Deleted Scenes: Occupado

This week, we have a special feature running in which Dan Alleva recounts being a part of the Occupy Wall Street arrest incident on the Brooklyn Bridge. Alleva was originally supposed to be covering the I’ll Be Your Mirror festival in Asbury Park that day, going to see Portishead, whom he interviewed for the Sept. 28 cover feature, and a slew of other acts on their curated bill. Needless to say, he didn’t make it down there.

Alleva was not arrested, and neither was his photographer, who got a ton of great shots we unfortunately don’t have room to use in print [one is show above, Ed]. More than 700 people were arrested, though, as the protestors moved out of their encampment in Zuccotti Park, across the street from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan and onto the Brooklyn Bridge, going, I assume, for expensive cupcakes as one does in Brooklyn.

I’ve only been to one protest in my adult life. It was Feb. 15, 2003, on a day of coordinated anti-war demonstrations expressing discontent at the coming invasion of Iraq. Estimates say there were between six and 10 million people protesting across the world, including, apparently a group of scientists in Antarctica. You know what we all got for our effort freezing our asses off? You guessed it: War. We’re still getting it, as a matter of fact. Right now.

The Occupy Wall Street “movement” is more domestic in its nature, decrying the economic and social disparities between the upper one percent of the income bracket and the lower 99 and calling for increased government regulation on corporations and more transparency in government’s dealings with business. It’s being called a left wing Tea Party—which is problematic, but not wholly incorrect if you work on the most superficial level of, “These people are pissed off and gathered en masse”—and alternately treated as a collection of spoiled rich kids, loons and the usual know-it-all East Coast liberals blah blah blah.

My favorite is the critique that it’s a bunch of hippies who should go get jobs, which is funny because if they could get jobs, they wouldn’t be protesting. It’s interesting that labor unions have gotten involved, though it makes sense, as they’ve been screwed over by deregulation as well and seen a substantial drop in presence and pull over the last few decades, and of course the glomming on of celebrities attaching themselves to it and whatever else is good for exposure, which any “movement” worthy of the title needs. I haven’t been to see it myself, coming only close enough to drop my much-more-politically-engaged wife off down the block, but with copycat occupations happening around the country, no denying the idea is picking up steam.

I have a hard time not being dismissive of this kind of thing. Not that I think the protestors are wrong—quite the opposite—but I don’t see any way they’ll possibly accomplish anything other than probably some cool Facebook photos, a few interviews that’ll be taken out of context and chopped up, some girls getting maced and none of the large-scale cultural and policy shifts they’re calling for. On the one hand, screw it, they’re out there and at least people are talking about it, but on the other, if nothing’s going to change and all anyone’s saying is the same inane shit they always say, what’s the point?

I’m not about to disparage nonviolent resistance. I think rioting and firebombing might get even more media play, but some kids would also likely get their brains bashed in, and no one really wants that. The real issue is I’m not at all convinced anyone working in high finance gives a damn about the protestors, what they’re doing or what they have listed as their motives. A couple weeks on, and so far none of Wall Street’s major financial institutions have reported a change of heart or released a press statement that says, “Okay guys, you’re right. We’ll stop raping everything in sight to make our money. What jerks we’ve been this whole time.”

Maybe it’ll end well, maybe there’ll be more arrests, maybe the working class will still be disconnected and critical of the educated left, maybe Bloomberg will call in the Air Force and carpet bomb everyone. None of it would really be a surprise. In the meantime, Dan’s story is interesting and you should read it if you get the chance. Have a great week.

Yup, that’s it,

JJ Koczan