LISTEN TO JASON MCGAUHEY
“Wall Street is War Street” – A sign at the Occupy Wall Street protest
As trading came to a close on Sept. 28, Day 12 of the Occupy Wall Street movement, hundreds of protesters took part in what has become a now-regular march on the U.S.’s leading financial institutions.
As the demonstrators filed by Wall Street’s iconic statue, calls to “castrate the bull” erupted. While passing One Chase Manhattan Plaza they chanted, “The banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”
From the bank bailouts to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the protesters say the government is acting on behalf of an elite few, while serious needs continue to go unmet.
Jason McGaughey, a 26-year-old from Carthage, works with individuals with developmental disabilities. Or at least he did. McGaughey quit his job to come organize and camp out at the-now-occupied-and-renamed Liberty Plaza, located approximately a thousand yards from Wall Street.
“I came from Illinois to stand up for my future and the future of this country,” McGaughey said. “For the last couple of years I’ve had to explain to [the individuals I’ve worked with] why their services are being cut back, why they’re not able to go out into the community any more, why they’re trapped in their homes and losing their staff. Knowing that more cuts are going to be coming, I couldn’t bear to look them in the face and tell them that this country doesn’t care about them… [So] I quit my job, moved out of my apartment and have come to Liberty Plaza to occupy it and stand up for them and for all of us.”
Back on Wall Street, protesters chanted, “We Are the 99 percent,” as passersby looked on with interest, many of them using their phones to take photos or video of the march.
As the demonstration made its way down the Beaver Street sidewalk, a tradesman who wasn’t immediately able to leave his workplace because of the march, smiled and said, “Yeah!”
Asa Lowe, a 39-year-old from Brooklyn, said, “Our movement is growing and we will not stop.” Lowe is looking for work, having been laid off by McDonald’s. “I’m telling you, [even] they are closing stores in the N.Y. area,” he said.
At 20 Broad Street the response was bit muted, but nevertheless noteworthy. On one floor, seventeen individuals carefully watched the protest below them.
The NYPD also kept a close eye on things. At least two officers with the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) took video of the peaceful protest: Officer O’Sullivan, badge number 604, barely put his camera down, while Officer Dunlap, badge number 3665, hardly used his.
Chris Scully, an engineer who designs bio-compatible materials, held a sign that read, “Now or Never. Make it Stop.” Just after passing the N.Y. Stock Exchange, a white-haired businessman asked the 23-year-old from Troy, N.Y. what specifically he wanted to see stopped. “The destruction of our planet,” Scully responded. As the march pushed forward, the businessman looked on, intrigued.
Outside 26 Wall Street, a woman nodded her head approvingly and tapped her foot to the sound of the chants as the march passed by. A block later, a couple greeted the onrush of demonstrators with a peace sign (from her) and a somewhat timid fist in the air (from him). As the march turned onto Broadway, three women gave smiles and thumbs up.
On William St., intense chants of “Join us,” broke out when, despite the significant effort by police to cordon off protesters, a mother and son crossed the street to participate in the march.
Cavana Hazelton was visiting from Berlin with her fourteen-year-old son, Belail Lee-Hampel, who had read about the protest online. “Let’s go to Wall Street… Let’s demonstrate against greediness,” he recalled telling his mom.
Rather than observing the demonstration, the mother and son became participants. “When we saw this, we couldn’t help but spontaneously take part,” said Hazelton, a teacher in Berlin who’s working on her master’s degree. “The number one business on this planet is war,” she said. And capitalism basically amounts to “making money off of war.”
These are some of the voices you’re unlikely to hear in the corporate media. Fortunately, the blackout has not extended to independent media, much to the chagrin of NYPD, which may be looking to crack down.
As the skies darkened on Wednesday, the police moved in and cut down the tarp covering Occupy Wall Street’s media center. This may have been an attempt to sever the umbilical cord that connects Liberty Plaza to activists all over the world.
Despite NYPD’s efforts, the movement is growing. Across the U.S., dozens of occupations are underway, with more actions upcoming, including in D.C. on Oct. 6.
“We, the 99 percent, are rising up,” said McGaughey. “Our time is now.”
* This post has been slightly edited.
(Damian Poplawski is a student at Hunter College, where he’s taking a course on media. The absence of corporate media coverage of Occupy Wall Street may give birth to a new wave of independent journalism. Check out Poplawski’s report.)
- Grandmother Walks From West Virginia to D.C. for Oct. 6 Protest, 9/28/11
- Oct. 6, Freedom Plaza May Feel a Bit Like Tahrir Square, 9/12/11