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Youths occupy Wall Street

Published Sep 24, 2011 9:55 AM

Youth see no future in capitalism,
try to clog up Wall Street.
WW photo: G. Dunkel

“Occupy Wall Street” was a demonstration rooted in tweets, Facebook messages, and email exchanges. There was no call to kick it off, no list of endorsers, and no office with a director and staff. There were lists of Web pages, some of which had links to files to make leaflets, and certainly meetings occurred where issues and tactics were considered.

The models the organizers explicitly listed were the youth occupations in Spain, particularly Madrid, and Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.

Nearly 1,000 people showed up on Sept. 17 starting at noon in lower Manhattan in the Bowling Green Park, which is just off Wall Street. On the weekends, this area is a popular tourist destination. Most of the demonstrators were young — some observers suggested that 85 percent were less than 25 and 95 percent were less than 35 years old. Many had bedrolls and were planning on staying in the streets to make their protest clear.

While the protesters were overwhelmingly young people, their slogans make it clear that at least some had been at other recent protests. “Whose streets? Our streets!” “This is what democracy looks like!” and “The people united will never be defeated!” were popular slogans and broke out as the march progressed.

The protest was politically inclusive and welcomed diversity. But when a right-wing group, followers of Lyndon LaRouche, tried to sing some patriotic songs, Aron Kaye, a longtime activist in New York, went up to them and told them, “This isn’t your demonstration — get lost!” They must have believed Kaye was speaking for a majority of protesters, as they did lose themselves.

One of the more popular chants at the start of the march was, “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!”

There weren’t a lot of signs carried in the protest. Most of them were on cardboard boxes, handwritten with slogans like, “Occupy Wall Street”; “Citizens against greedy bankers”; “Against personhood for corporations,” which refers to a Supreme Court decision giving corporations free speech since they are legally “persons”; and “Wall St Greed! New Yorkers Say Enough.”

Code Pink had a banner reading, “Make jobs, not war.” Workers World Party’s banner read, “A Job is a right — Capitalism doesn’t work.” WWP also had signed placards that raised the Troy Davis case and declaring that racism is a tool to divide the working class. Demonstrators picked up and carried these signs.

After a yoga class and a seminar on economics, there was an interesting speakout in front of the American Indian Museum. Larry Holmes of WWP spoke on the need to stop the execution of Troy Davis. Another speaker, drawing some cheers, called for the nationalization of the banks and the dismantling of the structure of the imperialist economy. A third speaker, carrying a Troy Davis placard, pointed out that Wall Street profits approximately equal the national debt.

After the speakout, the protesters marched a few blocks to a general assembly in Zuccoti Park, just south of the World Trade Center. While the cops had Wall Street blocked off, according to press reports about 100 people slept out on Church Street and the demonstration continued at least until Sept. 19.