Occupy Wall Street has always had cutting edge gadgets and tech-savvy activists. Expensive Apple products were a signature of the movement from the start of the Zuccotti Park Occupation on September 17th, 2011.
But now Occupy has stepped up its digital game from laptops and webcams to a full-fledged "tactical propaganda vehicle." It made its inaugural voyage around New York City last weekend.
Occupiers are calling it the "Illuminator." Perhaps a more fitting description would be "the Occupy-Mobile," as the OWS crowd is taking a few cues from the caped crusader for their mission.
It has its own Batman symbol -- a floodlight that can project "99%" on any city wall, anywhere, anytime. The first time the signal appeared was this past November 17th, but now it is part of an integrated media system in a van specially tricked out for the purpose.
According to its webpage, its mission is to "smash the myths of the information industry and shine a light on the urgent issues of our time." On its first night out, it apparently made quite a splash:
"Illuminator... rolled around NYC for 4 hours creating spectacles, first, at Liberty Square where we were greeted by three anxious cops. We... opened up The People’s Library, the bat signal shining bright across the surrounding buildings. After a brief but exciting first run, we packed up and moved uptown to The Whitney, where an expansive flat wall awaited our video projector’s presence. Passersby stopped to take video and photographs, but we couldn’t open the library as it was facing out into the busy street."
The Occupy-Mobile has had plenty of expert help. Mark Read, the activist/artist behind the Bat Signal, told fast coexist.com that:
“We had to buy a 1,500-watt inverter and a huge deep-cell marine battery in order to power the projector because it draws 1,000 watts. Essentially, we had to reconfigure the entire electrical system of the van. Christopher Hackett, the founder of The Madagascar Institute--which has a 15-year history of doing DIY, dangerous art spectacles--took the lead on all that.”
So why, you ask, is Read so invested in this project?
“I’m doing this for a lot of reasons. To [let] people know that that the occupy movement is alive and kicking,” Read said. “The mainstream media on the whole tends to either ignore the very meaningful work that occupy activists continue to do, denigrate the movement as unfocussed, or demonize it as a bunch as violent anarchists."
It seem Occupy is prepared not just for an end-run on traditional media, but all media and is creating its own media wing. Which begs the question, in preparation for what?
The internet is already abuzz with stories of the "American Spring" that is coming. Major proposed targets of the Occupiers include the G-8 and NATO summits, and the Democratic National Convention. There are even rumors of a 20,000 person "re-occupation" of Wall Street planned for this fall.
Even if it had a small fraction of that number, another coordinated direct action on Wall Street would be timed for maximum media and political impact, as it would be at the height of the Presidential race.
Occupy Wall Street, it seems, is just getting started.
In the mean time, you can watch a video of the Illuminator's maiden voyage here, via YouTube: