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

Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration Friday, March 25th

Friday, March 25th marks the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire which occurred in a building one block from Washington Square Park. Lack of proper factory safety protocols led to the deaths of 146 workers, mostly young women. There are a number of events commemorating the anniversary Friday; a major one at the original site off the Park. HBO is airing a documentary premiering this evening.

From The Nation:

March 25, 1911, a fire that broke out in a bin holding scraps of fabric at the Triangle Waist Company, just down the block from New York City’s Washington Square Park, quickly spread, fed by cotton garments, tissue paper and wooden fixtures. Though the building that housed the clothing manufacturer was modern and advertised as fireproof, the cramped layout of the factory, a locked exit door, a flimsy fire escape that soon crumpled and inadequate fire department equipment brought a staggering loss of life.

Within a half-hour, 146 workers had died, mostly young Jewish and Italian women, nearly half still in their teens. Two were only 14. More than a third of the victims jumped or fell from upper-story windows trying to escape the flames.

The 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire is being commemorated by a remarkable array of events. As it does every year, Workers United, the union that represents garment workers, is sponsoring a ceremony at the site of the fire. (The building is now part of New York University.)

Each year a fire department truck raises a ladder to the sixth floor, the highest its equipment could reach in 1911, painfully short of the eighth, ninth and tenth floors, where the fire occurred.

The attention being given to Triangle stands out in a society that rarely remembers anything connected to workers’ lives, struggles or tragedies. Why its prominence?

Triangle commands our notice in part because of the specifics of the disaster. There is something particularly horrifying about being trapped in a fire and plummeting through the air to escape it (so much so that ninety years later, on 9/11, newspapers and television generally refrained from showing images of people jumping from the World Trade Center). That so many of the victims were young and female added a layer of poignancy, as we commonly associate youth, especially young girls, with innocence, making their deaths seem even more undeserved than those of older victims of mining explosions and industrial accidents. And the Triangle Fire took place in the media capital of the country, receiving massive press coverage, including harrowing photographs difficult to forget.

From the New York Times article, “In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember”, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition founder Ruth Sergel:

In the wake of tragedies like Triangle or 9/11, my sense is there are actually quite wonderful things that come out and radiate from that,” she said. “There’s an immediate dropping of day-to-day falseness. You become much more compassionate and humane toward each other in those moments.

“It’s incumbent upon us if we’re going to commemorate the fire,” she added, “to commemorate the spirit of action that grew out of the fire.”

Friday, March 25th, Major 100th Anniversary Event at the Site, NYC:

11:00 a.m. – Music and Procession
12:00 p.m. – Speakers (including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and Ceremony

Location: Former home of the Triangle Waist Company, corner of Washington Place and Greene Street
(one block east of Washington Square Park)
Map

Note: The site of the Triangle Fire is now New York University’s Brown Building of Science.