S17: Occupy protest tactics mature with experience

NYPD barricades Wall Street on S17

by John Zangas

Occupy Wall Street held a 300+ person public action meeting at One Police Park Square, the NYPD headquarters, while several dozen officers watched. The stern-faced officers were privy to the details of the plan for S17 before it even kicked off.

It was one of Occupy Wall Street’s most elaborately planned non-violent direct actions to date. The Shut Down Wall Street plan called for splitting protestors between four major zones in downtown Manhattan and effectively disrupting the financial district.

Groups of protestors met early in the morning in predetermined places to disperse into the four zones, designated Eco, Education, Debt and the 99%. Each zone represented the major objectives Occupy has organized to change: the behaviors of Banks, Lobbies, Corporations, the NY Stock Exchange and Wall Street.

There is strength and critical mass in one giant group, yet OWS tried a different strategy: four groups scattered and roving in random directions in an effort to create more confusion and chaos. Separating into four groups was a bold tactical risk because it diluted the strength of the protest. The splitting tactic demonstrated the growing confidence organizers have gained since the Occupy movement began a year ago.

Authorities attempted to keep the NY Stock Exchange, Wall Street, and banks open, but the roving protest groups challenged their resources. Hundreds of NYPD officers were pulled between sites and constantly needed to be on the move to keep up. Unpredictable roving protests challenged logistics and communications, both for protestors and police. Authorities were deployed in advance to block access to key sites, because it was not certain when a group would show up. Barricades, foot patrol, mounted police, motorcycle police and vehicles clogged major arteries and snarled traffic. When blocked from proceeding, protestors countered by circling intersections.

Photographs and video footage show Wall Street, the NY Stock Exchange, Pine and Exchange Streets and other streets closed off, as well as barricaded and restricted access to corporations and banks (except for ID carrying employees). It shows that business was anything but business as usual on S17. Protestors may have been blocked from the targets they most wanted to reach, such as the Stock Exchange. But police themselves essentially completed the task protestors had set out to do–impede the normal flow to the point of shutdown.

In addition, there were the props of street theater and good visuals for press. Chalk slogans and messages were drawn at critical junctures. A five-foot “Debt Boulder” rolled over and through the crowd. A slick body guard cleared a path for a Transformers-like character called the “Bain Capital Job Eliminator.” Lady Liberty marched along with colorful dancers, and the baseball team of the One Percent–the Tax Dodgers–paraded with their cheerleaders the Corporate Loopholes. And of course there was no shortage of signs expressing the feelings of the 99%.

It wasn’t the intent of OWS to close the stock market, prevent banks from transferring funds or stop corporations and lobbies from business operations. The NY Stock Exchange opened on time and closed promptly at 4pm, despite barricades, police and protests. There was no interruption in the electronic ticker tapes, which closed down 40 points at the bell.

But there was no doubt everyone knew OWS was back, on the street and in Zuccotti Park again, even if it wasn’t a permanent Occupation. OWS demonstrated flexibility in tactics of protest, showed that can mobilize thousands of people from all around the country and has no problem announcing its action plan beforehand.

The massive presence of Occupy Wall Street shows it is still an organization with much energy, active and relevant at its one-year mark. The true test for OWS will be how much it is able translate direct actions into influence for the betterment of citizens affected by social and economic woes. Its tactics must remain interesting, informative, non-violent and provocative in order for its strategy to work in the long run.

S17: Shut Down Wall Street

 

Tactical map of Shut Down Wall Street

by John Zangas

The plan to Shut Down Wall Street consisted of dividing lower Manhattan into four zones of non-violent protest, each assigned an issue area. Activists could gravitate to their area of interest: Education Bloc, 99% Bloc, Ecology Bloc, or Strike Debt Bloc. Each bloc communicated by text message.

The elaborate plan was a tactical split of the thousands of protestors into these four blocs with 8-10 targets per zone. The targets included banks, corporations, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Wall Street Bull, and lobbies.

The NYPD response effectively blocked protest access to many targeted sites, including the NYSE, the Bull, and major Banks. Protestors reverted to “Plan B” which involved roving between sites, further extending the protest zones and police coverage. Although police blocked access to major targets, it was in fact the massive police response to protestors which resulted in achieving the objective: a virtual shutdown of the financial district.

Spokes Council at Battery Park

Protestors eventually converged in Battery Park at midday for a giant Spokes Council. Reps of various affinity groups gave report backs of successes and challenges. Later everyone reconvened at Zuccotti for the final General Assembly and cutting of birthday cake for the 99%.

 

S17: “Because we already know that Plan A isn’t going to work”

Assembly at Police Square, September 16

by John Zangas

On the eve of S17, a direct action planning assembly was convened–ironically–at Police Square in front of the NYPD headquarters building. About 300 Occupy Wall Street activists attended the meeting to finalize plans for the September 17 protests in lower Manhattan. Usually such a discussion of plans are not released, but every detail was Mic Checked in front of the very officers who would be trying to obstruct it the next day.

 

Tom Morello rocks OWS

by John Zangas

Tom Morello, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine, rocked Occupy Wall Street at Foley Square on September 16. Morello’s rendition of Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” transported the crowd into a cascading mass of spirit, cheering and dancing.

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.

Zuccotti Park Re-Occupied

by John Zangas

On September 15 at 5pm, about 300 Occupy Wall Street activists assembled at Washington Square arch. Escorted by a contingent of fifty NYPD motorcycle police, several dozen police vehicles and over 150 foot patrol, they marched down Broadway chanting, “We are the 99 percent!” An “Occupy Wall Street’” banner led the way to Zuccotti Park, former home base of the movement.

Thus Occupy Wall Street temporarily and symbolically reclaimed Zuccotti Park for the weekend of its anniversary. Zuccotti Park is located in the heart of New York’s financial district only a block from Wall Street. It was the hotbed for a wave of protests which swept across New York City last year.

The Zuccotti encampment inspired the occupations of parks and municipal sites in almost every major city in the country. The camp endured for eight weeks until evicted by New York police on November 15, 2011.

Occupy Wall Street turns One

After a summer of near-dormancy, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) came roaring back to life in lower Manhattan in a stunning choreography of protests. trainings and events. OWS had carefully planned the weekend to commemorate the anniversary of the movement’s founding on September 17, 2011. The weekend culminated in activists’ attempting to shut down the Wall Street financial district on Monday morning.

Members of Occupations all around the country traveled to New York to join OWS in solidarity. Occupiers also symbolically reclaimed Zuccotti Park, site of the OWS encampment for nearly two months.