By the time I infiltrated the drum circles and sing-alongs of Occupy Wall Street early this afternoon, there had already been reports of offshoot protests in more than 80 countries, including China, Japan, Indonesia, and England. The frightening mob violence in Rome, with flame-engulfed cars shown on every cable news channel, set an ominous tone for the day.
After all, Rome was just a satellite protest. The Occupy main event was set to be New York City’s Times Square.
I linked up with a contingent of Zuccotti Park Occupiers in Washington Square around 2:00PM. It was a leftist protest version of a tailgate party, with all the various factions joining together before the big Times Square event. Many of them tried to outdo one another for media attention. Lots of placards, lots of slogans, and endless interview soundbites for international journalists.
It felt like they were preparing for radicalism’s Super Bowl.
At this Washington Square protest pre-party, the litany of leftist causes was on full display. The disparate grievances, as the blaze has covered in the past, have only one commonality: strident progressivism.
If you are a leftist and want the international media to ask you questions and photograph your home-made signs, today was your big day. Whether you hate capitalism, the Tea Party, or just successful people in general, never before has it been so easy to be heard around the globe.
Wall Street “Fat Cats and Pigs”: The anti-bankster crew is a mainstay at all the Occupy protests. Class warfare is at the heart of the entire Occupy movement, so effigies of bankers and costumes of wall street pigs are standard fare.
Dazed and Confused College Kids: Also present from the beginning on September 17th, the college kids– most of whom just graduated and don’t have jobs– are among the most passionate, and most incoherent– of all the protest factions. I spoke with several today who were furious with banks about their student loan programs, but not the colleges and universities that set exorbitant prices.
Socialists/Communists/Anarchist: The storm troopers of the Occupy movement, the statists and anti-statists have linked arm-in-arm (literally) to bring down the system as we know it. Whenever I talk to these guys, they are quick to rail against capitalism. More than any other group, they openly call for the collapse of the financial system, the end of America as we know it, and the implementation of a marxist mobocracy.
In a poignant moment, a petite, sweater and nose-ring clad socialist woman handed me a pamphlet on Marxism, and told me that “occupation is not revolution. The revolution comes later.”
Free Palestine/ Divest Israel: There have been hints of anti-semitism at the protests over the past couple of weeks, and now the anti-Israel crowd has shown itself more openly. The connection between bank bail-outs and Palestine is non-existent, but of course anyone who dislikes Israel feels at home in the Occupy crowd.
Unions, Community Organizers: They kept a low-profile in the beginning, but now there are union signs and members sprinkled throughout every Occupy protest in NYC. They are helping organize the movement and teaching others how to wield mob power. These guys want their cut, and if the system comes down, they are organized and ready to throw their weight around to get it.
Obama’s Stealth Partisans: There were plenty of “pass the jobs bill” and “healthcare for all” signs at the rally. A group of white-coated protestors called “Physicians for a National Health Program” gathered and gave speeches about medical care as a basic human right.
The stealth partisans particularly interest me. The most obvious intellectual flaw in the entire Occupy movement is the deafening silence about Obama and the White House.It’s as if the protestors are fighting against a make-believe political party called “Evil Banksters.”
In reality, every single protestor I spoke to today, and the many other times I have visited with the Occupiers, voted for Barack Obama. What’s even more astounding is, they all seem to plan to vote for Barack again– at least the ones who want there to be another election. And that group is smaller than you might think.
Zombies, Provocateurs and Party Hopping Tourists: The zombie protestors mingled with the crowds today, as did Gucci and Prada-clad foreign tourists and neighborhood liberals looking for some action on a Saturday afternoon.
These are the people that you will often encounter who make Occupy seem innocuous. But they aren’t sleeping on the ground at Zuccotti Park, haven’t started clashes with police, and bring no strategic input to the movement. They are window dressing for the real revolutionary impulses that drive the crowd.
In any event, once I had chatted with the various leftist teams and heard their grievances, it was time to march. They strolled up 6th Avenue, all the way to Times Square. I hopped a subway.
I was waiting in Times Square as the march and the major crowds arrived. The protestors were in the thousands and spread out, so the tactics I had witnessed at past events– finger signals and human megaphones– were now useless. The protest stretched across Times Square and quickly filled up both sides of Broadway.
One of the most interesting visuals was a large model of a predator drone next to a sign that said “Jobs for All, Public Works Now.” There were other placards in the crowd that referred to predator drone terrorism.
Yet there was no criticism of the current administration, which has dramatically increased the scope of the drone program. The protestors were happy to rail against drones as though nobody in particular is in charge of them, while pushing a major component of the current Democrat party platform– infrastructure jobs spending.
There were no keynote speakers on podiums this time around. No talk of future plans for the movement or solutions. The chants were familiar– “We are the 99%,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Occupy everything.” Drum circles pounded their loudest to excite pockets of the massive crowd, and media swarmed everywhere. Ultimately, the gathering was meant more for the media than any one particular cause or group. Images of a packed Times Square were live-streamed all around the world. There may have been 80 others like it, but Times Square has a special symbolism for those who want to bring about global change.
As I left the protest, I snapped a quick photo on a side street of mounted NYPD officers. Later, I heard they were called into brief action, and a few arrests were made. All things considered, there were no major violent incidents this evening. But the NYPD knows that today is not the end of their troubles with Occupy Wall Street. Not by a long shot.
As I sat down to write about my experiences today, I could hear a group of protestors as they streamed down from Union Square. After spending all day with the Occupiers, it was as if they wouldn’t leave me alone.
“Whose streets?” they yelled.
“Our streets,” in answer, over and over again.
There has always been something militant and unnerving about a group that claims to speak for 99% of the population, and that owns public streets.
The truth is, they are not the 99%.They might not even be the 50%. They are more likely the 20%— which is the estimated number of Americans who self-identify as liberal.
But when they are confronted by that reality in the months ahead, I expect things to get ugly.
They will scream “we are peaceful” as they inflict their will upon others, and give us a taste of what their version of democracy really looks like.