Occupy Wall Street: Photo Dispatches from the Movement That Is Changing America

occupy wall street, ows, washington square park

My daughter after the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Washington Square Park.

This a movement based on class, which, as an issue, most Americans don’t much like to confront, largely because to admit that it is an issue is to admit that a great part of the American self-image is a delusion. We do not all have an equal chance. The game is rigged. The economy has been turned into a casino and the house always wins, and we are not the house any more. Not for a long time. Not by the longest shot. And if that’s all these protests ever say, if that’s all that ever gets shouted into the rising autumn wind, then that’s an effort worth making.

That’s from Charles P. Pierce’s great post on Esquire.com about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that have been going on in New York City for weeks now.  I highly recommend you read it, if you’re looking for reporting on the subject matter that reflects the actual tone of the protests without simultaneously mocking the hippie spirit involved and represents the reality of the varied types of people from across the country with different jobs and political leanings who all feel the same way about insatiable corporate greed: that the demand for profit at all costs must be curbed.  That American workers and foreign workers being mistreated while making consumer products to be sold in the U.S. deserve better.  That the immense gap between rich and poor must be closed by raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent of the population.

I’ve been excited about the Occupy Wall Street movement since I heard about it back in mid-September, but I was reticent to go downtown and join the fray because I thought it might not be a friendly place to bring my 6-year-old daughter, and I was terrified that if I showed up in Zuccotti Park alone while she was at school, I might get arrested and then there would be no one to pick her up.  I certainly wasn’t planning on conducting myself in a way that would result in an arrest, but as hoards of footage taken by peaceful protesters has shown, the police have been indiscriminate about their use of force, a fact that has shocked many Americans.  Several people have noted – if not so much in the media proper, certainly on the street and via social media – that Occupy Wall Street as a movement was catalyzed and has been sustained by young white people. If Black America’s involvement has remained low, that’s largely because – as my friend and fellow comedian Jeffrey Joseph joked on Twitter – “Thought of joining Occupy Wall Street but cops are beating up WHITE women. My ass would become the Crispus Attucks of the recession revolt.”

So I was trepidatious about getting involved, but as I watched the movement grow from the comfort of my laptop screen, I knew I needed to physically show up to a rally, to support with not just my mind but my body.  I started asking friends who had been going every day, “What’s the likelihood of arrest?  Have you seen any kids down there?”  My friend Ted Alexandro, a brilliant comedian and working-class philanthropist, has been at Zuccotti Park almost every day for the past few weeks (check out this excellent 4-minute video profiling his involvement in the movement) and he assured me that things were relatively calm for the most part.  My friend Mica Scalin mentioned that she’d seen some families with young kids participate in the planned march from City Hall to Zuccotti Park on October 5th, and it was then I knew I had no excuse.  I took my daughter down to Washington Square Park this weekend to see the hippie kids waving their jazz hands in support of democracy with my own eyes and to add my voice to the growing masses representing the 99%.  These are the folks I met:

nggallery id=’123691′

  • Occupy Wall Street 1 of 15
    Occupy Wall Street
    The crowd at the special assembly on Saturday, October 8th in Washington Square Park.
  • Washington Square Park 2 of 15
    Washington Square Park
    I hadn't been in Washington Square for a major event like this since 2007 when I heard candidate Obama speak.
  • Julio 3 of 15
    Julio
    I asked Julio what brought him all the way to New York from his home in Puerto Rico, and he told me, "Corporations are affecting my economy and my politics by making the decisions instead of the politicians. I'm a chef. I see it every day. Purdue has been lobbying Congress forever so they can dump waste in our rivers. We have more pharmaceutical factories than any state in the U.S. because they don't want it on their land."
  • Vivian and Elizabeth Swift 4 of 15
    Vivian and Elizabeth Swift
    Twin sisters Vivian and Elizabeth Swift couldn't have more divergent political views, and yet they both agree that the 99% is getting a raw deal. Vivian (L) told me, "We support Occupy Wall Street. Somebody has to be held accountable." Elizabeth (R) added, "I'm a small business owner. Wall Street got bailed out, but they pulled our measly line of credit and now we have to try to survive. Nobody wants to lend to help small businesses." Vivian jumped in, "I'm a Republican and I'm mad as hell!," while Elizabeth laughed, "Not me, I'm not a Republican."
  • Tax Wall Street 5 of 15
    Tax Wall Street
    Yes, it's true (as you've no doubt heard), the mood at these protests is quite festive, and some attendees are just there for the fun. I like this guy's message and costume, but when I tried to talk to him, he couldn't be still and I quickly realized that he could probably use some meds. That's why we need national healthcare...
  • Rafael Goldberg 6 of 15
    Rafael Goldberg
    Rafael told me, "I was on the Brooklyn Bridge march [when 700 people were arrested, perhaps illegally]. I made it out but everyone around me got arrested. I've seen police acting inappropriately and aggressively. The power of the people needs to be respected. Peaceful protesters need to be treated in a fair way or else they won't remain peaceful." If you were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 3rd, visit the Partnership for Civil Justice for more information on the class-action lawsuit against Mayor Bloomberg.
  • The Master of Degrees 7 of 15
    The Master of Degrees
    A common complaint among younger protesters is the massive amount of student loan debt they carry. I planned to make a sign to bring that read, "I hope my daughter enjoys her inheritance: student loan debt." I didn't get around to it, which is just as well, because I think this guy's getup says it all.
  • Lindsey Smith and Stephanie Todd 8 of 15
    Lindsey Smith and Stephanie Todd
    "We're here to encourage people to take their power back and to think outside the system that has been created for us by the one percent."
  • Occupy Everywhere 9 of 15
    Occupy Everywhere
    That was the cry we heard from the podium as organizers happily acknowledged the growth and depth of the movement. According to CBS News, there are Occupy Wall Street demonstrations going on in 25 cities across the U.S.
  • No Obama 10 of 15
    No Obama
    This protester asked me not to use his name, but told me that he's more interested in what's going on with the IMF than in the White House.
  • Charlie McCracken 11 of 15
    Charlie McCracken
    Charlie was the first person I saw with a child at the protest, despite the fact that the atmosphere was very safe and family-friendly. If you've been thinking about supporting Occupy Wall Street but have been worried about bringing your children, don't be.
  • Monet Weldon 12 of 15
    Monet Weldon
    "I'm here mainly [to draw attention to] the high cost of gaining an education. I also have no health insurance."
  • Dylan Hock 13 of 15
    Dylan Hock
    "I'm here because I've watched a plethora of wrongs that are happening against hard-working people who have saved money and done the right thing their whole lives and have had their livelihoods robbed out from underneath them. I watched my father care for his dying wife for two years. Now he's stuck with all of her medical bills and he makes nothing. His last years on this planet are going to be in poverty."
  • Joseph Hock 14 of 15
    Joseph Hock
    "I think if Wall Street can have a tax holiday, then so should all Americans."
  • Sophie and Robert Cleareye 15 of 15
    Sophie and Robert Cleareye
    I was so happy to see someone else who had a young daughter with him, I stopped Robert as I was leaving and asked if I could photograph them. He obliged, and looked at me in solidarity as we parted ways. "We're winning," he said. Robert holds a copy of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. I have a copy, too. The lead story's headline blares, "The Most Important Thing in the World." Occupy Wall Street sure feels like it right now.

Tagged as: , ,

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.