One Year of OWS – What Has and What Hasn’t Changed in Bloomberg’s NY

NYPD – on S17 (says it all?)

A really good recap of Occupy Wall Street, the unprovoked and needless arrests by Mayor Bloomberg’s NYPD, his “army,” as he (sadly) likes to say), and what OWS means on its one year anniversary which (many) people tend to forget, by Allison Kilkenny of The Nation:

It was one of the largest turnouts since the early days of Occupy, but Monday was also exceptional because of the high arrest figures. More than 180 individuals, including journalists, were arrested, and in at least some of these cases, the police were arresting individuals arbitrarily and without cause.

Protesters reported, and I witnessed first-hand, police dragging individuals off of sidewalks (previously considered the “safe space” of activists who don’t wish to participate in direct action and go to jail) into the street where they were then arrested. When press attempted to rush forth to photograph these arrests, the police formed a wall and aggressively shoved back journalists, making it difficult to document the actions.

At one point, a NYPD white shirt supervising officer told a group of journalists, “You can’t stand and take more pictures. That’s over with.”

“I just got out of jail. Was arrested despite screaming over and over that I’m a journalist,” Chris Faraone, aBoston Phoenix staff writer, tweeted.

Julia Reinhart, a photojournalist, was also arrested even through she was wearing identification that listed her as a member of the National Press Photographers Association.

Another journalist from WPIX was arrested Monday, as was journalist and illustrator Molly Crabapple and independent journalist John Knefel. Knefel’s sister, Molly, described the arrest as “violent and unprovoked.”

Later in the evening, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams was assaulted in Zuccotti Park by the NYPD. Protester Jeff Rae photographed a NYPD officer jamming his baton into the councilman’s chest.

Reports emerged almost immediately that the anniversary was a flop, or in the words of the New York TImes‘ Aaron Ross Sorkin, the event “fizzled,” a diagnosis preordained by a media that has never been particularly friendly to a movement it failed to understand in the first place. Sorkin is a Times‘ financial columnist who only first checked out OWS “after getting a call from the chief executive of a major bank,” who wanted to know how worried he and his CEO buddies should be about the movement. Sorkin dutifully hurried down to Zuccotti.

To say “Occupy is dead” is to misunderstand everything about the movement. Occupy can’t die as long as the dire conditions that inspired the creation of the movement continue to exist. In speaking with protesters, one can easily see all of their grievances are still real and present. One protester summarized the current state of Occupy nicely as he carried a sign around Zuccotti that read: “Nothing has changed.”

Students are still buried under loan debt. People are still losing their homes. People still can’t afford health care, and they still can’t survive on minimum wage jobs.

… and …

No revolutionary force is without ebb and flows — that is without question — but it’s been interesting to watch the establishment media rush to slap a bow on the “Occupy story” and force a “The End” onto the movement. There is a borderline obsession in the media with numbers, as though there’s a direct correlation between protester turnout and the “seriousness” of a protest — as though small groups of highly dedicated individuals haven’t inspired real, lasting change in the past.

Several media outlets alluded to the “good ol’ days” of Occupy, and how this new Occupy is only a shadow of its former self. As if these aren’t the same media outlets who also dismissed the old Occupy, as well. Hundreds aren’t as important as thousands, who aren’t as important as millions, and the point is Occupy was never, ever going to impress the mainstream media, and so they never aimed to.

What else hasn’t changed? The media and its reporting, its deference to Mike Bloomberg, its ignoring of how the NYPD horrifically treats peaceful protest (and gets away with it), how the other city agencies (City Council? any kind of regulating agency? Public Advocate?) look the other way, the way Mayor Bloomberg acts as if there aren’t real problems in the city while catering to his soft drink obsession. I could go on. I was one of those people who hoped initially OWS would go further but, really, how could it in this climate outlined so well by Allison Kilkenny above?

Occupy Wall Street infused an energy into the idea that the world could and will change, a belief that had been somewhat extinguished or at least was so under the radar amongst any of us who hoped for – and worked for – real change. Many people buy into the media’s characterization(s) of the whole thing and they, and their corporate bosses, who are threatened by it, know this.

This movement speaks to pretty much all of us. Carry on.

Photo: reclaimuc

Also worth reading: Salon.com by David Sirota, Media: Stop Sucking up to Bloomberg August 22, 2012

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To Raise Awareness of Homelessness in NYC, Queens Resident Yusef Ramileze Sleeping in WSP for One Week

Yusef Ramelize, Union Square by Gandhi statue

For the fourth year, Queens resident and homeless advocate Yusef Ramileze will be sleeping in a New York City public space for one week; this year his location of choice is Washington Square Park. His goal is to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless in New York City. Ramileze told DNAinfo he chose Washington Square Park because of “its reputation as a haven for the homeless.” He began sleeping at WSP yesterday and will stay through August 11th, also fasting and taking  vow of silence.

Nearby Union Square was the creative manager’s location for two of the previous years and Grand Central for one. This will be his last year conducting the project, Homeless for One Week, which Ramelize began because he was “looking for a new way to raise awareness of homelessness.”

The homeless population has been at record highs during the Bloomberg Administration’s oh so long tenure.

From DNAinfo, Homeless Advocate Plans Week-long Stay in Washington Square Park:

“We need to let politicians know that this is something that really matters to us,” Ramelize said. “Because of the economy, organizations doing really great work have been lacking in funds. We need to pick up the slack.”

Like past places where Ramelize has slept, he chose the busy Washington Square Park, which is officially closed from midnight to 6 a.m., for its reputation as a haven for the homeless.

“This is something I’m just experiencing for a week,” he said. “I can’t even imagine doing this every night.”

After years of advocacy, Ramelize said he has a better understanding of the scope of homelessness. While mental illness and drug addiction are among the most common causes associated with homelessness, Ramelize has learned about students living out of their cars to afford tuition and single mothers forced to live on the street.

“The extent of the type of person you would see going homeless over the past few years is much bigger than I thought,” he said, as people who were once middle-class have begun to struggle for survival.

Ramelize will be fasting and taking a vow of silence – which will be interesting at WSP! He hopes to raise $5000 for Muslims Against Hunger this year. You can visit his web site Homeless for One Week to make a donation or learn more.

More on Mike Bloomberg administration’s relation to homeless advocates from Coalition for the Homeless.

The End of the Parks Commissioner’s Reign

updated 2:35 p.m.

Adrian Benepe at WSP Phase I Opening Ceremony 2009

In the news… big news, in the parks and public space domain: NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has resigned and will be leaving his position around Labor Day. Commissioner Benepe oversaw the controversial redesign of Washington Square Park and was caught in a web of … shall we call them… untruths at times. Rather than focus on items that might not be quite so media-worthy, such as proper maintenance of our existing parks, his calling, for the last ten years under Mayor Mike Bloomberg, leaned towards splashy redesigns and planting a million trees. These undertakings left out serious forethought as to how to maintain either aspect. The result? Continued and overwhelming dependence was shifted to private dollars with large disparities in the amount of money, love and attention given to ‘other’ parks across the five boroughs. (Oh, and a number of dead trees.)

From Mayor Bloomberg’s quotes yesterday (below), he is quite happy to continue that model with Adrian Benepe’s replacement, Veronica White, someone with no background in parks or public spaces — like many of Mike Bloomberg’s recent choices who are positioned at the helm of city agencies without related experience. (Ms. White gets some points for citing the position as her “dream job.”) Commissioner Benepe was appointed at the beginning of Bloomberg’s (seemingly never-ending) tenure and had already risen through the ranks of the Parks Department. Benepe will be going on to further the private-public model across the country, according to The New York Times, despite the problems found with the model.

From the NY Daily News, NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe to leave post he’s held for 10 years alongside Mayor Bloomberg

Adrian Benepe, one of the few top officials who has been with the administration since Bloomberg took office in 2002, is set to take a job at the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.

He will be replaced by Veronica White, executive director of the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity.

“I’ve been joined at the hip with the Parks Department,” said Benepe, who got his first parks job as a teenager in the summer of 1973 cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash. “You never want to leave. But you can’t be emperor forever. Sometimes there’s the risk of overstaying your welcome. And there would have been no guarantees after next year [when Bloomberg’s term ends].”

The city has added 730 acres of parks under Benepe, including glitzy new spots like Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line.

White is set to take over around Labor Day. “It’s been my dream job forever,” she said.

New York Times, His Domain Transformed, Parks Chief Is Leaving:

At the Trust for Public Land, Mr. Benepe will promote the public-private partnership model, an environmentally minded infrastructure and wider access to parks to cities across the country.

Ms. White’s work at the economic opportunity center has followed the same mold. Mr. Bloomberg praised her record of “exploring innovative partnerships and attracting private funds,” skills that should serve her well as parks commissioner. …

Yet Mr. Benepe was not without critics. Some people objected to his turning to private sources for the money to pay for park maintenance, like the plan for upscale housing to underwrite Brooklyn Bridge Park and the twice-yearly fashion shows that take over Damrosch Park next to Lincoln Center.

Mr. Benepe also clashed with vendors and artists over the city’s efforts to rein in commerce in parks. And there have been complaints that the upkeep of the city’s many existing parks has been sacrificed for lavish expenditures on a few new gems.

“We’re classic victims of our own success,” said Holly M. Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group. “All the attention paid to the beautiful new parks has created a certain complacency about the state of the existing parks. There’s a disconnect between the capital investments and the depletion of the maintenance budgets.”

Village Voice, Adrian Benepe’s Resignation: Will Changes in Parks and Recreation Affect Artists?

DNAinfo: Adrian Benepe Resigns as Parks Commissioner & Meet the New Parks Commissioner, Veronica White

Wall Street Journal, Parks Chief Steps Down after 10 Years

Previous posts here at WSP Blog:

* A Quiz on NYC’s Parks Commissioner

* NYC’s Parks Department: 2/3 cuts in workers and endless privatization schemes

* Part I of II: NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe Responds to WSP Blog Concerns February 2, 2009

* Part II: My Response to the Parks Commissioner Regarding Washington Square Park Redesign February 13, 2009

* Privatizations, Concessions and New York City Parks

* Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Washington Sq Park May 28, 2009

Other interesting background reading:

WNYC, Shake Shack $$$: Bad for City Parks? September 14, 2010

Next American City, The High Cost of Free Parks, award-winning piece by Patrick Arden

Park Slope Patch, Which Park is it, Anyway? by Johanna Clearfield on Commissioner Benepe talk at Museum of the City of New York

Photos: Cathryn

In Jeopardy: Washington Square’s 330 Year Old “Hangman’s” English Elm — Is Improper and Inadequate protection during Park’s recent construction the cause?

The “Hangman’s Elm” — Oldest Living Tree in Manhattan

Branches Cut at Top of Tree

An English Elm is the species of the tree which resides in the NorthWest Quadrant of Washington Square Park, the tree that is largely (and ironically, somewhat fondly) referred to as the “Hangman’s Elm.” Although there are no records of an actual hanging from the tree, at some point, it was given this name and it stuck. Perhaps because it looks so old, so majestic, and so strong, you can certainly imagine a hanging occurring from the tree in the 1800s, a century the tree lived through. In 1989, the Parks Department determined the age of the tree to be 310 years old, making it now 333. It is the oldest known living tree in Manhattan.

I contacted Bronx-based arborist Ralph Padilla to find out more about the English Elm in general, why healthy trees might get stressed, and if the Parks Department’s plan to trim branches of this tree ultimately made sense.

Padilla says that a healthy English Elm has wood so strong that “ordinarily you could hang a school bus from it,” the exception being when it is under stress or has “a defect or hole.”

Recently, Community Board 2 was alerted by the city’s Parks Department about concerns around the state of the tree and a plan to remove some of the majestic Elm’s branches. Community members were greatly concerned. The Parks Department provided this statement as far as their course of action and why:

Parks Department statement on the status of the Washington Square English Elm:

A ground based visual tree inspection and a subsequent aerial climbing inspection of the Washington Square Park English Elm found evidence of decay and strength loss. Approximately 20% of its crown will be removed in stages to reduce the mechanical stress experienced by its stems and branches and avoid the complete removal of the tree. The tree will also be treated against Dutch Elm Disease in the next few weeks.

When I read Padilla the statement the Parks Department gave in relation to the Hangman’s Elm, he said that it sounded “pretty reasonable.” He said if there is concern about “the vulnerability of the branch” which could break off, instead of removing the entire branch, “the strategy is to reduce weight … to prune away a bit. Now, it definitely won’t break.” Given the concerns, he said the way the city agency was proceeding sounded “very good.” As we spoke, he shed light on what might cause the stress the tree was under and that “decay and strength loss.”

Recent Criticism of City’s Parks Department over Maintenance of Trees

Recently, the Parks Department has been heavily criticized for its oversight of the health of the city’s trees resulting in deaths and injuries. On the one hand, great that they caught the problem with the Hangman’s Elm before something serious happened, but, on the other, is something else being ignored? That something is inadequate protection of our city trees during construction projects.

Padilla said, “Ordinarily with an overly mature tree, you never remove any green parts. There is barely enough food to power the entire system.” He said “the real plant food comes from the leaves which convert sunlight and energy into sugars. These sugars are the only real plant food.” (Fascinating!) He didn’t think, given the assessment, that there was much other option than the route they were taking. But I wonder why is the tree in this precarious state?

Protection around park trees during construction “a joke”

When I mentioned the park’s continuous construction and that the branches that were recently removed were at the top of the tree, he said, “When the branches at the top of a tree die off, the problem is in the root area; a disturbance of the root zone. The root zone of this tree would be far reaching – possibly half way across the park.

He continued, “Construction and trees almost never work out because the protection is so half ass. I didn’t see the protection they took but the right protection for this tree would be a chain link fence 30 feet out from the trunk.”

When I explained that the protection consisted of four rickety wood slats right around the trunk of the tree, he said “that’s a joke.”

This is what the “protection” around all the park’s trees during construction has looked like over the last four years, including the Hangman’s Elm:

WSP Tree "Protection" Could Certainly be Improved

WSP Tree “Protection” Could Certainly be Improved (October 2009)

Basically what happens, according to Padilla: “When the roots get damaged, the tree will sacrifice the tippy top to direct energy into the root system in order to make repairs where the roots were damaged.” (Also fascinating!)

Padilla did say that treating the elm for Dutch Elm disease is smart since the insect that is the vector for Dutch Elm Disease is attracted to holes and the cutting of the branches could make the Elm susceptible.

Can we change the city’s practices and prompt appropriate care of our city’s trees?

So, we have to send some good energy to the Hangman’s Elm. Perhaps it can be a lesson. NYC needs to make necessary and major changes in the way our trees are being protected during construction.

The Bloomberg Administration has made much of its “Million Trees” Initiative while not providing funds for the necessary maintenance of these new trees as well as existing ones. It becomes difficult not to believe it’s all a p.r. ploy. Now, we have the situation before us with the 333 year old “Hangman’s Elm” and its decline and it’s impossible not to point to the construction and the fact that necessary precautions have not been taken.

Will the Bloomberg’s Administration’s dramatic redesign of Washington Square Park be the cause of the demise of the oldest known living tree in Manhattan?

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Very cool Time Lapse video from 7:19 p.m. to 9:35 p.m. of the Hangman’s Elm one day in April 2012 from Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel:

* Wikipedia Hangman’s Elm
How to Prevent Additional Trees at Washington Square Park from Dying – Questions Abound WSP Blog, August 23, 2011
* Training to spot Tree Decay is Urged for Parks Workers New York Times, May 31, 2012
* Kristin Jones’ “Behold,” Slated for Arbor Day 2013, Has Eye on Hangmen’s Elm at Washington Square WSP Blog, December 19, 2011

Mike Bloomberg on people in the Village: “the value of their homes, the level of their quality of life is due to the proximity of N.Y.U.”

In case you missed this… In Scoopy’s Notebook, The Villager, May 24, 2012

Positive purple aura? Many people think that Greenwich Village’s cachet — and the value of its property — comes from its beautiful, landmarked, low-scale buildings, its artistic and intellectual ferment and its numerous attractions, from Washington Square to cafes and cultural spots. But Mayor Bloomberg says simply being close to New York University is a major factor driving property values. Responding to a reporter’s question last month about the university’s 2031 plan, Bloomberg said of the Village, “People there, the value of their homes, the level of their quality of life is due to the proximity of N.Y.U.” He furthermore accused the plan’s opponents of “playing politics with it,” adding that this is “not beneficial to anyone.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said, sadly, the mayor just doesn’t get it. “Spoken like a man who comes from Boston and lives on the Upper East Side,” she said. “I don’t think he particularly understands New York — he understands a very limited slice of New York. The neighborhood, day-to-day life of New Yorkers is not something that has value for him or his social set. People will be disappointed, but I don’t think they’ll be the least bit surprised,” Glick said of the mayor’s claims that it’s actually N.Y.U. that is elevating everyone’s quality of life.

Surprise! Mayor Michael Bloomberg Expresses Support for NYU Massive Expansion in the Village – Will this Help or Hurt the University?

(Updated)

NY1 reports: Mayor Bloomberg Stands By NYU’s Greenwich Village Expansion Plans

Why does this feel like term limits all over again? The daily papers all supporting an unsustainable and undesired position completely opposite the wishes of most New Yorkers. The billionaire Mayor on the wrong side. Again. And then, all his city agencies – in this case, the Planning Commission and City Council – will inevitably just fall in line. It’s clear that Bloomberg had already expressed behind the scenes his support of the plan. Mike is always in favor of anything that benefits the developers and corporations. And we know that NYU President John Sexton jumped down to City Hall to support granting no limit of Bloomberg’s term in his up-is-down testimony. As I wrote at the time, “More Bloomberg. More NYU.”

It’s sort of horrifying – if it wasn’t so real.

Hopefully, things can be learned by those issues on which Bloomberg has not “won.” Can someone remind me what those are? I know there have been a few. Westside Stadium, for one. Others? (And when I say “won,” Bloomberg hasn’t really “won” on any of these issues, as much as subverted the democratic process and bought influence somehow – it’s never a “fair” fight.)

Previously at WSP Blog:

* The Blanding of New York City: Why It’s Time for Mayor Mike to Go

* Why Mayor Bloomberg Wants Redesign of Washington Square Park

NYU Proposed Expansion Plan 2031 — Is the Fix ‘In’ With the Bloomberg Administration?

I’m posting previous WSP Blog entries as refreshers on NYU and President John Sexton’s “vision” for the University’s Expansion Plan 2031. It’s a very critical time right now.

It raises the question — is the ‘fix’ in with the Bloomberg Administration? Given this Admin’s history over the last seemingly gazillion years (will his term ever end?), that would not be much of a surprise.

If so, how to stop it?

If her statements at the Community Meeting on NYU Plan 2031 earlier this month were any indication, Council Member Margaret Chin likely does not have the strength to stand up to Bloomberg and Council Member Quinn who will put pressure on her to go along with it.

More at WSP Blog on NYU here.

OWS Occupies Thanksgiving; Free Meals & Festive Atmosphere While Zuccotti Park Uber Restricted and Barricaded

Zuccotti Signage

Double Barricaded

Occupiers at Thanksgiving

NYPD vehicles line Liberty Street

NYPD Surveillance Tower across fm park


Food Line - It's Free!

Vegetarian, vegan, turkey options

Handing out water


Bouncers, uh, Security

NYPD Occupy Thanksgiving

WikiLeaks Truck

Ledges Now Off Limits

NYPD "Community Affairs"



Despite being double barricaded in with only two entry points on the north and south sides of the park, Occupy Wall Street occupied Thanksgiving yesterday at Zuccotti with an overflow of free Thanksgiving meals – turkey, vegetarian and vegan options – (Some of the food was later donated to a church in Upper Manhattan and perhaps elsewhere), a multitude of bottled water, ice cream and dessert.

Unlike the previous set up – pre-raid – where the food was allowed to be laid out inside the park, the food display is now only allowed outside on the sidewalk. Among other things, this ends up not being the most environmentally friendly option – endless bottles of water and pre-packaged trays of food – but the spirit remains lovely and strong.

People say “You can’t evict an idea,” and that is oh so true. And yet, what is so threatening about the alternative society that Occupy Wall Street set up that all physical remnants of it have to be abolished? Now, double barricades surround the entire park. Books, food, and, yesterday, even a banjo are not allowed in. There are bouncers, uh, security at the TWO entry points and the ledges are off limits. No sleeping lying down. In addition to the much publicized no tents and sleeping bags.

A fellow last night tried to bring in a banjo and security attempted to deny him entry. People began chanting “let the banjo in!” and surrounded the space. There was a negotiation; the NYPD got involved and, at last, guy with banjo was allowed in. Mic check was called. A speaker called out “We’d like to thank” … “the NYPD” … “for letting the banjo in.” (Words to that effect.) Amazingly gracious as that would not have been my first inclination feeling it was already crazily restricted (what right did this security have to keep the banjo out to begin with?, my friend asked).

When I first arrived, I spoke to one of the bouncers. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way but that is the feeling that was given off and clearly he identified with the role. I pointedly questioned and criticized the barricades everywhere and the reduction of entrance to the park to two barricaded-in entry points. He said, “Everyone’s complaining. Look at the festive environment you get to go to going in here.” Clearly his attitude was that Brookfield Properties (which “manages” Zuccotti Park) and the city were doing everyone some favor by allowing them there. Then, as if this was a reasonable argument, “If you went to a club, you’d have to go on a line to get in.” “This isn’t a club,” I replied. “It’s a public park.” He began to argue, “It’s not a public park. It’s a private park.” I said, “It is not a private park. It is a privately owned public space.” He stopped the back and forth; he had to agree that was accurate. He then continued on claiming this was all for everyone’s “safety.”

The site is barricaded in with an imposing NYPD tower with cameras bordering the park with NYPD officers and Brookfield-hired “security” checking people coming in and out. A public park? Certainly doesn’t feel like one. A friend of mine commented that “This feels like a prison camp.” Nonetheless, the vibe inside was festive, upbeat and giving.

“You can’t evict an idea.” Indeed.

I wanted to include this last shot although, on first glance, you can’t tell what it is.  The trees at Zuccotti have tags tied on them (similar to ones you might put on a gift) that said “I’m giving…” and people had filled in sentiments on them.

I don’t expect Mayor Michael Bloomberg and those of his ilk in the 1% to understand but I’m sure many of us do. Written on this tag were the words: “I’m giving thanks for OWS. You gave me hope.

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Interesting post here on Occupy Boston and Community Planning.

Previous WSP Blog post: My visit to Zuccotti and Occupy Wall Street October 7, 2011

Washington Square Fountain Often Left On To Deter “Protester” Use?

It’s past the time of year when the Washington Square fountain is typically shut off and yet, up until this morning, the fountain has been on – presumably to deter protester use of it. The fountain – when not on and also empty – has traditionally been used as a gathering space and a place for, yes, protest. The Bloomberg Administration is apparently so worried of that usage that the fountain is often left on in the rain, and long after the park’s water fountains have been shut off. (When it’s not on, water is left within it to discourage usage.)

Here are photos from yesterday – the NYPD preparation for Arundhati Roy’s scheduled visit to the park (it was moved inside to Judson Church due to rain). Fountain was on this morning but is off as of now (3 p.m.).

NYPD on the Fountain Plaza

NYPD - TARU: Technical Assistance Response Unit






NYPD TARU = Technical Assistance Research Unit.

I love seeing the fountain on but it’s getting a bit ridiculous. At least, the Arch is no longer barricaded.

Video of Arundhati Roy at People’s University yesterday.

** If you like this and other WSP Blog coverage, please contribute during Fundraising Week –  this blogger is trying to raise some funds! **

David Harvey on the Right to Public Space and the 99 Percent


NYC-based author and professor David Harvey often speaks out on the use of public space. While reading this piece (excerpted), I couldn’t help thinking about New York’s billionaire (and out of touch) Mayor Mike “Wall Street, real estate and tourists are all I look out for” Bloomberg.

The Party of Wall Street Meets Its Nemesis (Verso Books blog)

The Party of Wall Street has one universal principle of rule: that there shall be no serious challenge to the absolute power of money to rule absolutely. And that power is to be exercised with one objective. Those possessed of money power shall not only be privileged to accumulate wealth endlessly at will, but they shall have the right to inherit the earth, taking either direct or indirect dominion not only of the land and all the resources and productive capacities that reside therein, but also assume absolute command, directly or indirectly, over the labor and creative potentialities of all those others it needs. The rest of humanity shall be deemed disposable.
….
The Party of Wall Street ceaselessly wages class war. “Of course there is class war,” says Warren Buffett, “and it is my class, the rich, who are making it and we are winning.” Much of this war is waged in secret, behind a series of masks and obfuscations through which the aims and objectives of the Party of Wall Street are disguised.

The Party of Wall Street knows all too well that when profound political and economic questions are transformed into cultural issues they become unanswerable.

But now, for the first time, there is an explicit movement to confront The Party of Wall Street and its unalloyed money power. The “street” in Wall Street is being occupied—oh horror upon horrors—by others! Spreading from city to city, the tactics of Occupy Wall Street are to take a central public space, a park or a square, close to where many of the levers of power are centered, and by putting human bodies there convert public space into a political commons, a place for open discussion and debate over what that power is doing and how best to oppose its reach. This tactic, most conspicuously re-animated in the noble and on-going struggles centered on Tahrir Square in Cairo, has spread across the world (Plaza del Sol in Madrid, Syntagma Square in Athens, now the steps of Saint Paul’s in London as well as Wall Street itself). It shows us that the collective power of bodies in public space is still the most effective instrument of opposition when all other means of access are blocked. What Tahrir Square showed to the world was an obvious truth: that it is bodies on the street and in the squares not the babble of sentiments on Twitter or Facebook that really matter.

The aim of this movement in the United States is simple. It says: “We the people are determined to take back our country from the moneyed powers that currently run it. Our aim is to prove Warren Buffett wrong. His class, the rich, shall no longer rule unchallenged nor automatically inherit the earth. Nor is his class, the rich, always destined to win.”

It says “we are the 99 percent.” We have the majority and this majority can, must and shall prevail. Since all other channels of expression are closed to us by money power, we have no other option except to occupy the parks, squares and streets of our cities until our opinions are heard and our needs attended to.

To succeed the movement has to reach out to the 99 percent. This it can and is doing step by step. First there are all those being plunged into immiseration by unemployment and all those who have been or are now being dispossessed of their houses and their assets by the Wall Street phalanx. It must forge broad coalitions between students, immigrants, the underemployed, and all those threatened by the totally unnecessary and draconian austerity politics being inflicted upon the nation and the world at the behest of the Party of Wall Street. It must focus on the astonishing levels of exploitation in workplaces  from the immigrant domestic workers who the rich so ruthlessly exploit in their homes to the restaurant workers who slave for almost nothing in the kitchens of the establishments in which the rich so grandly eat. It must bring together the creative workers and artists whose talents are so often turned into commercial products under the control of big money power.

The movement must above all reach out to all the alienated, the dissatisfied and the discontented, all those who recognize and deeply feel in their gut that there is something profoundly wrong, that the system that the Party of Wall Street has devised is not only barbaric, unethical and morally wrong, but also broken.

All this has to be democratically assembled into a coherent opposition, which must also freely contemplate what an alternative city, an alternative political system and, ultimately, an alternative way of organizing production, distribution and consumption for the benefit of the people. Otherwise, a future for the young that points to spiraling private indebtedness and deepening public austerity, all for the benefit of the one percent, is no future at all.

In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement the state backed by capitalist class power makes an astonishing claim: that they and only they have the exclusive right to regulate and dispose of public space. The public has no common right to public space! By what right do mayors, police chiefs, military officers and state officials tell we the people that they have the right to determine what is public about “our” public space and who may occupy that space when? When did they presume to evict us, the people, from any space we the people decide collectively and peacefully to occupy? They claim they are taking action in the public interest (and cite laws to prove it) but it is we who are the public! Where is “our interest” in all of this?

David Harvey teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (Anthropology), often writes and speaks on public space, and is the author of many books, including Social Justice and the City, The Condition of Postmodernity, and A Companion to Marx’s Capital.