Zuccotti Park Revisited: Reign of a Parade

The Giants had their victory parade down the Canyon of Heroes today. Their route took them through the heart of the financial district, including what used to be the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Zuccotti Park. Since November’s eviction, Zuccotti Park has been a wasteland of empty sitting areas, police officers and a few protestors (not all of them associated with OWS). Today, it was a place for revelers to take a load off (and even sneak a libation or three) after standing along Broadway for several hours. What a difference six months makes in the life of Zuccotti Park.

It was just this past September that a few dozen activists set up camp in the concrete square. That act alone awakened the conscience of a nation. Over the ensuing weeks and months, people like me were able to go to Zuccotti Park to talk about poverty, inequality, the environment, corporate greed and our morally bankrupt political system. Thanks to the brave people who held the park over the course of three months, issues that concerned citizens had been talking about in the wilderness for years all of the sudden took center stage. It was a shot of adrenaline into what normally was a sterile and farcical political discourse.

But then the eviction came. The White Shirts and beat cops gave way to riot police. They took the park by storm in the middle of the night, ripping up tents and burning books in an inquisitional orgy of repression. The movement certainly did not die that day, but no longer would the protestors be able to use Liberty Square as their base of operation. The police promised them that the square would be open to the public the next day and then ringed the block with barricades and blue shirts for the next month. All signs of life and community vanished from the area. There was very little liberty to be had in Liberty Square.

Today’s parade was a mockery of what the occupiers started to build six months ago. The occupiers held the park in an exercise of mass awareness and citizenship. Today, red-cheeked and well fed onlookers stood facing Broadway, their backs to the park, in order to catch a glimpse of their favorite millionaire athletes. It was an exercise in mass distraction. Bars in the area quickly filled up at midday with partiers intent on keeping the mass distraction going. They spilled out into the street, making noise, slapping hands and blocking crosswalks. Yet, there was no pepper spray, no mass arrests, no White Shirts and nobody was dragged to the paddy wagon. Nobody questioned them as to whether they should be at work or whether they might find better things to do with their time. No sanitation worker talked down to them or called them lazy do-nothings. Instead, they dutifully followed behind the revelers, cleaning up ticker tape and other assorted refuse. When normal life resumes in the financial district tomorrow morning, it will be like nothing had ever happened.

That is why, on this day especially, it is important for us to remember the work that started at Liberty Square 6 months ago.

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4 responses to “Zuccotti Park Revisited: Reign of a Parade

  1. Excellent perspective.. As usual. How much time did you get to spend at Liberty Square during the encampment period?

  2. Thank you. I tried to be there every day but, due to personal responsibilities, never slept over. But I held signs, marched, talked to reporters and engaged in conversation after work and on weekends. There were 5 or 6 huge marches that were very under-reported in the media, and I was there for all of them. The last one before eviction must have had literally hundreds of thousands of people, yet the media reports said it was like “5,000” or so. They said there were 1 million people at the Giants parade, which is complete bull. The Giant crowd, which was large, was nothing compared to the days of action for OWS. There was no room to breathe or move.

  3. I was one of the “red-faced and overfed” onlookers watching the parade from Zuccotti Park. I root for the Giants and I support OWS. I didn’t even realize that the parade route would pass the park, but when I ended up there, I felt angry (though excited to see my favorite millionaires, of course). It kills me that Bloomberg got to ride on the float with Eli and Tuck. Bloomberg was facing the park and gloating as he passed us.

    But honestly, what bothered me more was this: Occupy Wall Street missed its biggest opportunity for powerful political action since the eviction. The media was there, the parade passed the park, so where was OWS?
    As I read it, the final sentence of your post is contradictory. You emphasize the need for remembrance, but then mention “the work that started.” Is OWS over, just a figment of memory? Or is it just getting started? I think people should have been down there passing out flyers to try to raise awareness. Wouldn’t that be better than belittling sports fans with your assumptions and stereotypes. We are the 99% too. Please read my perspective at sea2012.tumblr.com and don’t be so eager to alienate people from your cause.

    p.s. I came across your blog because of this particular post, which I hate, but the blog looks awesome. My husband teaches global at a school in the middle of a colocation procedure. I’m interested in education policy and plan on writing about it as well… now that the mass distraction of the NFL season is over.

    • I am too red-faced and very well fed. On top of that, I am a sports fan, rooting for the Giants and Yankees. I watched the Superbowl and was happy when the Giants beat the Patriots for the second time. When reading my barbs, it’s best not to ascribe any judgment to it. You can be a sports fan and recognize its role as a mass distraction. You can be well fed and red-faced and recognize it as an outgrowth of a comfortable lifestyle.

      Ever since the eviction, Occupy Wall Street has not been the same. Many of the occupiers have scattered to other occupations around the country. The rump of protestors who remain are there more as reminders of what once was at Liberty Square. I would imagine it was difficult to co-opt the parade as an opportunity to make a statement.

      I do not know why you would conclude that I implied OWS is done. Liberty Square is certainly a rap for the foreseeable future, but the reformation of our corrupt system has not even yet begun.

      Anyway, thank you for stopping by and don’t be a stranger. Don’t let your distaste for the language of this post get in the way on the larger points that I believe we agree upon.

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