Indignado movement comes to Wall Street —with the usual contradictions

Taking a tip from the indignados who occupied downtown Madrid for several weeks over the summer, hundreds of protesters on Sept. 17 established an encampment in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park—now renamed “Liberty Square”—just three blocks north of Wall Street, where they have remained since, despite rain and an intimidating round-the clock police presence. Wall Street itself, of course, is inaccessible behind police barricades. When protesters marched down to Wall on the morning of Monday the 19th to greet the arriving traders and office workers, police quickly moved in, arresting six and dispersing the rest. (NYT, Sept. 19)

The Occupy Wall Street action is organized by a decentralized network calling itself the General Assembly, refreshingly independent of the usual sectarian factions that traditionally dominate left-wing protests in New York City. However, a report on New York’s Indypendent informs us that the original call was put out by Adbusters magazine. We truly hate to say it, but Adbusters has got problems of its own. As the Jewish lefty Zeek magazine noted in its attack on “Hipster Anti-Semitism” a few years back:

Adbusters, a magazine popular amongst anti-capitalists, ran a list of prominent neo-conservatives with asterisks next to the names of the Jews. Why, oh why, the article asked, was it wrong to point out that the architects of the Bush administration’s Middle East policies were disproportionately Jewish? Of course, one might ask: Was there an accompanying list of anti-war leaders with asterisks next to the disproportionately high number of Jewish names? Nope.

Ugly stuff. If you want to read it yourself, the original Adbusters screed is preserved as a PDF on PinteleYid, another lefty Jewish website.

We understand that the econo-protesters in Madrid and Greece have refused to openly express solidarity with the similar protests in Tel Aviv, because the Israeli protesters have not explicitly repudiated the occupation of the Palestinians. OK, we support this decision. But will any of the Wall Street protesters now express any dissent from the anti-Semitic ugliness displayed by the entity that called their protest?

Just asking.

See our last posts on the global econo-protests and the politics of anti-Semitism.

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  1. Oh, and on the subject…
    This blogger passed by today’s Union Square rally for Troy Davis—who was shamefully executed by the state of Georgia last night, after the US Supreme Court refused to issue a stay, in defiance of world opinion. Amnesty International rightly called it an “atrocity” which has left the rights group “shocked and outraged.” (BBC News, Sept. 22) I would have loved to have joined with the protesters—but all the signs were mass-produced by ANSWER, the worst exponent of New York City’s idiot left. “Stop the Racist Death Penalty”? This from supporters of the People’s Republic of China, the most aggressive executioner state on the planet? Couldn’t do it.

  2. NYC indignados hang on despite mace and mass arrests
    After 10 days, the Wall Street area protest encampment at Zuccotti Park is still hanging on—despite rainy weather and an intimidating police presence. Some 80 were arrested when the protesters marched up to Union Square on Sept. 24. A petition is being circulated to demand Mayor Michael Bloomberg remove NYPD’s deputy inspector of patrol for Manhattan South Anthony Bologna from the force for using pepper-spray against peaceful protesters at Union Square. (Death & Taxes, Sept. 28; NYT, Sept. 24)

  3. Labor joins with Wall Street protests
    Some very good news from Matt Sledge on Huffington Post Sept. 28:

    New York City labor unions are preparing to back the unwieldy grassroots band occupying a park in Lower Manhattan, in a move that could mark a significant shift in the tenor of the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street protests and send thousands more people into the streets.

    The Transit Workers Union Local 100’s executive committee, which oversees the organization of subway and bus workers, voted unanimously Wednesday night to support the protesters. The union claims 38,000 members. A union-backed organizing coalition, which orchestrated a large May 12 march on Wall Street before the protests, is planning a rally on Oct. 5 in explicit support. And SEIU 32BJ, which represents doormen, security guards and maintenance workers, is using its Oct. 12 rally to express solidarity with the Zuccotti Park protesters.

    “The call went out over a month ago, before actually the occupancy of Wall Street took place,” said 32BJ spokesman Kwame Patterson. Now, he added, “we’re all coming under one cause, even though we have our different initiatives.”

    Also, on Sept. 27, hundreds of Continental and United Continental pilots marched on Wall Street to protest slow contract negotiations and misinformation regarding merger integration. In vivid contrast to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, International Business Times informs us that “demonstrating pilots marched together, queitely, in order and in full uniform, holding two signs.” The signs read “Merger Progress is More than Painting Airplanes” and “Management is Destroying our Airline.” United Continental Holdings plans to fully integrate the two airlines by mid-2012, but the protesting pilots “believe that the company needs to focus on contract negotiations instead of changing the logo on the cocktail napkins.” Accounts did not make clear if the pilots interacted at all with the Occupationists.

  4. Hundreds arrested on Brooklyn Bridge
    From the New York Times’ City Room blog, Oct. 1:

    In a tense showdown above the East River, the police arrested 400 to 500 demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street protests who took to the roadway as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

    The police did not immediately release precise arrest figures, but said it was the choice of those marchers that led to the swift enforcement.

    “Protesters who used the Brooklyn Bridge walkway were not arrested,” said the head police spokesman, Paul J. Browne. “Those who took over the Brooklyn-bound roadway, and impeded vehicle traffic, were arrested.”

    But many protesters said that they thought the police had tricked and trapped them, allowing them onto the bridge and even escorting them across, only to surround them in orange netting after hundreds of them had entered.

    “The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us on to the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who was in the march but was not arrested.

  5. New York labor to march on Wall Street
    SEIU 1199, representing New York City’s private hospital workers, has joined the Transit Workers Union Local 100 in voting to support the Wall Street occupation. A labor-community March on Wall Street is set to leave New York’s City Hall at 4:30 on Wednesday, Oct. 5, and end at Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Park), which is the site of the occupation.

  6. TWU takes NYPD to court
    From the Daily News, Oct. 3:

    The Transport Workers Union will go to court Monday to try to stop the city from forcing bus drivers to transport Wall Street protesters arrested by the NYPD, the Daily News has learned.

    The union, whose leaders voted last week to support the protesters, said police brass commandeered three MTA buses to transport many of the 700 demonstrators arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.

    Union President John Samuelsen called ordering bus drivers to drive prisoners “a blatant act of political retaliation.”

    Police brass had no immediate comment on Samuelsen’s comments Sunday night.

    “TWU Local 100 supports the protesters on Wall Street and takes great offense that the mayor and NYPD have ordered operators to transport citizens who were exercising their constitutional right to protest – and shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” Samuelsen said Sunday night.

    At least five empty buses were commandeered from terminal points on both sides of the bridge, Samuelsen said.

  7. Wall Street protests marred by anti-Semitism
    While the Left celebrates the Wall Street occupation with much fanfare — including endorsements from Michael Moore, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, and Susan Sarandon — an anti-Semitic undercurrent in the protests goes largely unchallenged. See full report at New Jewish Resistance.

  8. Occupy SF camp broken up by police
    From the San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 6:

    San Francisco police and public works crews dismantled a Financial District encampment early Thursday that had been occupied for nearly a week by activists protesting economic inequality.

    Protesters with the group Occupy SF said about 80 officers wearing riot helmets confronted 200 campers and their supporters at about 12:45 a.m. The officers guarded city workers who removed tents, lean-tos, sleeping bags and other belongings from outside the Federal Reserve Bank building at 101 Market St. near Main Street.

    One protester was arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer.

  9. Occupy Tompkins Square
    Lower East Side residents and fellow travelers announced on Facebook that they will take the Occupy Wall Street encampment to Tompkins Square Park for 24 hours, starting at noon on Saturday Oct. 15, with “general assemblies” to be held at 6 PM and 10 PM. Be informed that there is a midnight curfew at the park, which was the issue behind the famous 1988 riot.

      1. You’ll also really hate this site
        You’ll also really hate this site, but it’s like such an epic car wreck that you can’t stop looking and ironically, this obviously white supremacist site has been favorably linked by two conspiratorial Muslim blogs!

  10. Propaganda vultures jump on OWS anti-Semitism charge
    Well, it was only a matter of time. The watchdog Media Matters notes that Rush Limbaugh has been fulminating about “anti-Semitic code” in phrases like “We are the 99%” and even “Occupy Wall Street” itself. Nice irony. Rush’s bogus protestations actually play into the stereotype that all the big bankers and brokers are Jewish. Thanks a lot.

    More sophisticated if no less cynical is David Brooks of the New York Times of Oct. 10, who makes note of the unseemly Adbusters faux pas that we first pointed out above. We think it’s likely that Brooks picked up this angle from us, but we’re almost glad he didn’t credit us. Because his aim is clearly to discredit the protesters altogether. The insufferable Brooks has made a career of defending elite power and, even at this late date, blaming those at the bottom of the social pyramid for their own fate. (We had to call out his vile blame-the-victim spewing on Haiti after last year’s earthquake, just f’rinstance.)

    This exemplifies the danger of the left’s unwillingness to confront anti-Semitism within its own ranks—it lays itself vulnerable to those who would cynically exploit the charge to delegitimize any challenge to the system. As we’ve stated before: The cynical “weaponizing” of the accusation of anti-Semitism does not lessen our responsibility to be clear in calling out real anti-Semitism. On the contrary, it increases it.

    We make no apologies for our ruthless truth-telling, even if it provided propaganda ammo to Brooks. Let the record reflect that this issue was first raised not by a conservative commentator dissing the Occupy Wall Street movement, but a progressive website offering principled dissent within a position of support for the protests.

  11. Occupy Wall Street protests and The Fed
    The Occupy Wall Street movement is a big tent, and that’s a good thing. But activists should develop some savvy about the conspiranoid thinking that characterizes certain elements at the protests—like their obsessive fixation on the Federal Reserve. See full story at New Jewish Resistance.

  12. Endgame for Occupy Wall Street?
    Brookfield Office Properties, owner of the private park where Occupy Wall Street protesters have been camped out for nearly a month, gave notice Oct. 13 that it will begin enforcing regulations that prohibit everything from lying down on benches to storing personal property on the ground. The written notice was handed out to protesters in the park. The NYPD are apparently ready to move on the encampment, in the guise of “cleaning” it. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that protesters can return to the park after the “cleaning,” but will not be able to use the gear that has allowed them to sleep, eat and live in the park. “After it’s cleaned, they’ll be able to come back, but they won’t be able to bring back the gear, the equipment, sleeping bags,” Kelly said. “That sort of thing will not be able to be brought back into the park.” (CSM, Oct. 13)

    This, of course, constitutes a de facto eviction, and raises again the implications of the privatization of public space. The New York Times informs us that Zuccotti Park (dubbed “Liberty Plaza” by the protesters) “exists in a strange category of New York parkland, identified by a seeming oxymoron: a privately owned public space.” The park was established in a wave of such development after changes to the city’s zoning laws in the 1960s. The changes gave real estate developers zoning concessions—especially the lifting of height restrictions—in exchange for “public” space. There are now at least 520 such parks, arcades and plazas in New York City, both indoors and out, providing a total of 3.5 million square feet of space. The problem is that the spaces technically aren’t quite “public”—they are not owned by the City.

    Zuccotti Park is unusual in that it does not adjoin the 54-story office tower, 1 Liberty Plaza, that spawned it, being instead bounded on all four sides by streets: Broadway, Trinity Place, and Cedar and Liberty. “The city had a policy for encouraging commercial developers to create open space in exchange for more height,” said Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University. “But until now, no one has thought about the issue of what the rules are. This has highlighted one of the gaps in New York’s planning system.”

    In some ways, this ambiguity has aided the protesters—for instance, Zuccotti Park (unlike actual City parks) has no curfew. But it is unclear to what degree the First Amendment has force of law in such semi-public spaces…

  13. People power prevails at Liberty Plaza
    Just got back from Liberty Plaza, where I witnessed a rare and amazing victory for the people. The occupiers were armed with mops and brooms, and had spent the whole night scrubbing the park, so it was practically spotless—not so much as a cigarette butt in sight. In addition, the weather was on our side—there had been a fierce downpour during the night, which helped scour the park, but it had stopped by 6 AM, when the police had announced their planned “cleaning” (read: eviction) would take place. So thousands of people had converged on the park by then, and the police were massively outnumbered. The Bloomberg administration beat a tactical retreat, announcing literally at the last minute that the “cleaning” would be postponed. Police and occupiers continued to face each other down for hours, and there were scattered scuffles and arrests—but no massive sweep of the occupiers as had been feared. Liberty Plaza remains in the hands of the protesters.

    We are winning. For how much longer, I wonder…

    OWSPhoto by Patrick Hennessey via Facebook