Editor's note: Longtime NUVO correspondent Michael Dabney was in NYC recently and offers this view of the ongoing Occupy movement. For our coverage of Occupy Indy, see our most recent story, along with some past coverage.
In the shadow of the new World Trade Center site across the street, I bought a plain white T-shirt on Halloween and handed it to a man squatting at the edge of Zuccotti Park. The man, whom I will call John, spray-painted Occupy Wall Street on the front and I hung it over a police barricade to dry.
John is one of several thousand OWS protesters living in tents covering nearly every square inch of Zuccotti Park, making it one of the most densely populated areas in an already densely populated city. There is a certain carnival atmosphere to OWS, which, by its name, is really an encampment. Occupiers are both passionate and angry, and yet generally friendly, considerate and kind.
There are hundreds of large and small signs supporting the end of corporate greed, and championing issues such as jobs and fair wages, housing for the poor, justice for migrant workers and other progressive causes.
Facing the northbound traffic on Trinity Place, a handful of guys maintain a constant beat on drums. One-hundred feet away, people take turns pedaling bicycles to generate battery power to run laptops and other small appliances.
“I have been here for 33 days,” says John, who normally lives on Manhattan’s Lower Eastside. “And I’m staying until the end.”
But to my 21-year-old daughter, Ericka, that raised a provocative question. “What’s the endgame?”
“There are no united demands or platforms,” says Joseph “Mojo” Lorwin, one of several people in an OWS strategy meeting in the public lobby of a building on Wall Street several blocks away. “Right now, the form is more important than the content.
“But corporations have too much influence in our government and (social) inequality should not be as vast as it is.”
The group, much like the protest itself, has no designated leader. So Mojo, a New Yorker who teaches English as a second language at a private school, was speaking for himself. But he says the Zuccotti Park protest has enough momentum to last the coming winter, even if it’s very cold.
(According to local reports, only one in five Occupiers left the protest last weekend as several inches of heavy wet snow fell on the city.)
Mojo says OWS in time will likely develop policy initiatives in support of its progressive ideas. But for now at least, it has gotten people talking about those issues.
In some ways, OWS reminds me of George Washington and the Continental Army at Valley Forge in the cold winter of 1777. And that encampment helped change America.