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Drawing inspiration from Occupy Wall Street: October 1

Commentary by Carolyn Riccardi |
October 2, 2011
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Protest sign at Occupy Wall Street, Oct. 1, 2011
Protest sign at Occupy Wall Street, Oct. 1, 2011 (Photo by Carolyn Riccardi)

New York, NY - In a city of nine million people, protesters aren’t supposed to shut down a major traffic artery on a Saturday afternoon. But on Saturday, October 1, Occupy Wall Street did just that, blocking the Brooklyn Bridge and sending a loud message to the bankers and politicians from Wall Street to Washington D.C. to California that a new day is at hand.

Saturday was Day 15 of Occupy Wall Street, a 24-hour living protest in the shadow of the World Trade Center, surrounded by City Hall, One Police Plaza and the headquarters of banks and finance. Thousands of people have been gathering every day despite a persistent rainy September. What started out as a call by radical youth has steadily given rise to the participation of the transit workers union, Black nationalist organizations, grandmothers, students, teachers and other forces. Many question what the heck Occupy Wall Street is. With the claims of being leaderless and without demands, I can relate to that question.

It seemed part street theater held together with duct tape and crazy glue. Yet a funny thing has occurred on the streets of New York. Inspired by political uprisings in Cairo, Greece, and Palestine there is a rising politic that is pissed off at our rising unemployment rate, the burning awareness of the boot of the NYPD on people of color communities, endless expanding wars, and the execution of Troy Davis. While the effects of the festering economic crisis brought people to occupy Wall Street on September 17, that and many other injustices keep more people coming.

If the call to occupy lower Manhattan was heeded by youth first, the state murder of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia shook many to the core who were already frustrated by conservative policies coming from the White House. Many peoples’ hopes rose with the election Barack Obama, only to have hearts grow twisted and heavy as now he rallies the forces of US imperialism and corporations like JP Morgan since taking office.

In a dreary rain I was pleased to see hundreds of people grow to a couple of thousand as the day progressed. This is impressive on the 15th day of a round-the-clock protest action. The people's loud speaker announced a march in the afternoon with an unclear direction or goal. But once people began to move up Broadway towards City Hall it didn't seem to matter.

After going to political protests for a couple decades it’s easy to wear a skin of cynicism, but the pure energy of the crowd inspired all of us. People on the street smiled and cheered. Horns honked from every side street, and as we marched the rain stopped and the day got crisp our voices got louder. We arrived at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge and many marched legally onto the walkway while others began to block traffic and head towards the roadway. Police were ill-prepared to handle the growing militancy of the demonstration. And as a cop gave warnings over a loudspeaker, you could tell people were marinating over the heavy choices at hand. One. Two. Ten. Twenty. 100 people began to chant, "take the bridge, take the bridge!" And we did.

After protesters marched strong and blocked the road, the police regrouped and eventually arrested over 700 people. As people organized support for their jailed sisters and brothers, news of protests actions in many other cities were also on people lips.

Work needs to get done. It’s time to step up and into the fray. Occupy Wall Street. This is now.