Yesterday, September 19, I was able to speak with one of the “occupiers” – a brave soul and his friends who descended upon Wall Street on Friday for #OCCUPYWALLSTREET (among other names) to demand accountability for the corporations and banks enslaving our society. Ken was very kind to speak with me, and while his words ring true and profound, much has changed since I spoke with him. More people have been arrested, and much of the audio and video equipment has been confiscated by the NYPD. I whole-heartedly support Occpy Wall Street, and hope that this honest look at what one of the occupiers said will give insight into the revolution that is attempting to occur.
Note: Some remarks were indecipherable due to our cell connection (noted with “…”), and I’ve added a few notes in brackets .
TNTSU: Where are you guys at right now?
Ken: The name of the park strats with a “Z” – I’m not sure it is off the top of my head [Zuccotti]. We’re calling it Liberty Park because it’s at 1 Liberty Plaza and actually the owners of the property – Brookfield Properties – own the easement. It’s a public easement so they’re required to maintain it for public use, but it is private property.
Is it some sort of loophole that you guys are occupying it?
We’ve had sort-of skirmish problems. We arrived here the day before Occupy Wall Street was supposed to start. We came [Saturday] and they already had Wall Street [sectioned] off, the only foot traffic they were allowing on the side walk was…with IDs – for one of the gyms or one of the financial buildings there.
Most of the protest moved to Bowling Green Park which is where the bull is. People were circling the bull; police offers moved, without any force, people off the sidewalk around the bull and the march moved down towards Wall Street. People were permitting themselves be corralled away. Saturday evening people ended up here at the park. We decided to make a base camp out of it.
As I understand it, they [the NYPD] designated a protest area – they way they put it was that they were “busting up”…even though they [the Occupiers] didn’t have permit, the protests were designated a protest area off wall street that they decided not to use. I wasn’t aware of a designated area.
So no one ever got a permit initially, right?
There was no permit ahead of time. I don’t remember hearing about a permit. I was talking to several people with US Day of Rage and Occupy Wall Street ahead of time and never heard anything about a permit.
How many organizations are represented there? We’ve heard US Day of Rage and Occupy Wall Street, of course…
US Day of Rage, yeah…there are some teamsters that talked about going down, but not representing teamsters…a UPS guy we talked to earlier was going to bring a bunch of his friends down. It’s a huge a cross section, to tell you the truth. There are so many libertarian and anarchist organizations…they’re so opposed to the idea of centralization or affiliating themselves with an organization, even if they belong to one, even they have a button with an acronym, they’re going to deny it.
The hacktivists are down here, Anonymous is down here in force, all over the place. The two names that you brought forth: Occupy Wall Street and US Day of Rage are the only ones that have identified themselves.
When you say Anonymous is there, do you mean people in masks?
They said they were going to arrest people in masks. When I said Anonymous is here, they identify as “anons,” they go by anon names like AnonNYC, Friendly Guy, something like that.
Having your name revealed and having your face exposed doesn’t bother you personally?
Oh no, I’m not [A]nonymous [whether he meant literally or the group, I’m not sure].
Part of being here is [the] carte blanche assertion that it’s our right [and] not only our right but our duty to be here. So no, I have no concern about revealing my identity.
This is the third day of occupation. How many people are left today from the initial on Saturday?
That’s hard to say…we’ve had change-outs. If I had to say, like, gross numbers…the most we had was 1200 [on Saturday], and now – it’s kind of hard to tell, there’s a lot of spectators, people blending in, taking pictures – but the park presence right is now [approximately] 300. [Note: this figure has varied drastically, but Ken assured me there were not, unfortunately, 50,000 people as one sourced claimed.]
Was there initial disappointment on Saturday when 20,000 people weren’t there, as Adbusters requested?
My group – the people I came with – we weren’t disappointed in the number of people. It’s something that we felt was going to be an aggregate effort anyway. If something was going to happen it would be people building up over the week. What was disappointing was that we found sort of an insistence on endless ad naseum creation of committee after committee. They were trying to decide things by consensus – we were having to define what consensus meant. I stepped away from the platform and walked down to Wall Street. Luckily they got around their need to spout rhetoric at each other and march down that day as well.
I wasn’t disappointed in numbers; I think I was just disappointed at the need to have this…
Bureaucracy. And that’s exactly what they’re protesting against.
Right. Old habits die hard.
Were the megaphone addresses, and later the “human megaphone” addresses, exhausting? Watching it was bittersweet as I wanted it to succeed, but there seemed to be a lot of people who wanted to talk at one time.
I got exhausted with the people that came forth. There aren’t an awful lot of people who needed to have their face out there, which was nice. But there was [one occupier] insisting that [they] were going to make these points, and we were like “no, when operating as a facilitator, you don’t come up and make points, you just facilitate the dialogue, and we’re not going to have any actionable dialogue if you insist on your agenda being put forth as the facilitator.”
I had trouble hearing, but they simply didn’t have the equipment [to amplify].
How did you end up at Occupy Wall Street? What’s your background?
I’m a researcher in genetics, but lately I’ve been working an awful lot in human rights. I got involved and founded Operation Asylum were we’re trying to find funding and general communication resources for some Libyan college students abroad who had lost their funding for an education when Gadafhi’s assets were frozen, which put their visas in jeopardy.
It happens a lot in war zones situations – when anyone has left the country and there’s an insurgency [they] are considered an enemy of the state when they come back. Either that or they’re forced into conscription…
I just became associated with a lot of human rights activists through that. I’ve been talking Alexa O’Brian of US Day of Rage and Occupy Wall Street, mostly through Twitter.
I’m not going to get really eschatological about revolution. I try not to do that. We’re not in a great situation for predictive analysis. [But] if nothing else, we’re at a point where we’re going to have sharp relief concerning where it is we stand with our government in comparison with corporations. They’re going to have to choose one or the other.
What’s the overall tone of the group now?
There has a been a great populist response for the most part, even from some of the police officers, although a girl just got arrested not too long ago for chalking. They picked her up and dragged her off. In general the populist has been great.
How long do you plan on staying there? Some are staying for months, right?
My girlfriend and I have a plane to catch on Tuesday, but right now it’s whatever…if we need to be here, we’ll be here. We don’t plan on being here any certain length of time.
They told us we can’t set up tents, no structure. My friend Sonya’s here, and her plans right now are to be here until we all meet up again in DC on October 6 for Occupy DC.
Are there any other misconceptions or myths that you want to dispel?
I’ve seen an awful lot said…I just want to say, explicitly, “no comment” to most of it. I’m not going to validate what amounts to trolling. You can quote me on that.
What’s a message to the rest of the world, or what we can do to help?
This is indeed very serious. This isn’t a bunch of kids who don’t like the conditions of their college loan. This is us facing our state, and demanding accountability. The promotion of the attitude that this is a very serious protest. This isn’t a flash mob, this isn’t a reality TV show. We are here to kill war.