Bounded by Broadway, Church, Liberty and Cedar Streets its northwest corner is just across the street from the site of The World Trade Center. Originally a bare bones park stuck in the middle of the noise and traffic of New York City, the park was renovated in 2006 and renamed Zuccotti. Today the park has a wide variety of trees, granite sidewalks, tables and seats, as well as lights built into the ground illuminating the area. Zuccotti Park has become an oasis for tourists to rest and relax as they visit the Financial District as well as a welcoming spot for workers in the area to enjoy lunch hour.
Today, there is a new addition to the park. Rather, today there are new residents in the park. Protestors have taken up habitation in the park to protest what they see as the failure and corruption of Wall Street. Originally over 1600 strong, the protestors have dwindled to the approximately 200 that are there today. Often, they find the number of curious onlookers surpasses the number of individuals dedicated to a sea change of thought in the Financial District.
The small group of twenty-something’s are planning for the fall of Wall Street as we know it. Wearing pajama pants and tie-dyed T-shirts, they have been there since Saturday, September 17. To discourage loitering the New York Police Department (NYPD) has banned tents and sleeping bags in the park leaving the protestors to sleep in cardboard boxes. The weather has been clear with day time temperatures hovering around the mid 70s with not much of a drop at night. As the protestors take their voices to the street during the day – marching deeper into the Financial District – the NYPD try to break up the marchers by kittling – or corralling them. Physically isolating a small subset of protestors, NYPD’s hope is to break up the protest through the denial of rest, food, water and access to the bathrooms.
But the faithful hang on. In what has become the headquarters of “Occupy Wall Street” (OWC), topless women stand on the corner yelling, “I can’t afford a shirt!” while construction workers snap photos on their phones. Meanwhile a small faction of protestors their walk through the streets of lower Manhattan escorted by police officers. Using bullhorns and yelling, “Resist! Stand Up! There comes a time when the people rise up!”
The onlookers watch with varying degrees of interest. On one end of the continuum, some are supportive while antagonism lives at the other end. A very few though are isolationists. They are obviously in the minority who haven’t been able to get their head out of their iPads or iPods long enough to see the sea changes that are occurring in this country. One onlooker pauses from tapping on his iPad long enough to glance up and say, “I’m ashamed to be a New Yorker” when asked by a journalist with “Metro New York” for his opinion of the protest. It’s not clear if his comment is directed at the protestors or the NYPD. Regardless, it is clear that his level of passion about affecting a change in this country is nil.
Sadly, such moronic thinking seems to be typical of too many people in this country. While the 40 somethings and 50s somethings glance up briefly at the nightly news as a 15 second spot on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest, people who aren’t old enough to remember the protests of the 60s are sleeping in the street to make their voices heard. More than likely, most of the “twenty somethings” don’t have a stake in Wall Street. They don’t have a retirement fund to be concerned about. They don’t have a 401(k) that’s being obliterated by the scams and sickness pervading the financial world. Yet they have the passion to try to make a difference and “do something” about the deterioration of the country’s economy.
While some may wonder about the ability of apparently disorganized protestors to change the system, at least they’re doing something besides burying their heads in the sand and pretending that the problem either doesn’t exist or is not, at least, as bad as what some think.
While those with the mental clarity of a 12 year old say they’re ashamed to be New Yorkers and shake their heads with dismay, a small group of young adults is doing something to give voice to their concern. It’s easy to dismiss them as fanatics or radicals. Sometimes we forget that the changes brought about by the Spring Movement, particularly the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, also started the same way; by a group of fanatics and radicals occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a similar park in Egypt.
What can be done to support the OWS? Several things.
First, go to NYC and take up a spot on a cardboard box beside the other people who are truly concerned about the future of this country. If you can’t go because of work or family obligations, help support someone else to go.
Second, make your friends, family and co-workers aware of the rally and its purpose and goal.
Third, don’t do as the losers do and shake your head saying, “I’m ashamed…” and then be lost in your own narrow world. Don’t give in to the false belief that the economy will continued to be ruined by Wall Street and nothing we say or do can change it. Rather, be bold, positive and aggressive.
If I were to know for certain that the world was going to end tomorrow, I’d still plant a tree today.
Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. When not traveling, Nelson volunteers his time and donates his services to area non-profit agencies and is available for portraits, promotional shoots, events and more. Nelson lives in Asheville, North Carolina when not chasing down stories and photo opportunities.