All photos by Allison Kilkenny
On the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, hundreds of protesters gathered in Zuccotti Park to celebrate the group’s history, and also to lend solidarity to movements like that of the fast food workers who have been striking in cities all across the country.
In the morning, activists gathered in front of a McDonald’s down the block from Zuccotti in support of fast food workers, and to demand that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour.
Tony, an activist, said he attended the action because “we need work, we need jobs, we need better minimum wage for everyone.”
“No one can survive on $7.25,” protesters chanted outside the building, as NYPD officers flanked the McDonald’s entrance.
Police guard the McDonald’s entrance
“We are uniting with Fast Food Forward and calling for $15 (or more) and the workers’ rights to form a union without interference because we believe jobs should pay workers enough to afford food, clothing, and rent,” Occupy declared in a written statement. “Lifting wages will help bring more economic justice to workers and improve their quality of life and living standards. This will be the beginning of an independent and grass roots campaign to bring awareness to the plight of fast food and low wage workers in a city where nearly half of its residents live near or below poverty.”
Some protesters expressed frustration with organized labor’s lack of interest in supporting striking fast food workers. Activist Joshua Stephens said organizers couldn’t get the AFL-CIO to call them back regarding the fast food action, but the labor group did retweet updates from the event.
Caleb Maupin, an International Action Center organizer, was arrested during a couple Occupy Wall Street protests and participated in the original General Assemblies.
“I’m here because there’s a small group of very wealthy people who own the banks, the factories, the natural resources, and they have all the power,” said Maupin. “They have the government in their hands and we need to oppose that. We are the 99 percent. We sell our labor to survive. Right now, people desperately need jobs, they need employment.”
Maupin expressed concern over the US government’s priorities.
“The government is talking about another war, against Syria. We need to stand up for working people against the super-rich,” he said.
He added that he believes Occupy has established a lasting legacy and continues to serve as inspiration for people everywhere.
“People all across the country, and all across the world, saw what Occupy was doing, and and were inspired by it, and got the idea that they wanted to do something,” he said, adding that he believes resistance to economic injustice is growing, though the protests might not always occur under the Occupy banner.
“The basis of Occupy was the economic suffering going on. Young people don’t have jobs. The young people who do have jobs are making very low wages. And if you look at what’s happening in Spain and Greece, people say Occupy is over, but things like Occupy will continue to happen because people are upset, and until people have jobs and schools and things they did, there’s going to be unrest,” he said.
And there are lots of reasons to still be upset. The typical American family makes less than it did in 1989, and the poverty rate held steady at 15 percent in 2012, according to the latest numbers from the US Census Bureau.
Protesters consistently expressed distress that nothing has been done to address economic disparity and injustice, but they also marked the anniversary of Occupy by celebrating a movement that gave them support and purpose.
Journalist Chris Hedges joined the protesters at Zuccotti briefly to speak about the NDAA lawsuit he participated in (and won) in court, and to also offer encouragement to the activists.
“Any form of resistance is never futile,” he said to the crowd.
Bill Johnson, a popular Occupy activist, addressed the crowd at Zuccotti: “Two-and-a-half years ago, I lost my home to a legal system that does not believe in justice for all,” he said, and then described how he lost his second home during Hurricane Sandy.
“I’ll fight for justice until it kills me…. I used to think I was alone. I love you all,” he said.
In the afternoon, protesters marched around the financial district, and the NYPD responded by implementing a series of strange and seemingly arbitrary rules that acted to thwart many of Occupy’s most popular visual imagery. For example, officers declared that cardboard signs weren’t allowed in the park, and many activists expressed surprise at this new rule, since bringing cardboard in Zuccotti has never been a problem in the past (poles and physical structures are not permitted, but cardboard was permissible).
Officers also consistently told protesters they could not carry the Occupy Wall Street banner horizontally as they marched along the sidewalk because it “obstructed pedestrian traffic,” even though the presence of the banner has never previously been addressed.
Protesters were told to remove any masks (especially the popular Guy Fawkes masks), and while this isn’t a new demand by officers, the extent the NYPD went to enforce the rule certainly is. One activist was arrested simply for wearing a mask on top of his head, and not actually concealing his face.
Protester arrested for wearing a mask on top of his head
Occupy commemorated its anniversary by giving space to a whole host of issues, ranging from raising the minimum wage to ending evictions to investigating general public corruption.
The protest will cultivate this evening at Zuccotti Park for the Justice for the 99% Assembly.
Occupy Wall Street stated:
“On this great evening after a full day of action we also come together to share community, and rebuild not only a resistance movement, but a pro-active movement that seeks to re-create the commons, secure open space for all, and build a movement that speaks in the interests of the people over the corporations and their puppets.”
Allison Kilkenny has previously blogged about the legacy of Occupy Wall Street two years later.