All grown up: the Occupy Wall St. movement takes shape

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
By Paul Martin

The once-ramshackle, disorganized group of protesters is evolving as it gains traction

by Claire Ward

“The whole world is watching.” Roughly 1,000 protesters were chanting as much on the Brooklyn Bridge this Saturday, after they were kettled by the NYPD (some may recall the technique from the G20 protests in Toronto), and shortly before 700 of them were arrested. They were right. As Jeff Jarvis put it on Twitter, “The beauty of the #occupywallstreet Pied Piper arrest is that the demonstrators’ video cameras outnumbers the cops’ and media’s.”

Two weeks in, the once-amorphous Occupy Wall Street protest in downtown Manhattan has begun to take form. The NYC General Assembly—the activist group central to the protest—finally published a mission statement late Sunday, which reads like a declaration of human rights. Labour unions and college students across New York City are planning walkouts to join the group in a solidarity march this coming Wednesday.

The leaderless colony stationed in Liberty Park Plaza that began on Sept. 17 as a smattering of disenchanted youth without a clear message now has an information booth, a media tent, a makeshift cafeteria and library—and is surrounded by a tent city, where between 200 and 300 people sleep each night, enforcing the “occupation” theme. (The protest can’t occupy Wall Street, which has been barricaded and heavily guarded by police as a security measure since 9/11.) The crowd—while represented widely in the media as white, liberal college kids—is surprisingly diverse, including raging grannies, street kids, union workers, professors, ex-bankers, longtime activists, human rights lawyers, Native American band members and ex-military. Political views span the spectrum, from anarchist to right-wing libertarian—complicating efforts toward any kind of unifying objective or mantra. Across the continent, the motley movement, which began with a call to action by Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters, is gaining traction with similar protests planned for Washington, D.C., Chicago and even Toronto.

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