In a last minute switch from the proposed 11-11-11 Central Park rally, Occupy Veterans gathered a few block from Zuccotti Park to rail against the wars, Wall Street, and discuss plans for their 'Spring 2012 Offensive.'
For reasons that were not entirely clear to the crowd, Occupy organizers pulled the plug on the Central Park Occupation at the eleventh hour. They switched the Occupy Veterans rally to the more familiar ground of Foley Square in lower Manhattan, just a few blocks away from Zuccotti Park.
When I arrived at what was now the Foley Square Veterans Day rally, an Occupy organizer took to the podium to share stories about his struggle to get the proper parks department permits, and worked in some more personal observations like "I need my goddamned food stamps."
Below is a video of the rant describing why Occupy Central Park rally was dropped and moved to Foley Square:
Still, it was obvious that word had not gotten around to everyone about the venue switch. Only about 150 protestors were gathered in front of a podium that had large electronic speakers set up. For the first time at an Occupy rally in weeks, I wasn't subjected to the human microphone process. In fact, the organizers took full advantage of their amplified sound permit for the rally and let 70-year-old Woodstock and Vietnam Protest icon Joan Baez take the stage.
Below is a video I took of Baez performing "Where's my Applie Pie?":
Soon after this Woodstock revival moment, a community organizer for a group called "Occupy the Land" discussed his groups plan in the future to wage a a campaign of organized squatting and eviction prevention through protest action. The speaker called housing a "human right," and made the following claims in his speech:
"When we move people into vacant and government owned and foreclosed homes, we do eviction defenses to physically block police… the banks are occupying our homes, we are liberating them for human beings to use… advancing the human right to housing. Housing is a fundamental human right, if corporations want to make their profit, people can't have a place to live...the human right to housing supersedes the right of corporations to make a profit."
Most interestingly, the speaker closed with plans to organize Occupiers over the winter for a "Spring 2012 Offensive" to "take back the land" from the banks.
Below is a video covering most of the community organizer's speech:
There were several Occupy Veterans that also took to the stage, including Sgt. Shamar Thomas. They stated their support for the Occupy movement and expressed their grievances against the "1%" that they believe start and benefit from all current conflicts. Veterans spoke about the global nature of the Occupy movement, and demanded more action to help the "99%" in the months ahead.
To me the whole affair felt distinctly small, not just in size, but enthusiasm and message. Veterans Day is about honoring and remembering those who have served this country and fought in our wars. Even apart from the leftist politics, any event on Veterans day that features community organizers and singers praising Tahrir square seems off key.
And with gusting winds and dropping temperatures, the crowd left me with the sense that Occupy Wall Street is losing momentum. There have been a series of violent incidents at Occupations across the country that the Occupiers cannot blame on police.
For the first time, I have started to think that perhaps the Occupiers will only have a token presence at Zuccotti Park through the winter months and go into a state of protest hibernation, only to surge back and push the movement more than ever in the Spring-- just in time for the Presidential election.
I left Foley Square before the Veteran Occupiers marched back to Zuccotti-- you can see photos here--- but my mind was mostly focused on what I had missed that day. Just two miles from where I was standing, a much more suitable tribute occurred to those who have fought and died for this country.
The 11-11-11 Veterans Day Parade.