By Sarah Lipkis
Zuccotti Park looks like a disaster site. There are hundreds of people cramped together with sleeping bags, foods and signs in an area that is barely two blocks wide and three blocks long. Upon further observation, however, it becomes clear that the protesters do have a method of organization that includes mechanisms for taking care of the basic needs of protesters and making groupwide decisions about the movement. The Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park, which is now being called “Liberty Square,” seeks to highlight how much people have suffered in the recession and try to force the financial sector to change its ways.
What began as a small protest on September 17th has grown exponentially in Manhattan (the protests have also spread to Washington Square Park), and in other cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. The protests are peaceful; in Zuccotti Park, the protest mostly consists of protesters holding signs with slogans that range from “Wall Street is the Devil” to
“We are the forgotten 99%,” as well as conducting discussion groups. Each of these groups consists of a leader and other protesters brainstorming ideas on how to accomplish their goals. Ultimately, these small groups will come together in a general assembly meeting in order to share their ideas with the larger community. These tactics are taken directly from the Arab Spring, when protesters in the Middle East peacefully gathered in large numbers, creating tent cities in order to have their voices heard.
Protestors expressed that they chose to be a part of Occupy Wall Street to create pressure for reform on Wall Street in order to reflect the needs of “99% of the American population.” Furthermore, Barnard alumnae Susan Ross ‘55, who attended the protest with her pre-teen granddaughter, stated that even if Barnard students do not support the protests, they should still not isolate themselves and come to the protests to see what is happening.
Barnard and Columbia students have indeed been proactive in showing their support for Occupy Wall Street. For example, on October 5, 378 students walked out at 3:30 PM to join the protests at Zuccotti Park. Along with other student groups from various New York-based schools, Columbia students protested to bring awareness to the issue of student debt. Students also commented that they saw Occupy Wall Street as a way to shed light on the issues of job deficits for college graduates, as well as inflated bank charges for using an ATM or debit card.
Along with participating in the Columbia University walkout, Barnard students have been involved with the Occupy Wall Street protests in other ways. On October 1, a group of Barnard students participated in a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge. The protesters began on the bridge’s pedestrian path, in hopes of gaining attention for their cause. The protests began to spill over into the roadway, which resulted in New York City Police officers making arrests for the obstruction of traffic. At the end of the day, over 700 people had been arrested. The large number of recent arrests has contributed to Occupy Wall Street’s large amount of media and political attention.
Sarah Lipkis is a junior at Barnard and Photography Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.