Despite being double barricaded in with only two entry points on the north and south sides of the park, Occupy Wall Street occupied Thanksgiving yesterday at Zuccotti with an overflow of free Thanksgiving meals – turkey, vegetarian and vegan options – (Some of the food was later donated to a church in Upper Manhattan and perhaps elsewhere), a multitude of bottled water, ice cream and dessert.
Unlike the previous set up – pre-raid – where the food was allowed to be laid out inside the park, the food display is now only allowed outside on the sidewalk. Among other things, this ends up not being the most environmentally friendly option – endless bottles of water and pre-packaged trays of food – but the spirit remains lovely and strong.
People say “You can’t evict an idea,” and that is oh so true. And yet, what is so threatening about the alternative society that Occupy Wall Street set up that all physical remnants of it have to be abolished? Now, double barricades surround the entire park. Books, food, and, yesterday, even a banjo are not allowed in. There are bouncers, uh, security at the TWO entry points and the ledges are off limits. No sleeping lying down. In addition to the much publicized no tents and sleeping bags.
A fellow last night tried to bring in a banjo and security attempted to deny him entry. People began chanting “let the banjo in!” and surrounded the space. There was a negotiation; the NYPD got involved and, at last, guy with banjo was allowed in. Mic check was called. A speaker called out “We’d like to thank” … “the NYPD” … “for letting the banjo in.” (Words to that effect.) Amazingly gracious as that would not have been my first inclination feeling it was already crazily restricted (what right did this security have to keep the banjo out to begin with?, my friend asked).
When I first arrived, I spoke to one of the bouncers. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way but that is the feeling that was given off and clearly he identified with the role. I pointedly questioned and criticized the barricades everywhere and the reduction of entrance to the park to two barricaded-in entry points. He said, “Everyone’s complaining. Look at the festive environment you get to go to going in here.” Clearly his attitude was that Brookfield Properties (which “manages” Zuccotti Park) and the city were doing everyone some favor by allowing them there. Then, as if this was a reasonable argument, “If you went to a club, you’d have to go on a line to get in.” “This isn’t a club,” I replied. “It’s a public park.” He began to argue, “It’s not a public park. It’s a private park.” I said, “It is not a private park. It is a privately owned public space.” He stopped the back and forth; he had to agree that was accurate. He then continued on claiming this was all for everyone’s “safety.”
The site is barricaded in with an imposing NYPD tower with cameras bordering the park with NYPD officers and Brookfield-hired “security” checking people coming in and out. A public park? Certainly doesn’t feel like one. A friend of mine commented that “This feels like a prison camp.” Nonetheless, the vibe inside was festive, upbeat and giving.
“You can’t evict an idea.” Indeed.
I wanted to include this last shot although, on first glance, you can’t tell what it is. The trees at Zuccotti have tags tied on them (similar to ones you might put on a gift) that said “I’m giving…” and people had filled in sentiments on them.
I don’t expect Mayor Michael Bloomberg and those of his ilk in the 1% to understand but I’m sure many of us do. Written on this tag were the words: “I’m giving thanks for OWS. You gave me hope.”
Interesting post here on Occupy Boston and Community Planning.
Previous WSP Blog post: My visit to Zuccotti and Occupy Wall Street October 7, 2011