PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On Sept. 17, 2011, several hundred demonstrators descended on New York City's financial district in what would soon become known worldwide as Occupy Wall Street.
The seeds for the event went back to mid-2011, when the popular magazine Adbusters published a suggestion that citizens set up encampment and "occupy Wall Street for a few months." The call caught the attention of some veteran activists, who began talking about the hybridization of tactics used in the successful Tahir Square protests in Egypt with those developed in Madrid's seminal Puerta del Sol uprising.
Despite drawing thousands of demonstrators to the financial district and the sudden full-scale encampment at Zuccotti Park, local and national media largely ignored the ongoing activist siege, until more than 700 people were arrested while marching on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1.
On Oct. 14, the ongoing demonstration and emerging mini-society at Zucccotti Park faced its first threatened eviction from the City of New York. iBerkshires reported from on location at Zuccotti Park, where Mayor Bloomberg ordered an 11th-hour stand down after thousands of supporters including numerous local unions arrived in force to resist the removal en masse. Over the course of that day demonstrators celebrated their victory and planned for actions as part of the worldwide solidarity day that followed, some sharing their thoughts with this correspondent at what it all meant at the one-month mark.
Just one month later, NYPD returned, in force and without warning at around 1 a.m. this past Tuesday to evict the demonstrators. Tents and tables were dismantled, and about 70 people were arrested when they refused to leave the premises.
John Garb, former host of Talk Berkshires on WBRK radio and now living in New York City, visited Zuccotti Park on Nov. 14, just hours before the unannounced eviction of the two-month encampment.
Garb said that while generally an advocate of progressive politics, he had yet to even visit the site, though he works nearby. "I'm in no way an occupier. I have a job where I work about 60 hours a week," he said of his position representing a major Fortune 500 company in unemployment disputes.
"It was surprising. The degree of order, and the degree of civility inside that little 'town' there was amazing. There were tables set up everywhere with brochures, and of course electronics, and various information available," he said. "The 'library' is the first thing you see. Everywhere you looked there were little signs of a community. Every corner you turned around there was a discussion, and people sitting around in a circle. The communication was very sophisticated.
"It was like a bazaar ... a bazaar for knowledge, for the exchange of information. It could have been what like a university would be like, if it had been hit by a hurricane and had to reopen outside."
Garb admitted he was surprised and impressed with the level of organization he saw there. "It looked like it had been there a long time. Everyone was just sort of sharing the space, and you could see where garbage was being picked up, and there were signs everywhere telling you what was going on, and the daily activities and meetings and marches. There was a sort of self-imposed civility. Maybe I imagined it, but that's what I saw there."
Even without the beacon of the original Zuccotti Park encampment, some say the genie of an ongoing movement is already out of the bottle, with a majority of American cities now having experienced some local manifestation of the Occupy tactic.
On Oct. 15, 2011, close to 1,000 cities worldwide hosted Occupy-oriented demonstrations to protest economic injustice in solidarity. In some foreign cities, most notably Rome, protests turned destructive, with extensive property damage and bloody clashes with police and military in the streets.
Since then, occupations, evictions, injuries and arrests now numbering in the thousands have made headlines throughout the world on almost daily basis. Currently, OccupyTogether.org maintains a listing of more than 500 ongoing Occupy locations, though there are said to be many more not included in this listing.
Several other Berkshire County expatriates have been sending me perspectives and updates from occupations in other cities.
Alexia Pritchard, who has done extensive documentary film shooting at Occupy Boston said the movement there, which includes a space maintained by a group of protesting chaplains, has many religious parallels.
"'What is your position? Why are you doing this? What is the point? Aren't you just causing trouble?' These are the same questions that Christ faced during His ministry. And He often frustrated the questioners by confusing them further, with parables or His own questions," she said. "Then He went back to being a teacher and exemplar, just as much in what He did as what He said. We're following Christ in this way, as are many of the Occupation. The point isn't to demand something, get it, and then go home. The point is to show people the Way to live that gives us life, joy, and allows us to flourish as who we all are: the children of God. And that Way is lived, as Jesus shows us over and over again."
Ted Lee shared his experience of being at Occupy Portland early Sunday morning, when an eviction by local police was initially held off, Lee said, by a nonviolent cooperation by thousands of Portland residents.
"We did not hold the park all of the next day — we were evicted. But it wasn't and it isn't entirely about the park. The park made us visible — it created a constituency — it created a 99 percent. The movement grew up in that night, and I with it. I celebrate that long night of holding the park because in that moment of victory we learned a feeling. We learned what we will need to feel in order to prevail… What we witnessed and felt this morning was the very moment of victory that we will feel when the world starts healing."
On an economic level, the economic offshoot "Move Your Money" movement has begun to show a more tangible result from these sweeping trends. In the four weeks leading up to the planned Banked Transfer Day on Nov. 5, 650,000 Americans transferred a total of more than $4.5 billion from national banks to a credit union or other small local bank, according to a survey by the Credit Union National Association.
The siphoning of funds out of these major financial institutions continues at an estimated rate of about 20,000 accounts per day, those these numbers have been disputed by the American Bankers Association, and definitive statistics will not be available to the public until February.
Berkshire Activists to Occupy Town Hall Around the Clock
In more rural areas, such as the Berkshires, the Occupy movement has taken on new shapes, reflective of their own local demographics and issues.
This weekend, participants in the local movement will hold their first 24-hour Occupation, intending to camp in front of the Great Barrington Town Hall from noon Saturday to Sunday afternoon. Organizers alerted the Board of Selectman of their intention at its Monday meeting, followed by a meeting with the town manager, police and fire officials on Tuesday to agree upon details for the overnight event.
Occupy Berkshires will hold a general assembly meeting, open meetings with its various work groups, and host guest speakers. Organizers invite anyone interested to bring tents, blankets, food, and so forth and join in the effort, or simply drop in to discuss issues and hear the perspectives of other area residents.
With upheavals, evictions, and new branches appearing all the time, the future direction and impact of this movement nationally is difficult to predict. What can be safely said, looking back over just two months, is that the meme that arose when those first protesters took up their encampment at Zuccotti Park became a global event faster than any imagined, and the word Occupy seems likely to remain prominent in the news headlines for some time to come.
Pittsfield.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Do you have a shrewd of journalistic integrity left in you? The occupy pittsfield rally 2 weeks ago in Pittsfield drew 1 person. 1 person. Stop making up the fact there is support here for this Astro turf ACORN financed joke
Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. As near as I can tell, none of the primary active organizers in the Occupy Berkshires group seem to be from Pittsfield, which is perhaps the reason they have not been very focused on staging or supporting events in Pittsfield. I'm not even sure what event you're referring to, but I know that most of the Pittsfield Park Square actions are actually hosted by Berkshire Citizens for Peace & Justice, who have been holding weekly stand-outs there, typically with just a handful of people, for years. Weekly demonstrations in Great Barrington by the Occupy Berkshires group have been drawing 100-300 since early October, and there've been some significant student turn out to some North Adams events as well. (see MCLA Beacon for best coverage of this)
I don't think I've tried to exaggerate the support for it in any way. While certainly only a small minority of locals are involved in this, it has gained almost 900 Facebook fans in the past month, so to suggest that there's NO support seems a little inaccurate.
And who is this new mystery group that is supposedly made up of ACORN?
Considering that their bankruptcy and dissolution was caused by the Federal Government ending all their contracts, I find the idea that they are secretly regrouping to be ridiculous at best. Perhaps individual state chapters survived, but the national group, along with all its fundraising and organizing, is long dead.
This all sounds like a G Gordon Liddy conspiracy. This ilk still need "commie" bogeymen to blame for everything that they disagree with. I can't wait to hear who you guys blame if Obama wins again.
FACT: Having a few of the same people from a defunct organization in another organization does not make it the former organization.
If that were the case, the John Birch Society would define the GOP. (Well, now that I think about it....)
FACT: ACORN became primarily a government contractor for community work and voter registration. When government ended those contracts, the group folded.
FACT: The group you mention did not and does not fund or organize the Occupy movement at all. They may have members present at the protests, but so do dozens of other groups (probably all of which you claim are evil leftist conspiracies designed to enslave America).
G. Gordon Liddy and Glen Beck conspiracy theories are stupid and have no place in a serious discussion of the issues.
Citation please. And it needs to include all your allegations - that all of OWS is organized by ACORN, not just that state chapter of ACORN renamed itself because it was no longer part of a national group.
Enough is enough. You made your point. you want redistribution of the wealth. You support Socialism. We get it. Now since the "occupiers" don't actually represent 99% of the citizens of the United States (I would guess closer to 1%) stand down and let the so called 1% get to work and create the jobs that we all need so we don't have the time to be camping out with a bunch of our friends on public and private property costing the people who actually pay taxes our tax dollars. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps like the rest of us Americans that value the American way of life.
Adams Guy, you dont expect these people to actually work do you? That is funny....they want to leech of society.....they should all be drafted. Solves 2 problems, get them off the public dole, and we need infantry.
* 50 - 60 hours a week
* Middle "management"
* Created 8 local jobs via growth in my sector
* Household income closer to $100K than $50k.
* Kids in public schools
* Cars are 5+ years old
* Still paying student loans from 20 years ago
* House with a mortgage
* Health insurance has $2000 in deductibles and has $50 co-pays for Dr's visits and prescriptions
* Save $200 month for retirement
Here's the funny part - I identify far more with those who think the system has been gamed by the ultra-rich than I do with the likes of the corporate funded Tea Party who have been brainwashed into thinking the biggest problem is government (gotta' have a bogeyman to rally the troops)
And if you think you understand me, you can kiss my butt. You don't.
Editor: Rather than accept reports from one source, it's always better to do some research from multiple sources. I Agree (6) - I Disagree (0)
Worker You identify with people that rape trespass use the street for a bathroom assault police over 1500 arrests so far. How american of you. I bet if you wake up tomorrow a billionaire you would give it away to the poor people that are only making 100,000 a year ?? OK. Try again !!
Worker has a job. A family. More than one car. Income closer to 100K than 50K. His kids are being educated.He owns a house. He has health insurance and he is saving for retirement. He is not failing his family. He sure should be thankful for what he has and I expect he is. BUT, he should realize that without free enterprise like we have in this country he could be much much worse off. He like everyone has the opportunity to succeed. With the opportunity to succeed you also have to accept the possibility of failure. Americans love to win and succeed, we are built on that. You can't have that without a system that also allows for failure. The left wants to change the system and take from the successful and hand it out. This will kill the drive to succeed and ruin our free enterprise system as we know it.
Just read "The Lost Science of Money" by Stephen Zarlenga or HR2990 and than revisit your loyalties.
Scary level of exchange by those with the most muscle and the lowest test scores amongst the 'developed countries'.
Adams Guy - At least you are not a bitter twit, but I certainly do believe in free enterprise. I would not be where I am today without it. However, I also believe in level playing fields and right now the field is quite tilted towards those who prefer America as a plutocracy rather than a democracy.
When Paris Hilton pays lower taxes than a truck driver because she is a "job creator" because of her trust fund, things are screwed up. When "investors" and corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections democracy becomes little more than a marketing campaign. It seems obvious to me that things must change.