On Thursday Night, Occupy Wall Street Felt Like 2011
Move over, drum circles--last night's march brought Occupy Wall Street into the 21st century.
Occupy Wall Street has been using the Internet since the very beginning, but when it came to the core occupiers' everyday tactics, they were stuck in a 1960s aesthetic—drum circles and dreds, rainbow knit caps and hemp necklaces.
On Thursday night, the tail end of the Day of Action celebrating OWS's two-month anniversary, the meeting place of those core members was gone. As a result, Occupy Wall Street moved into the 21st century.
I noticed the change right away as I approached Foley Square at around 4:45 p.m. I heard...was that hip hop? Yes, it was. It wasn't the best show I'd ever been to, but it was familiar and pleasant, a cross between The Roots and The Beatnuts. The chants were the same—All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!—but the flavor was different: distinctly young, distinctly now.
As we marched around the block and onto the Brooklyn Bridge, my friends and I were handed LED tea lights. We caught up with a brass band, all young hipsters in cute outfits adorned with green paint and glitter. They played classic protest songs like "Which side are you on?" with a funky twist. They played pop songs like "Bad Romance" and replaced the words with Occupy speak.
And then, halfway across the bridge, a deafening cheer erupted from the crowd. Everyone was pointing to the Verizon building, which had a gigantic "99%" projected onto it. "MIC CHECK!" the words demanded. "LOOK AROUND." The crowd began to read the speech in unison like one giant general assembly: "YOU ARE A PART...OF A GLOBAL UPRISING...WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE...ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE." And then, on the two-month anniversary of the movement: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY." The brass band broke out in an energetic rendition of the birthday song.
The Day of Action was fueled by Mayor Bloomberg's eviction of Zuccotti Park, but in some ways, the movement was better off without its home base. When the confrontational daytime tone morphed into jubilance, the Occupy Wall Street movement felt more 2011 than it had in its two months of existence. Music we know and love was in the mix. The candlelight cliché was updated with a glowstick vibe. Mark Read, the projectionist behind the "bat signal" (and the anti-Koch prank) wrangled a 12K lumen projector, the most powerful one you can get. The crowd was ethnically and generationally diverse, repping all different styles and shapes. Last night, it was clear we were no longer stealing protest techniques from a bygone era—we were creating our own.