Wednesday, October 12

Opinions on Occupy Wall Street

Since Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, the ongoing series of demonstrations has quickly gained attention locally, nationally, and globally, sparking many different opinions, but only the opinions from anchormen and reporters have been heard.

In order to be fair, On October 5, some protesters, cameramen, and even celebrities given the chance to reveal their opinions on Occupy Wall Street.

"I really like what they are doing," John Quick said as he stood at the east side of Zuccotti Park handing out copies of the first issue of Occupy Wall Street Journal. That same morning, Quick hopped on a bus from North Carolina to New York City to join other protesters. "I think they are making a good impact."

Unaware of Quick's opinion, two men in dress suits standing just a few feet away from Quick felt differently.

"If they really want to make an impact they need to be more organized," one of the men said. As they both continued to observe the flyers and posters taped on the floor that read "we are the 99 percent" and "the 99 percent serve the 1 percent," Quick shook his head in disagreement.

Shortly after, the two men entered Zuccotti Park and passed by a large crowd of people surrounding actor and political activist Mark Ruffalo. Only the third celebrity to have physically displayed support of Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park, reporters and cameramen asked him questions one after another.

"I am completely behind the protesters," Ruffalo announced.

The majority of the crowd cheered loudly while others quietly snapped photos of the celebrity. A cameraman who was filming the incident, cracked a smile, yet shook his head. When the cameraman completed filming, he was asked what are his opinions on Occupy Wall Street, but he could not give an answer.

"I'm really sorry, but I could get in trouble," the cameraman responded.

Towards the west side of Zuccotti Park, Skyler Norris leaned against a tree as he ate some food that he had picked up at the food station. "I have been here since Saturday," Norris said. "I won't be leaving any time soon."

Across from him, three large, white vans are parked on the street. A group of men and women sat in front of the vans that read either CNN, CBS, and NBC Networks, observed the ruckus in Zucotti Park as they ate their lunch. Many of them had black expressions, others showed some type of expressions. When asked what are their opinions of Occupy Wall street, the men and women gave a similar answer to what the cameraman said.

"We're not allowed to speak to you," one of the men said. "But if you find one of our reporters, they might be able to speak to you."

In the end, only protesters and actors were able to reveal their opinions, but it seems the cameramen wanted to, but just could not do it.

Monday, October 10

Media Covers 'Occupy Wall Street'

In recent weeks, the large protest "Occupy Wall Street" has grown so large that police are blocking the entrance to Wall Street.  I was declined a picture by the NYPD officers guarding the large gate blocking the street, but noticed that they were watching the pedestrians who tried to pass through.
"We The People, are NOT terrorists," screams Billy Lamont (right).   Describing himself as "a poet offering support," Lamont read his poetry to a crowd at the entrance of Liberty Square.  Standing beneath a large red statue, Lamont is being recorded by many bystanders as well as his own photographer.
"A lot of [the media] have been very good to us," says Daniel Lavine, 22, a film student at Baruch College running the information booth.   "Except the New York Times, there is no excuse for their coverage of this movement."  After openly expressing  his frustration with the Times' decision to send a fashion journalist, Lavine said, "she was only interested in interviewing the suits."
"I'm proud that we broke through the media block after those first six days.  I was just talking to the girl who got pepper sprayed and she's filed a law suit for repressing her first amendment rights," Lavine explains.

A local news reporter broadcasts live to her news station, interviewing one of the protestors.  Behind them stands another protestor holding an American Flag.  However, the stars have been replaced with the logos of major companies.
Above, CNN reporters sit in their vans after getting coverage of Liberty Square.  Although he asked to remain anonymous, a camera man said, "We're actually not allowed to talk to you, but if you go find of our reporters they might speak to you... Just don't tell them I said so!"
After getting an anonymous tip from another camera man, Susan Candiotti of CNN declined comment but apologized .  "I'm sorry, if you call the PR Department and tell them specifically where this will be published they might let me speak to you."  

backup links

Marching to Wall Street

Arrests at Wall St. October 5,2011 from Leith McMenamin on Vimeo.
The night of October 5 Occupy Wall Street protesters attempted to take Wall Street. The day started peacefully with union and student marches to Foley Square and then down to Zuccotti park, but ended in a rush of police brutality, mace, and Fox News reporters getting beaten with night sticks. I would have gotten more video but my phone died while filming the arrests (hence why the video ends with people shouting "JERRY!")
New School student, Muggs Fogarty, marching to Foley Square
Many parents brought their children, whether in strollers or on their shoulders
New School Students congregated at Foley Square...
With a banner that read "Arab Spring, European Summer, American Fall"
This man let students borrow his flags, he brought a bag of flags with various peace symbols on them to the march.
Trying to leave Foley Square was worse than driving in LA.
Cops keeping protestors off the street near Wall St.

Organized Occupation?

Many of the protestors at Occupy Wall Street are working to appear focused and organized but the group’s general appearance says otherwise.

Zuccotti Park looks like a mess. The center of the park is littered with sleeping bags, tarps, and duffel bags and backpacks. Above that there are booths and tables spread about, filled in with a few dozen people. Police officers stand in pairs surrounding the protestors.

And yet some structure can be found amongst the seeming chaos that is Zuccotti Park. Signs point out key gathering points for those eager to assist. Protestors are collected around tables distributing the “Occupied Wall Street Journal”, gathering stacks and taking them throughout the park to hand out to anyone around. Others have gathered around a woman being interviewed by a network television news station. At the top of the park a large group had collected around a set of drummers, holding signs and posing for pictures.

But nowhere can be found a central leader. The gatherings are arbitrary, one passionate young woman being interviewed has garnered quite a crowd around her as she yells about debt relief and student loans, yet no one around seemed to know why she in particular had been singled out.

When asked if they had seen any signs of central organization, two police officers standing nearby said there was none. “It’s a shanty town” one of the officers said, both of whom wished to remain unnamed, “do you see anything that looks like order?”

Covering the Occupation

The CBS camera-man filming and interviewing protestors at Occupy Wall Street last Wednesday declined answering questions three different ways, “I could get myself in trouble,” “I’m not trying to blow you off,” and “I can’t really comment.” When approached, five members of the CNN news crew sitting in a parked truck on the south side of Zucotti Park shook their heads and said, “We’re not allowed to.”
Gary Anthony Ramsay, the reporter of a two-man team and carrying a microphone with the words PRESS TV on it, was willing to speak candidly after interviewing Mark Bray, a volunteer media spokesman for the movement.
Ramsay, a former NY1 reporter, was dismissed from the network in 2007 after working 15 years there. The reason for his dismissal was calling Jon Schiumo’s evening call-in show under an alias and criticizing the host’s statements regarding Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York police commissioner. He is now head of Great Pitch Media, a communications and media company he founded.
When asked for his opinion on Occupy Wall Street, Ramsay said he is “surprised at the resiliency” of the protests and that it is different from similar groups that assemble every few years and then go away. He had been at the park everyday for the past two weeks at the time of this interview. “I can say I was there,” Ramsay said, after comparing being at Zucotti to reporters being present at Tahrir Square.
On this particular day, Ramsay is talking to people who consist of the park’s own media, the people who handle the flyers, newspaper and online media.  stated that “rather than continue asking [the protestors] what they want,” he asks them to “reflect what’s going here.” Gesturing behind him to the crowded park, he talks about how it has “turned into a city” and that “everyone has something to say that’s enough to be a story.” Faced with the large variety of protestors the occupation has drawn, Ramsay’s tactic for finding good interviewees is “anyone who can put coherent thoughts together.”
When asked to comment on the news coverage of Occupy Wall Street, Ramsay speaks about the content, “It’s not like it didn’t happen. It’s not like there wasn’t a half dressed woman in burlesque.” He states that for the first two weeks of the occupation, protestors accused the media of ignoring them. Zucotti Park is filled with members of the press now.

Young Wall Street Analysts at Zuccotti Park

Wall Street executives started in the beginning as the protestors’ most hated targets. While Occupy Wall Street has come to represent a variety of niches and viewpoints, the current residents of Zuccotti Park can certainly agree on one thing: million-dollar bonuses and corporate greed on Wall Street must end.

But as the youth-driven protests continue, there are recent grads on the payroll of these large corporate banks that find themselves in the middle. 

“ I’m not the 99% nor am I the 1%, ” says Jeremy Flynn, a twenty-two year old recent Cornell graduate. Flynn stopped by Zuccotti Park, a long ways away from his office in the Morgan Stanley building on 48th Street, out of curiosity.

Flynn is a first-year analyst in the Executive Compensation Group of Human Resources, which is the very group that sets the salaries and bonuses his peers are protesting. For two years, the group’s focus has been on figuring out how to cut back compensation and spending, but maintain the same level of motivation within the company.

For the thousands of recently recruited employees from nearby universities, the chances of seeing their old college friends and acquaintances among the protestors are high. Many of these young men and women, including Flynn, support the need for change and recognize the flaw in the current system. But they are getting lumped in with the 1% and all its negative connotations.

Cindy Ju, a recent graduate from University of Pennsylvania, and an analyst at JP Morgan, says that her alma mater was criticized for not having enough of its students protesting compared to nearby colleges such as Temple and Penn State.

“I know the issues through and through, and I want the same things they want,” says Ju, “but if one of my old college friends who is out there protesting saw me going to work, they’d hate me just for working here, and that’s just counter-productive. “

The media’s portrayal of the protestors, as well as the signage and rhetoric that is emerging, has created a scenario of one group versus another: a polarization that many young Wall Street recruits find disheartening and antagonistic.

“The complexity of our economic and political system’s downfall is being disregarded. It is not a simple win-lose scenario, “ says Ju.

Both Ju and Flynn, as well as many other young bankers and analysts, have made the trip from the actual location of their banks up in Midtown, to witness what their friends are a part of.

“It’s difficult for people like us to be in support of the protests or against it,” says Flynn, “ Many of us feel pressured by our peers, or even by our families, to take sides alongside or against our professional careers.”

Many of these young professionals feel that a more practical approach needs to grow out of the current protests. To them, Zuccotti Park is not a place of active improvement, but a build up of frustration in the hands of their generation. Flynn, whose daily work could answer the strongest outcries by the protestors, finds it ironic that he has taken time from his work day to witness the movement, saying, “My peers are protesting and they think that since I am contributing to the corrupt ‘system,’ that I am a part of it, but that’s not the case. ”

“In the very least, this does bring to light how outrageous executive compensation is. If anything, my bank as well as other corporations should feel challenged and optimistic to find more creative methods of motivation, “ says Flynn. 

Finding The Center of Protest (Team North)

Wednesday, October 5th--Zuccotti Park, spoken of as “Liberty Square” by protesters was last wednesday around 1pm an organized mess of mingling bodies: protesters and members of the media packed the small square situated on Broadway and Liberty Street a few blocks away from New York’s famous Wall Street.

Troy Gregory, 21, from the Bronx said that one of the major difficulties the protest faces is that everyone comes protesting something a little bit different.

“They feel like they’ve come to protest capitalism which in turn they feel like it’s the banking system” Gregory says, “But there is more to capitalism than just banks.” When asked what he himself has at stake Gregory names “separation through the social classes, people’s freedom” and what he feels is a “crime against humanity”
A walk from one end of the square to the other one can’t go with out noticing the sheer amount of things there are to step over: blankets, bodies, backpacks, cardboard signs, food , a couple of small dogs. Among these things there are a few organized stations a “medic” area ,an area where you can grab free food , an info table, and a place to create signs .

While the grounds of the protest themselves look a little chaotic the New York protest does have a good deal of organization, it’s website gives an updated schedule that shows the daily happenings and general assembly meetings; the website and protest are ran on what the website has termed “open source” participation, meaning anyone can contribute, you just have to show up to the meeting.

A Slow Burn Picks Up Heat

‘If a fire happens, every news station rushes to cover it’, said Mike Wall Street (the individual wished to remain anonymous) one of two volunteers manning the general information desk at Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park headquarters. “I haven’t seen many media really extensively caring about this issue or responding. I haven’t seen it, but I’m optimistic”.

The media layout at Zuccotti Park is a veritable mash of major and local, even down to one high school journalism class on the scene. On the first days of the protest, the press table for Occupy Wall Street was little more than one laptop and an umbrella. In the days since, it has grown immensely, eventually creating its own Occupy Wall Street Journal. The spokesman, Mr. Bruner, according to the New York Observer, has even been provided with a blackberry by the movement.

Beyond the epicenter of the protest, a row of major media organization trucks lines the street: CNN, CBS, NBC.The reporters and videographers rush back and forth between the park crowds and the media chairs set up just beside the vans. Reporters interview everyone from a woman in a orange gas mask to the dapper actor Mark Ruffalo.

Many major media outlets (CBS, CNN) are steadfastly reluctant to comment on their experiences and intentions, citing contractual and media obligations. Still, there is some sense of camaraderie between the low and high journalists that populate the scene. “That woman over there is a reporter”, one man slyly whispered. “Don’t tell her I told you, he said with a wink. A reporter and CNN HLN PR contact, Carolyn Disbrow kindly stated that she could not grant an interview, but provided a contact to the CNN PR room.

A timeline of the media’s coverage of Occupy Wall Street reveals a progressive wave of attention: On the first day, outlets such as Fox News, Bloomberg News, and a few others ran pieces. By the third days, outlets like The Guardian and the New York Times had joined the fold. Television coverage was slower on the come up, finally culminating in a September 21st on-air speech from Keith Olbermann chastising the ‘media blackout’. According to a (tongue in cheek) report by the New York Observer, there are currently nearly as many reporters at the event as there are protesters.

If there is open, in-depth discussion about media coverage, it is often from media members on the fringe, or former members of the media. Near the ‘Press’ table, three men gathered and discussed how the media has dealt with the protests. One middle aged Caucasian man, wearing a striped button up and a small black backpack meant for mobility, stressed his media credentials when offering comment. “The median age of Fox News is 65. These people, the people out here, are young people. They’re not watching major media.’ The man speaks in a hurried but confident tone, one that his two companions often meet with nodded heads. “The day of the 24 hour news cycle is over”, said the man with the small backpack. “This is a 21st century happening”, said another.

Such a happening has gained strength through the wide-open, information- is-24/7 -all 24/7- Internet: Twitter updates, Facebook pages, News Feed and RSS tracking, and more. The discussion between the three men eventually came around to John Stewart and the Daily Show (voted the most trusted news show in a 2009 online poll from Time Magazine, and popular news show for the demographic of many protesters). The men discussed the show’s handling of Occupy Wall Street, and soon came a casual interjection: ‘Oh yeah, I saw that off Bitorrent’.

The Occupy Wall Street protests are seated uncomfortably between mergers of old media vs. new media, a lack of early singular narrative vs. a growing and more developed organization, and the shifting media coverage that results. As the protests continue to grow, media outlets, big and small, are wrestling with ever evolving narratives.

“It’s been a slow burn, but it’s building”, Mike Wall Street said.


Sunday, October 9

October 5th, Working Groups in Zuccotti Park

October 5- Zuccotti Park is a maze, first entering, it is difficult to tell where to go first, TV cameras are everywhere. People are discussing, wearing signs or meditating. But the protestors have made sure that it is not as disorganized as it may seem. In Zuccotti Park, where protestors are occupying Wall Street, signs hover overhead notifying visitors on where to find information or help. The signs advertise ‘legal,’ ‘media’ and ‘general information’ among others. Beneath each sign is a group of a few people manning desks. A person with a red cross on their arm will every once in a while wind through the crowds. Towering above will come voices that say ‘mic check!’ a call for the people surrounding to repeat their announcement. Occupy Wall Street Journal Newspapers are being handed out.

Each station or person with a red cross refers to a different working group. Working Groups are a phenomenon of the protest in an attempt to organize the event and meet the needs of the protestors. At 7pm every night The General Assembly, a gathering led by a chosen group of people called 'facilitators,' meets and those who feel the need for an organized program in the confines of the park can bring it up and have it be accepted as a Working Group or rejected.

“We have between 10 and 20 Working Groups, but it’s hard to know exactly.” Said Cara Hartley a Brooklyn resident working with the Community Outreach group. According to the General Assembly website there are 20 groups, but the numbers are predicted to grow “everyday, we are getting constant submissions for working groups.” Hartley said. Some are more utilitarian than others including the food, health and media groups. Others include arts and culture and the Info Desk Working Group. There is a subset called Thematic Groups which deal with discussion of a topic.

Anyone can join a Working Group and many have difficulties keeping up with those who are more experienced. Alex Nathanson, a photographer and protestor on Wall Street is working for the Internet Working Group. “I know some coding.” He said, “but I think they’re all really good hackers or something, I learned so much from them.” He added. Some working groups get more aid than others. Workers from the Nurse’s Union comes to train the medical team on EMT and how to be safe from the cold. The General Assembly website shows posts of professionals who offer to help in the training or the working groups including medics and social workers. “There is so much skill sharing in the working groups.” Said Nathanson.

The working groups act as structure. There is one for each of the basic needs of the people. The goal is to create horizontal government where each individual can do any job, according to Evan Wagner, a Brooklyn resident. “We’re trying not to create a hierarchy but it's beginning to happen.” Said Wagner. “An example of this hierarchy,” he added “is that one side of the park gets Internet access while the other side doesn’t. The technology group is working on that now." This means that there is not an equal access to information.

Though this form of social organization cannot be taken so easily out of the park, and it is difficult to imagine it in an outside setting. “I just hope that this reaffirms the importance of the Unions.” Said Nathanson, “Because it’s about the workers.” Wagner referred to the park as a laboratory, “It’s a space where we can practice these ideas.” He said.

Team South // College Students Occupy Wall Street