Protesters tried to make new rules on Wall Street
OWS had a lot of criticisms about the nation's financial system. Some people had criticisms about OWS. Now that protesters can't camp in lower Manhattan, it's not clear what happens next.
The move wasn't a huge surprise. Occupation of the privately owned park was a huge distraction to everyone who works in the lower Manhattan financial district.
If the protesters camped out at the 33,000-square-foot park a block from the World Trade Center weren't tired of their own presence, after two months, a lot of people outside were. So the protesters are going to have to figure out how to translate a great bit of political theater into something more powerful.
That will take some time, frustrating many supporters but prompting others to map out ways to convert anger over the economy, the near collapse of the financial system, income inequality and other issues into something as focused as what the Tea Party has achieved.
When I visited last week, there were police everywhere and television cameras. Also, because the weather was sunny and amazingly warm for early November, hundreds of tourists and other people milling around taking pictures with their smart phones.
Because of all the tourists and office workers checking the site out, the sidewalk vendors selling gyros, hot dogs, pizza and the like were doing a land-office business. As I bought a sandwich, I asked the vendor if he was getting any business from the OWS. No, he shook his head. The spectators, people with cash to spare, he said, they were great.
There wasn't a lot of tension that day. It felt like the 1960s, with lots of people talking about energy. Or the latest movie star to drop by. A drumming group entertained at the west end of the park.
What was interesting was how many things that bothered the protesters also bothered members of the Tea Party.
The anger about the economy was and remains real. Witness that the park filled up again late Tuesday after the police took down the barricades. The only change in the rules: No one could spend the night.
There were handmade posters everywhere when I visited. The posters decried banks; the Federal Reserve; Republicans, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the minority leader of the House banking committee; fracking, the controversial process used to extract natural gas from fields in Pennsylvania. "Frack is wack," one sign read.
The lack of jobs was front and center. "Listen up! You're fired!" a sign said. "Hell no, we won't go!" another sign said.
At first, OWS seemed entirely disorganized and looked it. But the idea of people simply camping out in the heart of New York's financial district was compelling. Thousands of people showed up or set up similar protests around the country. I saw three people protesting in Roseburg, Ore., and one in Ashland, Ore.
Some of the encampments didn't work. One person was killed in a fight at Occupy Oakland in California. Another committed suicide in Burlington, Vt. A third died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Salt Lake City.
Police protection was expensive -- especially when local budgets were stretched.
By the time the police moved in on OWS in New York, the protesters had organized themselves enough that OWS was getting meals cooked off site and brought to the park. (Hence the unhappiness of the sidewalk vendors.)
It also had a first-aid station, a website, and a 5,700-book library, which was carted away to a city-owned building on 57th Street. (You can check out what's in the collection here.)
Among the protesters was Teddy Mapes, a middle-aged steamfitter from the Bronx. He had generated $30,000 in earnings so far this year. In 2010, he said, he was able to get 28 hours of work.
Mapes had been going down to Zuccotti Park to work in the kitchen.
He was pretty much a regular. Another regular was Joseph Midgley, a volunteer with Picture the Homeless, which works on homeless in New York. When I met him he was working on plans on keeping people warm. But he also seemed to be one that people turned to diffuse the inevitable tensions that crop up in so small space.
Midgley was spending two nights a week at the park. That's not unusual. My guess is that half the protesters that day would go home that night. There wasn't enough room or sanitation for everyone. When there was snow in New York in late October, a lot of people stayed home.
An admitted day-tripper when I visited was Greg Marino, a substitute teacher. He would stop by the park every few days. Why? "The whole financial system is corrupt," he said.
The one admitted registered Republican was Ali Karimi, who had a small poster that read:
"Gold is the Money of Kings.
"Silver is the currency of gentlemen.
"Barter is the money of peasants.
"But debt is the money of slaves."
Karimi was with his infant daughter, who napped while he held up his sign. Born in Oklahoma, the Iranian-American had an economics degree from Kansas State and worked as a basketball agent.
There were participants who cheerfully wanted to make a buck with t-shirts made on the spot or printed and brought in. Price $10 to $20. Buttons were $2.
One of the hallmarks of capitalism in New York is that nothing stays the same. Zuccotti Park is a perfect metaphor. It exists because in the 1970s New York City demanded U.S. Steel (X) create some open space in exchange for letting the steel company build a larger office building, now known as One Liberty Plaza.
U.S. Steel didn't stay in its building for long. Merrill Lynch had its headquarters in the building before moved to the World Financial Center, across West Street from World Trade Center. Thanks to the 2008 financial crisis, Merrill is now part of Bank of America (BAC).
But ownership of the park stayed with the office building. The park, located just southeast of the World Trade Center, was heavily damaged in the 2001 terror attacks. Afterward, it was renovated by its owner, Brookfield Properties, a giant developer in the United States and Canada, and named for its Chairman John Zuccotti.
Among One Liberty Plaza's tenants today are the Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ), operators of the Nasdaq system, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, one of the world's top law firms.
There is lots of history around Zuccotti Park. Two blocks or so to the east is the New York Stock Exchange and the original headquarters of JP Morgan, now JPMorgan Chase (JPM).
To the south is Trinity Church, which owns some of Manhattan's most valuable real estate.
Across Broadway to the east is 140 Broadway, which now houses the headquarters of Brown Brothers Harriman, an old-line investment house. One of its partners was Prescott Bush, later a senator from Connecticut and father of one president and grandfather of a second.
Next door, at 120 Broadway, is the Equitable Building, built in 1915 and immediately controversial because it filled the block and blocked light from reaching the street.
In response, New York enacted the nation's first zoning ordinance that demanded scaled setbacks for big scrapers. Thus the tiered Art Deco skyscrapers that spread around the world in the 1920s and 1930s.
You dont really think anyone gives a crap about your BS posts do you?
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