Obama’s election, “What did we get? One of the biggest political betrayals in history. He’s nowhere near the president he said he would be.” He added, “He’s nothing more than a black George W. Bush.”

He praised all the alternative media arising from the Occupy movement and stressed the necessity of bypassing mainstream media. “What you’re doing is so important,” he said. “We didn’t have this during the Vietnam War.”