During the long winter months, Occupy protesters kept reassuring those of us in the media still covering their actions that the spring would prove to be a time of resurgence for Occupy Wall Street. If the “Spring Awakening” meet-up at Central Park this past weekend is any indication of future turnouts, OWS organizers may be correct in their predictions.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at New York City’s most famous park, an inspired location that placed Occupy in the heart of tourist alley, guaranteeing the group’s activities attracted the attention of curious passersby.
Two women walking by the “People’s Assembly” that took place during the tail end of the day’s festivities were heard remarking, “That’s the group that occupies shit”—a not entirely inaccurate statement.
“Today is about coming together in a space that’s going to allow us to be less confrontational than we often are downtown and kind of bond, and also engage the Saturday, Central Park–going public,” said Scott, an OWS protester.
That “confrontational” nature, some might argue, is what makes Occupy a unique protest movement, but Scott isn’t concerned about the group becoming too passive.
“Occupy is more confrontational than ever,” he said, citing the “sleepful protests” currently taking place in the financial district. “Zuccotti was great, but it was a little bit off the beaten path. Being on Nassau Street all day, what happens there is Occupiers talking to bankers and tourists witnessing those conversations, and that’s what needs to happen.”
Occupy’s Spring Awakening was used as a space to allow protesters to plan for the future and to “come together to unite organizations, activists, and others to create a transformative, citywide, mass movement,” according to the event pamphlet.
Organizers propped up a chalk board at the base of a grassy slope and wrote out a detailed schedule of the day’s events. Meetings and teach-ins were marked with letters of the alphabet and groups gathered around flags branded with their respective letters.
I attended the healthcare talk where individuals shared their tales of insurance (or lack of insurance) woes.
Jennifer, 44, a freelancer, said she never had health insurance. One morning, she woke up in extraordinary pain, but fearful of being buried in debt should she venture to the hospital, she remained curled up on the floor of her boyfriend’s apartment for three days, unable to move.
Finally, realizing the pain was not going to subside on its own, she managed to get into a taxi and get to the hospital. Final diagnosis: a herniated disk, a completely treatable ailment that shouldn’t have ended up costing as much as it ultimately did, but because Jennifer waited so long to get to the hospital, the treatment ended up being much more complicated.
Emergency surgery cost her $50,000.
David, 48, said he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in third grade, but was never able to get insurance before the Affordable Care Act because his Crohn’s is considered a pre-existing condition.
A young medical student shared a story about treating an 11-year-old having an asthma attack because her father couldn’t afford her inhaler.
But commiserating and bonding over the reality of crushing debt and an insane privatized health care industry that provides neither health nor care were only a sliver of the day’s events. Serious planning for Occupy’s future occurred later in the evening after the People’s Assembly (Occupiers were very careful not to call it a “General Assembly,” as no voting took place).
Upcoming foreclosure auction blockades are planned in several New York City boroughs, including this afternoon in the Bronx, Brooklyn on April 19, and Queens on April 20, which is also #A20, or “the Great Meeting,” at Union Square Park, when organizers hope “the outdoor public assembly” will make a return.
The single-payer movement continues to have a huge presence at Occupy events and Health Care Now NYC advertised “petitioner training” scheduled for April 21.
ACT UP and Occupy are partnering for a day of action April 25 to commemorate the direct action advocacy group’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
And of course, there were constant reminders about May 1, the so-called “General Strike” nationwide actions that Occupiers are anticipating will steal headlines as the movement first did back in the fall.