Anniversary of OWS culminates in an occupation of the NY Stock Exchange

Photo credit: Charlie Eckert

“Our environmental crisis [has] roots seeded in Wall Street’s influence on our economy and in Washington.”


As Occupy Wall Street marks its one-year anniversary today with rallies and yet another “comeback” around town, the group faces familiar headlines about mass arrests and questions about its mission.

Over the weekend, at least 40 protesters were arrested as OWS returned from its slumber to commemorate its first rallies at Zuccotti Park last year. Its three-day schedule culminates in an occupation of the New York Stock Exchange today. (The National Lawyers Guild, which represents many of the arrested, said at least 50 were cuffed.)

Organizers hope today will give OWS yet another shot at national relevance.

“Today is really about showing our strengths and how much organizing we’ve done over the year and really to have a great kickoff to year two,” said Linnea Palmer Paton, 24, who helps organize events for OWS.

“The broad message here today and going forward, the tagline for the whole weekend, is that all roads lead to Wall Street,” she said. “Health care, the electoral process, our environmental crisis, all of these problems have their roots seeded in Wall Street’s influence on our economy and in Washington,” which she said will be focal points for the year ahead.

Protesters will start today at various points in the Financial District, putting up “people’s walls” in streets and landmarks. They will converge at the NYSE at 10 a.m. for a mass sit-in, hoping to cut off all access to the exchange. Rallies will continue for the rest of the day, ending with a meet-up at Zuccotti Park.

Today’s protest is the largest since OWS’ highly promoted but underwhelming “May Day,” one of the group’s many attempts at regaining its past energy.

From its inception last September until the end of 2011, the group grabbed consistent national attention for its massive encampment at Zuccotti, where hundreds of people settled for nearly two months. Skirmishes with police were regular, and reached a fever pitch in October on the Brooklyn Bridge, where more than 700 were arrested out of the thousands who were there.

Experts said OWS will probably never regain the energy it had in its first few months.

“It’s unlikely that they’ll recapture the momentum,” said Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU. “You only get one chance to be the media darling, [and] in large part they were because of the encampment at Zuccotti.”

He added: “You don’t have encampments, you don’t have the spectacle.”

Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin, who wrote a book about OWS, said the movement needs to more cohesively include union members, state reform program leaders and others who aren’t “24/7 activists” to evolve.

“It’s been straining to relaunch,” he said.

“It’s been tangled up in internal quarrels and confusions, and I think — though I’m not sure how many of the inner core would agree — wrestling with the fact that it [hit] its limit,” Gitlin said.

Some New Yorkers agree.

“At first I thought it was great,” said Charles Greene, 29, of Sheepshead Bay. But now “it’s just a bunch of 20-somethings on the street. There’s a lot to be done. But what’s the plan? What are you guys going to do with your lives?”

Ross said that main organizers will likely keep working, but in a less “media-friendly” way.

“When you’re building a political movement, it takes more than a year,” Ross said. “And I think there’s a core of occupiers who are committed to the long term.”


For updates from the Occupy Wall Street folks check here

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