I hurried down to Occupy Wall Street after work today to observe and eventually join the march. It was organized and the permit granted rather quickly. I suspect that after the PR debacle of the heavy-handed police tactics at the Brooklyn Bridge march, the city poobahs decided on prudence. The tough stuff backfired in any case, and the new crowd was huge.
I was inspired by the crowd, which is far from automatic for a jaded old-timer like the undersigned. My Ohio friend and I stood along lower Broadway just south of City Hall Park and watched the steady stream of people file down to the encampment past a fairly relaxed phalanx of cops standing by their metal grates. What struck me the most was the large number of hand-lettered signs hurriedly drawn onto bits of cardboard. It said to me that this is an authentically spontaneous movement fueled by exasperation and outrage. Here are a few of the slogans:
“Lost My Job, Found an Occupation”
“Rutgers Faculty against Kleptocracy”
“Class Warfare? You Betcha!”
“Danger: High Crimes Area”
“I’ll Believe Corporations Are People When Georgia Executes One”
“Money Talks Way Too Much”
“Democracy Not Plutocracy”
“I Never Met a Person Whose Name Ends in Inc.”
“Stop Rewarding Failure: Golden Showers Not Golden Parachutes”
There was a big labor presence and the usual left-wing sects, but mostly a lot of independents of all ages. The crowd wasn’t huge—one could actually circulate fairly easily, which meant no 50 thousand, but it was ten times bigger than the last one, and it took a good hour for the entire march to leave the staging area. Many signs sported the figure 99% meaning those getting the shaft to enrich the other 1%. The most popular chant was, ‘Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!’
I take that as a bad sign for both parties responsible for the current mess but particularly for Obama and his Democrats. This crowd’s ire at the filthy rich is quite bipartisan, and the widespread idea of a sellout implies that a deal was struck somewhere and later betrayed. That would be the election of 2008 even if no one said it openly. Nobody cares.
What a disconnect between the non-stop, breathless pud-stroking on our TV channels over the presidential horse race and the underlying indifference to the whole show among the people on the streets today. Whatever these folks may have in mind by way of a solution to the nation’s ills, it most certainly doesn’t have much to do with rearranging the backsides of whoever is occupying large chairs in Washington office buildings. That alone makes it encouraging.