Update on Occupy Wall Street
We welcome Kathryn Hoffman, Food Stamp Outreach Representative from Second Harvest Food Bank. Kathryn has worked for anti-poverty and human service programs for decades. Has a Master’s in Educational Policy from the University of Wisconsin, where she met her husband and lived before moving to the Valley in fall of 1987. She enjoys her job with Community Action, doing outreach and applications for the food stamp program at Second Harvest. In her spare time, Kathryn is active in the local peace and justice group, LEPOCO. Thanks for sharing your experience!
It has been some time since Occupy Wall Street (or OWS for short) began in the late summer of 2011, at Zuccotti Park in the heart of New York City’s Wall Street neighborhood.
My piece on my experience there on previous visits is now posted, long after the Occupiers were ejected from the Park. I thought I should do a short update.
I visited the Occupy site for the third time, with friends from Wisconsin who wanted to see it, on Sunday, Nov. 27, just after Thanksgiving. It was late afternoon, and darkness was coming on as we arrived. How it had changed! Perhaps less than a hundred people were inside the perimeter of the Park, which was now surrounded by silver police barricades, with only a small opening for people to walk through into the park As we did, we were observed by on duty police, and lots of orange-vested men who appeared to be private security guards (we later found out that was what they were, hired by the real estate company responsible for maintaining the park).
Gone were the hundreds, even thousands of folks who were there on previous visits, gone the volunteer-run library, food serving and storing areas, first aid and meditation areas. Gone were the sign making and literature areas, as was the incredible din of all those people and activities. It was eerily quiet compared to the last time I was there. And there were hundreds of those tiny white holiday lights now installed in the small trees in the park, creating a strange effect, with all the police, and the security guards pushing brooms around to collect non-existing dirt.
We stayed several hours, because we heard there would be a “General Assembly” meeting of the OWS community that night at 6 or so. The OWS committees and work groups still meet, we were told, but at various areas across the City, not in the Park. While we were there, the General Assembly convened and put many items in “the stack” or agenda. People voted on proposals from Outreach, Fundraising, Housing and Labor issues brought by the Committees. As I had observed in the other GA’s I attended, this process of the OWS democracy takes a long time. However, it is inclusive, giving time for anyone to speak and propose things.
As we left, I was sad and disheartened that OWS’ community was no longer physically manifest in the Park, however it is still a vibrant presence in NYC. Now, through the OWS encampments and movements involved in foreclosure, labor , big bank, and even political primary debates and struggles, in big and smaller areas all over the US, OWS’s influence can be seen. Think the national dialog now on the income and wealth divide between the rich and poor, think about banks’ lending and customer charges being challenged, think about the many facing foreclosure who might be encouraged to hang on in their homes and fight for a fair adjustment in their mortgages with OWS support. And think about “Mic Check” the phrase that has become common now, in people’s assembling anywhere to challenge big business and government policies. ‘“Mic Check’ has become a way to get the word out from the common person, through repetition by regular people, of their opinions and feelings. They (still are) the “99 %.”