Socialist Worker

'Electric atmosphere' on New York protests

by Jen Roesch in New York
Issue No. 2274

The Occupy Wall Street movement saw a massive mobilisation of up to 100,000 people in Times Square last Saturday.

It came the day after protesters won a stunning victory against Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to evict their camp in the financial district.

Saturday’s protest was part of the 15 October day of action that saw the Occupy movement spread around the world.

In the heart of Manhattan, people crowded in to fill every inch of available space—filling the side streets as well.

The protest didn’t have an official permit, but police were incapable of stemming the tide of tens of thousands of people flowing into the square.

By late morning, people had filled Zuccotti Park—site of the Occupy encampment a few streets from Wall Street that was established on 17 September. Many were New Yorkers. Others travelled from as far as South Carolina and Washington state.

Occupy’s Labor Outreach Committee had called for a workers’ march at 11am.

It started with only a few hundred people. But it grew to several thousand as it wound its way through downtown Manhattan.

At noon, a demonstration titled “Wall Street = War Street” marked the tenth anniversary of war in Afghanistan.

It was called by the United National Anti-War Committee, a US-wide anti-war coalition.

Meanwhile, several hundred students were organising a general assembly in Washington Square Park. They wore badges reading, “My name is ____ and I have $____ in student debt”.

Empowerment

Staggering levels of student debt was a dominant issue.

But people also spoke about other issues affecting students.

A young black student at Eugene Lang College talked about being stopped, frisked and harassed by the police.

The sense of solidarity and empowerment was palpable. One sign carried by a protester at Zuccotti Park spoke volumes: “I am not a hippy. I have three jobs. And I’m still broke.”

Rank and file union activists collected hundreds of names of union members who want to help build workers’ presence within the movement.

All of these organising efforts could be felt as the crowds grew throughout the day.

The atmosphere was electric.

It was clear that the demonstration would exceed expectations.

This was an un-permitted action in the heart of New York City’s tourism district.

But as tens of thousands of people converged on the square, the balance of power—at least for the moment—shifted.

Throughout the evening, people continued to raise the chant, “They can’t arrest us all”.

This confidence was fed by awareness that the movement had become international.

At one point, people began chanting, “The whole world is marching”.

Most were new to political activism. For them, the convergence in the square was an opportunity to exchange stories and learn new ideas.

The movement has grown with dizzying speed and expanded its scope immensely in just four short weeks.

With the globalisation of this movement, and the entry of masses of people into it, we have entered a new phase of the struggle.

This is an edited extract of an article published by the International Socialist Organization in the US. The full article can be read at http://bit.ly/rhok5r


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.