Two weeks ago, an anti-greed protest/sit-in movement began in lower Manhattan, specifically in Zuccotti park, just a few blocks away from Wall Street. The movement, “Occupy Wall Street,” was largely kickstarted by an anti-capitalist magazine called Adbusters, which described the movement as such:
#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is a people powered movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. Inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy … join us!
The protest drew a few hundred activists to the Wall Street area, and gained quite a bit of buzz on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. As of last weekend, things got a bit nasty when some violence erupted between police and protestors, resulting in some 80 arrests. At the time of this writing, it remained to be seen how active the protests would be this weekend, but National Underwriter paid a visit to Zuccotti Park to see a) how big this protest really was, b) whether it was living up to its social media hype, and c) exactly how well-informed the protestors really were.
The answers, in short order, were: a) not very, b) no, and c) not very much at all. Read on.
All photos by Bill Coffin
This fellow with the Guy Fawkes mask described himself as a union construction worker and a 9/11 volunteer battling health problems he cannot get workers compensation for. The mask was a bit of unintentional irony; recently popularized by their use in the movie V for Vendetta, Guy Fawkes masks are part of the modern protestor uniform. Like many cheap retail products, most are mass produced overseas and very much a part of the global financial structure being protested.
Zocatti Park was littered with crude cardboard signs like this one, though most did not reflect any sinister intent. It is worth noting that when Tea Party supporters used similar slogans during protests earlier this year, it was roundly criticized for inciting violence. To hear Occupy Wall Street describe it, its violent clashes with police were entirely started by the police. But were they?
Occupy Wall Street has been described from its inception as a leaderless movement, ostensibly to give it as much “people power” as it can. But such decentralization comes at a cost. When this protester loudly suggested to his fellow protesters that they all march around the city to distract the police, nobody took him up on it. Most were too busy sleeping.
Spell-checking is for the other 1%, apparently.
Sarcasm aside, signs such as these were replete among the protesters, showing a basic lack of spelling knowledge. Such details undercut the protesters’ claims that they are collectively over-educated and under-employed.
UPDATE: One reader pointed out my own (and now corrected) typo on this slide and on another where I also criticized the spelling of the protesters. Irony, I feel your sting.
The “occupation” wasn’t described as a sit-in, but at the time of National Underwriter‘s visit, around 11:00 am on a Tuesday morning, that was about all that was happening. Most of the protesters were either sitting in groups chatting, or sleeping. In the opinion of this writer, judging by the overall grunginess of the protesters, it probably wasn’t any Wall Street malfeasance that was keeping these people from finding high-paying work, especially in the financial district.
Signs like these pointed to a central problem of the protest: everywhere were fingers pointing at vague notions of greediness on Wall Street. None of them pointed at anything specific that needed fixing, let alone suggested how to fix it. As with a previous photo, the poor spelling also suggests that either the protesters were not quite as highly educated as they said they were, or they really ought to have kept the receipt for their college education.
This woman spent some two hours hand-painting signs nonstop. She was at the center of a little sign-painting operation in the park, and one of the few examples of activity among the protesters themselves. Large piles of carboard signs lay nearby; there were perhaps 200 protesters total in the park at the time. There were well more signs than that.