The first whispers of an Occupy movement began on June 9, 2011, when a Canadian anti-consumerist magazine called Adbusters purchased the domain name occupywallstreet.org.
Four days later, on June 13, a post was made with the opening, “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” The group asked its readers, “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.” That demand was explained as, “… that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
On Sept. 17, the first day of the protests, an estimated 1,000 people set up on Wall Street to protest. The New York Police Department forbade the protestors from setting up tents and camping on the sidewalk, citing a law on loitering.
Regardless, the protesters remained peaceful and instead decided to walk up and down the sidewalk with signs. But it was three days later, on Sept 20, when NYPD actually made a series of arrests based on these loitering laws. They arrested a group of protesters wearing masks, referring to the part of the New York Penal Law on loitering that states masked loitering must be connected to a pre-approved masquerade party or general entertainment.
Despite being unable to camp on the sidewalk, protesters found an alternate location on Zucotti Park, renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. Tents of fresh food were set up amongs the sleeping tents, as well as a makeshift library.
Keith Olbermann became the first news correspondent to cover the protests on Sept. 19 through the alternative news outlet CurrentTV. Ever since, Olbermann has dedicated every one of his episodes of Countdown to the protests, criticizing mainstream media for its lack of coverage.
More arrests were made in the subsequent days for varying reasons. On Sept 24, approximately 80 people were arrested during a march up-town for not having a permit and rendering a handful of roads impassable due to the large numbers of protesters involved.
Videos immediately surfaced online, mostly involving a group of peaceful female protestors being forcefully handcuffed and pepper sprayed at a close range, in the area of their faces.
The protests continued in a similar fashion throughout the rest of September: peaceful and unyielding. Still, on Oct. 1, another mass protester arrest was made, this time on the Brooklyn Bridge. Approximately 5,000 protestors began to march over the bridge, eventually spilling over onto the car lanes from the sidewalks, stopping traffic for around two hours. Over 700 arrests were made on the bridge, including one New York Times reporter, Natasha Lennard.
The next day, a YouTube video surfaced of these arrests. The uploader said, “Protesters started marching up the pedestrian walkway over the bridge while others tried to take the traffic lane. For a few minutes officers held the line and then they turned around and led the way up the traffic lane on the Brooklyn Bridge… they created a barricade in front of the march about halfway through the bridge. They then pulled vans and buses up to the back of the group and started arresting everyone.”
On Oct. 5, Union members joined the protestors and marched to Zuccotti Park, bringing the total number of protestors to somewhere around 15,000. That night, the formerly peaceful protests shifted and some protestors stormed police barricades. About 200 protestors tried to push through and were met with pepper spray and orange netting.
Oct. 10 brought support to the protestors from Mayor Bloomberg. He said, “The bottom line is, people want to express themselves, and as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to.” However, three days later he explained to the protestors that they would need to clear Liberty Plaza because it needed to be cleaned. The protestors expressed interest to clean the park themselves, and they did to the best of their abilities. The city decided the next day to postpone the clean-up.
Where is the Occupy movement heading? On Wall Street, the protestors don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. And with the constant addition of new Occupy locations, the movement is spreading as fast as word of mouth and the internet will take it.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired other Occupy movements throughout the country. As of its last update on Oct 15, independent news magazine Mother Jones calculates over 215 protest sites in the United States alone since Sept. 17. Some of the larger protests include Boston, Washington D.C., Portland, Ore. and Los Angeles, CA.
College campuses have also begun to organize their own Occupy protests, trips, and clubs.
On MCLA campus, the first meeting for Occupy MCLA was held last Saturday in the Campus Center. The group can be contacted and followed through their FaceBook page titled OccupyMCLA.
Tonight at 5 p.m. Occupy Berkshires will take place on Park Square in Pittsfield. More information can be found at occupyberkshires.com.
Occupy Wall Street’s Twitter page is constantly updating from the middle of the protests with up-to-the-second information.
The protestors have also produced their own news publication, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, which can also be read online at breakingcopy.com.
The official Web site for the protests can be found at occupywallstreet.org