Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt
Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills
A group of Occupy Wall Street activists has bought almost $15m of Americans’ personal debt over the last year as part of the Rolling Jubilee project to help people pay off their outstanding credit.
Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.
By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.
“We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1,” said Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. He said the team initially envisaged raising $50,000, which would have enabled it to buy $1m in debt.
“In fact we’ve been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that.”
The group is able to buy debt so cheaply due to the nature of the “secondary debt market”. If individuals consistently fail to pay bills from credit cards, loans, or medical insurance the bank or lender that issued the funds will eventually cut its losses by selling that debt to a third party. These sales occur for a fraction of the debt’s true values – typically for five cents on the dollar – and debt-buying companies then attempt to recoup the debt from the individual debtor and thus make a profit.
The Rolling Jubilee project was mostly conceived as a “public education project”, Ross said.
“We’re under no illusions that $15m is just a tiny drop in the secondary debt market. It doesn’t make a dent in the amount of debt.
“Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way – there’s certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished – our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market.”
The group has focussed on buying medical debt, and has acquired the $14.7m in three separate purchases, most recently purchasing the value of $13.5m on medical debt owed by 2,693 people across 45 states and Puerto Rico, Rolling Jubilee said in a press release.
“No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy because they get sick,” said Laura Hanna, an organiser with the group. Hanna said 62% of all personal bankruptcies have medical debt as a contributing factor.
Due to the nature of the debt market, the group is unable to specify whose debt it purchases, taking on the amounts before it discovers individuals’ identities. When Rolling Jubilee has bought the debt they send notes to their debtors “telling them they’re off the hook”, Ross said.
Ross, whose book, Creditocracy and the case for debt refusal, outlines the problems of the debt industry and calls for a “debtors’ movement” to resist credit, said the group had received letters from people whose debt they had lifted thanking them for the service. But the real victory was in spreading knowledge of the nature of the debt industry, he said.
“Very few people know how cheaply their debts have been bought by collectors. It changes the psychology of the debtor, knowing this.
“So when you get called up by the debt collector, and you’re being asked to pay the full amount of your debt, you now know that the debt collector has bought your debt very, very cheaply. As cheaply as we bought it. And that gives you moral ammunition to have a different conversation with the debt collector.”
Earlier this year, I found out about these things called “meditation flash mobs.” Excited at the prospect of being in my heart with others in some of the busiest places in New York City, I became a meditation flash mob junkie. The experience consists of picking a busy, public place and then gathering to meditate together for an hour. Following the meditation we usually chant and do a little dancing.
The crowd consists of indigo and crystal kids all grown up, actualizing their mission, and then others flock around them. These flash mobs have been happening all over the world, from Sedona, AZ to Moscow, Russia. The intention is to bring light and love to that area.
The first time we meditated together was in Union Square, the busiest section of downtown New York. I was shocked at how blissful the experience was, how many people came to join, and how many people thought we were entertaining enough to watch.
When we sit down to meditate, it’s like the universe knows exactly what to do. The click into bliss is immediate. Every time we do these meditations, I see crystal cities of light descending up on us. The energy is very strong, and will usually affect me for days.
I HAD BIGGER DREAMS
I didn’t want to stop there. Sure, unifying in our hearts anywhere unexpected is an amazing experience, but there was more. I had a dream. I yearned to infuse the financial system with love. This dream has pulsed inside me for years. You see, I don’t hate Wall Street, bankers or any other kind of successful person. I loooooove them. I was raised by a pack of ambitious wuvable Wall Street wolves who looooooved me.
Every time I hear someone saying how much they hate the system or money, I want to send love to them, and to the system, and to money. (Please read this article: Money, Power, Sex and the Snakefor more info on this.)
Some people can’t wait for the system to crash, for money to disappear, for bartering to become the main source of exchange again. In fact, I hear predictions of the global economy crashing daily from all kinds of reliable and unreliable sources.
And yet the economy hangs on, we hang on, somehow we are all still functioning in this fluctuating system. Grass roots communities form, and Bentleys are still purchased. Could a shrinking middle class result in a growing grass roots movement for a new kind of society? Because being stripped of our material wealth creates resourceful thinking, shared thinking, and creative solutions.
How many of us have had this happen in the last few years? I went through it. What a blessing. And we are doing it within this current system… because we are the system. We are the 100%. The system is not out there somewhere being forced upon us, it reflects all of us and our actions, feelings and reactions. The masses (we) went to sleep and let the overlords control us, and now we don’t want that anymore. It’s simple at the macro level.
So perhaps there is a better way than everything going to hell in a handbasket all at once. If we are the 100%, then let’s walk our talk with the oneness stuff, and let’s infuse our love into every aspect of life, including the economy. Economies, whether based on bartering or currency need our love. Something better is happening. Somehow we all still get up in the morning, using what has been built in our past, to inform and help create what we would like in the future. And I see that we are changing things for the better, together.
WALL STREET LOVE
We are well aware of the powerful energy that the financial industry is working with and somehow most people feel that energy, that force, that world, is separate from them or does not belong to them. It’s only separate if you let it be. Do not be afraid. That energy can be reclaimed and integrated in the heart. Imagine if that most powerful energy was infused with Love? Think of the possibilities for abundance!
Wall Street is the center of many ley lines coming together and creating a strong vortex that broadcasts to the rest of the world. The experience of being down there is actually very calm, like being in the eye of the storm.
In August of 2011, about six weeks before the #Occupy movement took hold, my friend Anthony Finno, owner of City Life Wellness here in Brooklyn, put on a suit, called on the meditators and headed down to Wall Street. We set up an unassuming meditation flash mob directly in front of the New York Stock Exchange! My dream was becoming a reality! Anthony, a master negotiator, had the police, the paparazzi and the bankers in the palm of our hands instantly.
Our intention was simply to hold a loving and grounded space for whatever transition needed to happen. We were aware that there was a lot of chaotic and fearful energy around financial fluctuations, people losing jobs and homes, corruption being exposed and so on and so on. What if we held the space for all of that energy to be met with love? What if we allowed ourselves to channel that energy deep into the earth so it could be supported and nurtured?
It was important that we be outside, that we be seen, instead of doing our lightwork thing in secret like it’s been for so long. Anthony made a huge banner with our intention statement so everyone knew what we were doing and encouraged us to talk to people if they were curious. We were not protesting or challenging anything, just loving. We were peaceful, non confrontational and respectful. Proudly, we made the New York Times and several other news sources.
We continued these meditations about once a week for six weeks until one day it was enough. On that last day we were accompanied by an ancient Olmec crystal skull affectionately called Pancho. Three days later, the #Occupy movement came in.
#OCCUPY THE WORLD
It was never just about the hippies. Everyone is down there, representing all of us. And the movement grew and went global so quickly. 70,000 people took to the streets in Israel, hundreds of cities participated and continue to participate all over the world. Northern Africa is liberating itself and choosing democracy without the US Army forcing them to do so. What is happening in the world right now is nothing short of amazing.
Our meditation flash mob team set up shop in Liberty Park with the protesters, and have continued with bi-weekly meditations since the movement began. It is unbelievable the variety of folks that are down there. We see our part as simply balancing and participating in the adventure.
Each one of us collectively created the reality we are living in now. Each one of us, whether we are members of the elite, whether we are the shrinking middle class, whether we are on welfare, whether we are the farmer in the US or abroad, have made decisions to support the current reality. And now, collectively, we are making the decision to improve it.
On a personal level, one of the things that gets me meditating on the street is the thought of childhood slavery and prostitution. Who else can’t tolerate that? No more. I don’t want an ounce of my tax dollars, of my energy, of my livelihood contributing unknowingly to these kinds of abuses. No taxation without representation.
My wish for those screaming and yelling at the tall buildings and people in suits is to let that energy light up your fire of personal empowerment to help build the new world. Together. This new world requires you to surrender to your hearts, your passions and to bravely step forward and believe that you are taken care of by life itself. It asks you to be proactive in co-creating your dreams. In the new world there is no lack. Let your screams fill the holes in your belief systems that convince you that you don’t have enough or that you aren’t enough. Let the power of your eternal soul light you on fire to the truth that you are abundant and taken care of at all times.
To those who would rather remain silent and disconnected with stockpiles of insider trades in their back vault, I wish for you the gentle letting go of the illusion that hoarding makes you powerful and safe because you don’t believe there is enough, because sinking into life feels so impossible. I wish for you to see that were you to lose everything, you would be taken care of, abundantly, with everyone else. Together. The new world asks you to be softer, more flexible and to experience the joy in togetherness. What are your secrets, and who are you really? We want to know. Let the power of your eternal soul light you on fire to the truth that you are abundant and taken care of at all times.
THE END OF TIME, THE BEGINNING OF…
On October 27th, 2011 I went to the event with the 13 crystals skulls and the Mayan priests expecting something new and huge to hit me. But as I listened, I realized we had already achieved what they were talking about. Global unification was happening as they were speaking.
The revolution will not be televised, but it will be between you and me, face to face, soul to soul. And I think we did it. The years of preparing through lightwork, ceremony, and the reading and rereading of prophecy were all validated when a global outcry for a better world hit the streets. People want a world that more accurately reflects their hearts, and are tired of letting corruption go by unchecked. We will continue to shout it out until our energy and hearts are fully woven into the new system. The new system is global, conscious and requires everyone to bring their full selves in to participate. It will take time to form, but it is happening.
This new system exists within a different experience of time than we have known, it is born from our hearts, and not from our minds trying to fix something broken. As a healer, I know that if I approach a client like they are a problem needing to be fixed, no healing happens. Healing happens when we know and see the true source within, when we tap into the body and soul’s natural way of being, which is health and harmony.
I leave you with a few brilliant quotes by members of our community:
“If you are wondering what type of people are Occupying Wall Street I will tell you exactly what I see. Some people know exactly what’s wrong with the world, some people just have a sense that something’s not right, some people have amazing ideas and plans to heal the world, some people have no clue, but ALL people at Wall Street are STANDING UP FOR YOU and your mother and your father and the guy who you buy coffee from at the deli down the block from your house in the morning. So when you ask me what type of people are Occupying Wall Street I’ll tell you that the only people who are Occupying Wall Street are the bravest people I have ever met! LOVE YOU ALL!!! ? Let’s Turn Our Mother Earth Into the Paradise that it is Waiting to Grow Into.” -Jesse Mejia
“Since following the development of this movement, I have come across such inspiring conversations between people who are seemingly on “opposite sides” but trying to find common ground. I see that some are waking up, looking at ourselves and seeing how we contributed to the mess, taking responsibility and brainstorming solutions that take everyone’s voice into account. There’s a lot of different opinions and it’s messy. But I have been so moved just by witnessing people focusing on their similarities instead of their differences, reaching out across party/race/lifestyle/class/etc lines to have real conversations. There is no 99%. We’re all in this together, and my hope is that more and more people start to see it that way . But ultimately, what we have already achieved is for people to stand up, speak up, and get together in community. Whatever happens next, it has opened us up to speaking with our neighbors in a city in which that almost never happens. And, to tell you the truth… I feel it’s all about enjoying this big adventure! We don’t know how to create what we want, but it’s so exciting that we are getting together to try to make it happen.” -Melody Kiersz
About CC Treadway
CC Treadway, founder of Treadway Esoteric, is a healer, channel, sound healer and multidisciplinary artist. She bases her practice out of Sedona, AZ and New York City, as well as long distance through Skype. She is a graduate of the prestigious four-year program, The Barbara Brennan School of healing and teaches a Channeling Certification program, as well as a myriad of workshops on energy healing and consciousness. CC is honored to write for the Spirit of Maat.
To sign up for a free monthly newsletter, access educational tools and learn more about CC’s work and events, visit www.treadwayesoteric.com.
ABC 7 News shuts cameras off on Occupy Oakland as police attack with gas
Published on October 25, 2011 8:30 pm PT
– By TWS CEO
– Signed by SEO Officer
(TheWeatherSpace.com) – This is not usually something TWS reports on but no other ‘media’ outlet will. During the Occupy Oakland march tonight (Tuesday), ABC News in the Bay area shut cameras off on the ground and in the sky the moment police attacked.
They said the chopper needed to refuel and will be back, but we all know this was not correct. A coincidence that both CBS and ABC choppers needed to refuel at the time police started attacking
There was a camera on the ground for a full minute showing exploding canisters, people screaming, and gas being covered everywhere and that was shut off shortly after.
This is the constitution, protests are allowed by it. For CBS and ABC to shut the cameras off during the time police violated the rights of the American people is journalism at the worst, in fact not even close to the integrity a real media outlet should bring.
Bestselling Author, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
The First Amendment and the Obligation to Peacefully Disrupt in a Free Society
Posted: 10/22/11 04:03 PM ET
Mayor Bloomberg is planning Draconian new measures to crack down on what he calls the “disruption” caused by the protesters at Zuccotti Park, and he is citing neighbors’ complaints about noise and mess. This set of talking points, and this strategy, is being geared up as well by administrations of municipalities around the nation in response to the endurance and growing influence of the Occupation protest sites. But the idea that any administration has the unmediated option of “striking a balance,” in Bloomberg’s words, that it likes, and closing down peaceful and lawful disruption of business as usual as it sees fit is a grave misunderstanding — or, more likely, deliberate misrepresentation — of our legal social contract as American citizens.
Some kinds of disruption in a free republic are not “optional extras” if the First Amendment governs the land, as it does ours, and are certainly not subject to the whims of mayors or local police, or even DHS. Just as protesters don’t have a blanket right to do everything they want, there is absolutely no blanket right of mayors or even of other citizens to be free from the effect of certain kinds of disruption resulting from their fellow citizens exercising First Amendment rights. That notion, presented right now by Bloomberg and other vested interests, of a “disruption-free” social contract is pure invention — just like the flat-out fabrication of the nonexistent permit cited in my own detention outside the Huffington Post Game Changers event this last Tuesday, when police told me, without the event organizers’ knowledge and contrary to their intentions, that a private entity had “control of the sidewalks” for several hours. (In fact, the permit in question — a red carpet event permit! — actually guarantees citizens’ rights to walk and even engage in political assembly on the streets if they do not block pedestrian traffic, as the OWS protesters were not.)
I want to address the issue of “disruption,” as Bloomberg is sending this issue out as a talking point brought up on Keith Olbermann’s Coundown last night: the neighbors around Zuccotti Square, says Bloomberg, are feeling “disrupted” by the noise and visitors to the OWS protest, so he is going to crack down to “strike a balance” to address their complaints. Other OWS organizers have let me know that the Parks Department and various municipalities are trying to find a way to eject other protesters from public space on a similar basis of argument.
Please, citizens of America — please, OWS — do not buy into this rhetorical framework: an absolute “right to be free of disruption” from First Amendment activity does not exist in a free republic. But the right to engage in peaceable disruption does exist.
Citizens who live or work near protest sites or marches have every right to be free of violence from protesters and they should never be subjected to destruction of property. This is why I am always saying to OWS and to anyone who wants to assemble: be PEACEFUL PEACEFUL PEACEFUL. Be respectful to police, do not yell at them; sing, don’t chant; be civil to pedestrians and shop owners; don’t escalate tensions; try to sit when there is tension rather than confront physically; be dignified and be nonviolent.
But the First Amendment means that it actually is not up to the mayor or the police of any municipality, or to the Parks Department, or to any local municipality to prohibit public assembly if the assembly is peaceful but disruptive in many ways.
Peaceful, lawful protest — if it is effective — IS innately disruptive of “business as usual.” That is WHY it is effective.
The Soviet Union was brought down by peaceful mass protest that blocked the streets and filled public squares. Many white residents of Birmingham Alabama in the 1960s would have said it was very disruptive to have all these African Americans marching through Birmingham or protesting the murder of children in churches. The addresses by Dr. King on the Mall were disruptive of the daily life of D.C. King himself marched without permits when permits were unlawfully applied. It is disruptive to sit at a whites-only counter and refuse to move and be covered with soda and pelted with debris and dragged off by police. It disrupted the Birmingham bus system for African Americans in the Civil Rights movement to organize a bus boycott. It is disruptive when people refuse to sit at the back of the bus.
When Bonus Marches — thousands of unemployed and desperate former veterans who had been promised and denied their bonus checks in the Depression, which they needed to feed their families — camped out for months on the Mall in D.C. and sat daily (when this was possible) on the steps of Congress, they won, eventually, because of the disruption. Some of the power of real protest, which is peaceful and patient and civil but disruptive, comes from the emotional power of the human face-to-face: all those Congresspeople had to look those hungry men in the eyes on their way to legislate the decision about the bonus.
Most of us need to remember, or learn for the first time (since this information is usually concealed from us) that the First Amendment, and the Constitution in general, supersedes all the laws of municipalities in violation of the constitution, as stated in the 1925 Gitlow v. New York ruling. So the First Amendment supersedes the restrictive permit laws now being invoked against protesters. The First Amendment was designed to allow for disruption of business as usual. It is not a quiet and subdued amendment or right.
Indeed, our nation’s founding was a series of rowdy and intense protests, disrupting business as usual for tax collectors and mercenaries up and down the eastern seaboard. Even after the establishment of the new nation massive, highly disruptive protests of various laws, Congressional actions, and even of foreign policy were absolutely standard expressions of political speech, and whether they liked the opinions expressed or not, these protests were spoken of by Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Washington and others — some of whom themselves were the subjects of these protests — as part of the system they had set in place working, and the obligation of American citizens.
Dr. King, when asked about disruption, said that the disruption caused by peaceful protest is good and healthy in a society, because it is the result of festering problems that need to be addressed and that are buried being brought into light to be dealt with constructively.
But I would want to remind OWS, and any protesting group, that peaceful and dignified disruption of business as usual is very different from violence, anarchy or rioting, which must always be avoided. This is why I keep telling OWS and others: be peaceful. Don’t march in a militaristic way. Don’t cover your faces or let anyone with you cover their faces. Bring old people. Bring kids. Bring instruments, form bands of musicians and singers. Don’t fight. Don’t destroy property.
If neighbors complain about mess, bring brooms (as the Egyptians did) and clean up, not just the park but the whole neighborhood. Bake cookies FOR the neighbors. Be the good examples of civil society that you want to spread. Bring whole families (good job with that family sleepover in Zuccotti Park last night). I would go further: emulate the Civil Rights movement and wear your Sunday best at key times when you protest. Wear suits and dresses when it is practical, or wear red, white and blue when conditions are rougher. Bring American flags. Bring the Constitution. Don’t give the narrators any excuse to marginalize you because of the visuals or because of any individuals’ erratic or anarchic behavior.
From Tahrir to Wall Street: The Role of Religion in Protest Movements
Posted: 10/17/11 12:11 PM ET
I had been marching through the streets of downtown Boston for an hour before I realized that the rhythm and cadence of “We are the 99 percent!” is exactly the same as “The people want to topple the regime!” the chant of Egyptian protesters who brought down the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak last January.
My father teaches at the American University in Cairo, and we moved to Egypt when I was 15 years old. Coming back to the U.S. to start a Ph.D. program 13 years later, I felt like I was coming home, but I also knew that my connection to Egypt would never be severed. So I had that chant stuck in my head for months after spending anxiety-filled hours and sleepless nights following developments on Facebook and Twitter as many of my closest friends camped out in Tahrir Square. Hearing such a similar call here in the U.S. brought back that feeling of pride and hope that I had while watching a generation of disempowered youth take back their country, and it gave me a taste of the courage that led those brave young women and men into the streets.
A number of those involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement (both in New York and in other cities around the country), as well as commentators, have drawn parallels between what we are seeing in the U.S. today and what we saw in Tunisia and Egypt a few months ago. As Cornell West eloquently put it, “This is an American Autumn in response to the Arab Spring.” That said, the factors that have led to the occupation of Wall Street are very different than those that forced Tunisians and Egyptians (as well as Libyans, Syrians, Bahrainis and Yemenis) into the streets: We do not live under a dictatorship, we enjoy certain freedoms and rights that they lacked, pepper spray is not tear gas, and we do not have to worry that our military might be ordered to fire upon us. But we have shared frustrations: a common feeling of disempowerment, of having so much to offer our country and being stymied at nearly every turn by the influence and power that is purchased with monetary wealth. So while the analogy is not perfect, there are enough similarities to make it meaningful, even if the vast majority of the 99 percent is part of the global 1 percent due to their U.S. citizenship alone.
The similarities do not end with the protestors. The way that the police, government officials and the mass media frame the story of these protests reminds me of the story that Mubarak and the Egyptian State media told a few months ago. Pro-Mubarak spokespeople admitted that the demands of the protesters were legitimate up to a point, and they even praised the noble youth who had taken to the streets in the early days of the movement, but they also said that the movement had been infiltrated and hijacked by foreign influences (Israel and Iran) and people with “agendas” (the Muslim Brotherhood). There was no truth to any of these claims, just as there is no truth to Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis’ recent claim that the Occupy Boston movement has been taken over by anarchists. But in both cases they attempt to excuse sometimes violent police intervention in peaceful protests while keeping up the pretense that they are on the side of the people.
The Egyptian protestors were directly targeting the government, whereas the Occupy protestors are targeting corporations. And where the Egyptian government used state media to control the information the public received about the protests, corporations in the U.S. are using corporate media to delegitimize the Occupy movement.
Another great similarity between Occupy and Tahrir is the way that it has brought diverse groups of people together. During the Egyptian revolution I was inspired watching Coptic Christians protect Muslims as they prayed on Friday, and Muslims protect Christians as they held Mass on Sunday. And one of the most inspiring aspects of the Occupy movement for me as a Muslim chaplain is the Protest Chaplains. The Protest Chaplains began as an effort to give visibility to Christians in the movement, but it soon grew organically into an interfaith group that created space for all religions, as well as those who identify with non-religious traditions such as atheist Humanism, to bring their values to the streets in solidarity. Over the last few weeks we have joined each other in the Faith and Spirituality tent at Occupy Boston for yoga classes, meditation workshops, Jewish services, Muslim prayers, Christian worship and just to sit and reconnect with the peace within ourselves when things around us are tumultuous. We have created a special place down at Occupy Boston, a place where all are welcome, and we are impervious to being separated by those things that politicians and the media so often use to keep us apart.
The Faith and Spirituality tent at Occupy Boston is not an anomaly, it is a manifestation of some of this movement’s core principles in the realm of religion. The Occupy movement is characterized by consensus building: no decision is made that effects the group unless it has been agreed on through consensus at a general assembly, which ensures that in the camp, and in the movement, there is always a space for everyone, and we all have an equal voice. This has helped to foster one of the most inclusive communities that I have ever had the honor to call myself a part of. Similarly, the Faith and Spirituality tent is a place where all are welcome, regardless of their specific beliefs and traditions. Far from staking out space for themselves, individuals constantly strive to make more room for others to enter. This is truly a beautiful thing, especially when religion is so often labeled as divisive, as something that we do not discuss for fear that it will cause a rift in whatever jerry-rigged unity we have cobbled together by putting our differences aside instead of celebrating them in front of each other.
[12:35 a.m. ET Sunday]Josh, from New Yorkreports that Washington Square Park has largely cleared out, with protesters leaving in a chaotic rush. “Now police walking around with a bullhorn. ‘If you would like to remain in the park past midnight you will be subject to arrest.'” Not everyone rushed to leave. Josh spotted “about 10 or 15 people still in the park, all singing Woodie Guthrie songs, surrounded by more than 100 riot cops in face shields.” Then: “I barely avoided getting zip cuffed as I was filming the arrest…Extremely powerful. I’m shaking right now and can barely type.” A community affairs officer (the hipster cop?) told him “all the police have been up long hours and are tired and just want to go to sleep.” Asked if the protesters could return to Washington Square Park tomorrow night, the officer replied, “That’s what Zuccotti Park is for.” See Josh’s exclusive video of the dramatic showdown in Washington Square Park: (for link, go to: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/occupy-wall-street-global-day-protest)
[11:20 p.m. ET]Josh, from New Yorkreports that “Police are starting to remove barricades from south end of Times Square. I think this is slowly winding down.” He’s since headed down to Washington Square Park for an OWS general assembly meeting. The turnout has been impressive. “It was a great idea to hold it here. Easier to assemble and attracts a bunch of NYU kids.” Cops are there too, “reminding people that park closes at midnight. Given how long #ows mtgs last, could be problem.” Earlier he overheard one police officer saying to others, “If you want your sticks you should get ’em now.” Josh writes, “About 30 percent of my group wants to spend the night. Bandanna girl: ‘I’m ready. It’s about time. I’m ready to get arrested.'” With less than an hour before the park is officially closed, he tweets, “So there’s about 40 minutes before some major shit goes down here.”
NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators protesting corporate greed filled Times Square on Saturday night, mixing with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” protesters chanted from within police barricades. Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.
Sandy Peterson of Salt Lake City, who was in Times Square after seeing “The Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway, got caught up in the disorder.
“We’re getting out of here before this gets ugly,” she said.
Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, La., stood, confused, on 46th Street with a ticket for “Anything Goes” in her hand as riot police pushed a knot of about 200 shouting protesters toward her.
“I think it’s horrible what they’re doing,” she said of the protesters. “These people need to go get jobs.”
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators had marched north through Manhattan from Washington Square Park earlier in the afternoon. Once in Times Square, they held a rally for several hours before dispersing. Over the course of the day, more than 70 people were arrested.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said 42 people were arrested in Times Square on Saturday night after being warned repeatedly to disperse, and three others were arrested while trying to take down police barriers.
Two police officers were injured during the protest and had to be hospitalized. One suffered a head injury, the other a foot injury, Browne said.
Five people wearing masks were arrested earlier in the day. It wasn’t immediately clear what charges, if any, they may face.
Two dozen people were arrested on charges of criminal trespass Saturday morning when demonstrators entered a Citibank bank branch near Washington Square Park and refused to leave, police said. One protester also was arrested on a charge of resisting arrest.
Citibank said in a statement that police asked the branch to close until the protesters could be taken away. “One person asked to close an account and was accommodated,” Citibank said.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators paraded to a Chase bank branch, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed. Marchers throughout the country emulated them in protests that ranged from about 50 people in Jackson, Miss., to about 2,000 in the larger city of Pittsburgh.
“Banks got bailed out. We got sold out,” the crowd of as many as 1,000 in Manhattan chanted. A few protesters went inside the bank to close their accounts, but the group didn’t stop other customers from getting inside or seek to blockade the business.
Police told the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, and the demonstration appeared to be fairly orderly as it wound through downtown streets.
Overseas, violence broke out in Rome, where police fired tear gas and water cannons at some protesters who broke away from the main demonstration, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles. Dozens were injured.
Tens of thousands nicknamed “the indignant” marched in cities across Europe, as the protests that began in New York linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe. Protesters also turned out in Australia and Asia.
Across the Atlantic, hundreds protested in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. Some of the protesters announced plans to camp out indefinitely in St. James Park. Protests were also held in other cities across Canada from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia.
In the U.S., among the demonstrators in New York withdrawing their money from Chase was Lily Paulina, 29, an organizer with the United Auto Workers union who lives in Brooklyn. She said she was taking her money out because she was upset that JPMorgan Chase was making billions, while its customers struggled with bank fees and home foreclosures.
“Chase bank is making tons of money off of everyone … while people in the working class are fighting just to keep a living wage in their neighborhood,” she said.
Other demonstrations in the city Saturday included an anti-war march to mark the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.
Among the people participating in that march was Sergio Jimenez, 25, who said he quit his job in Texas to come to New York to protest.
“These wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all based on lies,” Jimenez said. “And if we’re such an intelligent country, we should figure out other ways to respond to terror, instead of with terror.”
Elsewhere in the country, nearly 1,500 gathered Saturday for a march past banks in downtown Orlando. About 50 people met in a park in downtown Jackson, Miss., carrying signs calling for “Health Care Not Warfare.”
Some made more considerable commitments to try to get their voices heard. Nearly 200 spent a cold night in tents in Grand Circus Park in Detroit, donning gloves, scarves and heavy coats to keep warm, said Helen Stockton, a 34-year-old certified midwife from Ypsilanti, and plan to remain there “as long as it takes to effect change.”
“It’s easy to ignore us,” Stockton said. Then she referred to the financial institutions, saying, “But we are not going to ignore them. Every shiver in our bones reminds us of why we are here.”
In my travels across the country, I’ve been speaking about a rising generation ready to emerge from the shadows of the last decade and enter a new era of social change. Now we are seeing something emerge — a grassroots campaign has caught fire, turning out thousands of people, young and old, to create a free democratic space called Liberty Square on Wall Street.
All kinds of people are protesting that Wall Street has been rescued but there has been no help for most Americans. And city after city is joining them. Their statement:
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we are working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
This is what a groundswell looks like. This is a moment that could spark a broader movement that reaffirms the human dignity of all people. In a time when the top 1 percent have as much income as the bottom 60 percent — a level of inequality not seen since before the Great Depression — it’s a matter of moral imperative to help fix a broken system.
Oct. 4 was a major day of action in New York, where an estimated 15,000 people marched for reform. I’m inspired by Jesse Jackson’s editorial in the Chicago Sun-Timesabout the protesters:
“The discipline of their demonstrations, the clarity of their moral voice, has touched a chord. Occupy Wall Street is in that tradition of nonviolence with a moral voice organizing to challenge entrenched power and privilege, a movement that stands with the majority against a powerful elite.”
But let’s be clear: This isn’t about bad people, it’s about a broken system that isn’t working to encourage opportunity for all Americans and rewarding hard work with decent pay.
Last month, our country marked the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 as the end of one chapter of history and the beginning of a new one has yet to be written. At Groundswell’s teach-in at The Jerome L. Green Performance Space in September, I shared a vision of what a groundswell feels like. I said, “A groundswell is a broad swell in the sea, due to a distant storm or gale. It’s a response to something. A groundswell is not self-generated but comes out of the zeitgeist.”
We did not know what would come next or how it would happen — we only knew that we were hungry for a movement that wasn’t about a political party or a single issue, but a shared moral vision for a better world. We have taken the first steps together, now let’s keep walking.