Occupy Wall Street Meets at Washington Square Park to Reboot Efforts
GREENWICH VILLAGE — A small group of protesters milled around Washington Square Park Saturday morning, readying for a weekend of reinvigorated efforts towards the somewhat-dormant Occupy Wall Street movement.
By afternoon, hundreds had turned out for the first assembly of the sprawling protest movement, which was designed to prepare protesters for civil disobedience marches, strikes, and sit-in actions — including a protest of the New York Stock Exchange and an environmentally focused "storming" of Wall Street at the bull statue — on Monday, September 17, the first anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street.
The organizing rally on Saturday was one of several efforts to help reboot the movement, which began as a protest of financial insitutions and government bailouts to large corporations, in Lower Manhattan last year.
While the number of messages has grown and organizing efforts have shot off in several directions in the year since the marches and encampment in Zuccotti Park began, protesters Saturday said the movement will continue to embrace those differences and try to move forward as one body.
"It's a pretty diverse movement," said Michael Harrington, 59, a retired handyman and contractor. "The idea of gathering early is to just get people with different ideas as activists talking," he said.
"You're gonna have some people talking about energy. Others are going to focus on banking reform. Our goal is to pull it all together into one cohesive movement."
Writer and freelancer Andrea Ciannevie, 37, who spearheads Inter-Occupy, a faction of the movement that focuses on harnessing social networking and outreach to push forward the OWS messages, said the first meeting, which started at 10:30 a.m., was to get new folks clued in, and keep returning members excited.
"When I first came down to the park last year, I had a hard time finding a way to plug into the movement," Ciannevie said. "Eventually, I found my niche. But this is sending a message to the people that left to say, 'Hey, we're still here, you should come back.'"
"It's an outreach opportunity," she added. "The initial idea here is to get people to connect, and to make sure those connections are long-term.
Phoebe Berg, one of the organizers at the park, said moving away from Liberty Plaza and Zuccotti Park was necessary to keep the morale and messages at the forefront of their efforts.
"Having food and stuff at Liberty Plaza is not ideal," said Berg. "People are getting arrested there just for putting their bags down. Here, the community embraces us, and the police presence is relatively minimal," she said.
"This is an attempt to recreate the feel of Zuccotti Park. And we're also celebrating the birth of Occupy Wall Street."
The morning and afternoon sessions, which were publicized by the organizers as both an orientation and a breakoff into working groups, took place over several hours in Washington Square Park, and featured teach-ins, information tables, trainings, and discussions with reflection time, according to a schedule posted online.
A direct-action training session, which began at 4 p.m., helped to prepare potential marchers for actions on Sunday and Monday, participants said.
Garth Kiser, 34, joined a training session to learn about nonviolent resistance tactics for Monday's event called the "People's Wall" — which will blockade the New York Stock Exchange with a sit-in — and said he felt the protests were bound to go well.
"I feel the group is vastly more organized than last year, and it's going to show in the marches," he said. "Sometimes last year demonstrations would go on for hours and hours, and nothing was accomplished."
"Now the people who are organizing have a much better idea of what they're doing. It's more efficient," he added.
Plans for a Sunday musical demonstration were slated for the West Village, where protesters wold be singing and marching in opposition to the Spectra Energy frack pipeline, which organizers said would, upon completion, bring gas directly the Marcellus Shale gas fracking site in Pennsylvania to New York City.
The march was set to begin at 10 a.m. Sunday at Gansevoort Street and the Hudson River Greenway, and was being organized by the Occupy Guitarmy, a group of musicians, and Occupy the Pipeline, a coalition urging the ban of hydrofracking in New York State.