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October 28, 2011

 

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.


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October 28, 2011

The Final Non-Violent Uprising

The Occupy Wall Street encampments in New York City and in Albany are terrifying the corporate parasites and their politicians

*Update* Noam Chomsky gets it right when he addresses the Boston encampment by human megaphone.

*Update* The Hearst-owned Times Union is trying to set up a local attorney as the media face of Occupy Albany so that they can use him to discredit the movement.

 

I am a conservative and thus disposed to find antidotes for the suicidal tendencies of the financial system - a disposition which, by an oft-noted inversion of language, earns a reputation as a radical.

Economist John Kenneth Gailbraith, 1961

Yes, of course, I’m thrilled to see the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) encampment down in New York City, and I am delighted by the patriots who are conducting their own occupation here in Albany. I was most impressed by the deliberations and careful preparations made by the Albany Occupiers before they established their encampment. I am also impressed by their hardiness and by their old-fashioned very American independence from authoritarian control.

Unlike most the rest of us, the Occupiers don’t need a TV set to tell them what to think and where to go. They have no leaders, everything is done by common consensus, yet their outdoor community functions at least as well as any pioneering colony planted in the wilderness. Like many others who don’t have the courage, I am filled with admiration for what they are doing.

And I am stunned that the local Albany police departments, staffed now by a new generation of younger much more competent cops, have definitely learned from the grave mistakes committed by the New York City Police, The local cops are attracting national notice for refusing to attack the Albany Occupation without provocation. To put it plainly, the local police are refusing to take the blame for the bad decisions of Baby Boomer politicians who are huddled trembling behind their “security checkpoints” issuing hysterical orders to attack.

Zuccotti Park In The Rain, October 2011
Zuccotti Park, NY City, In The Rain, October 2011

Yes, I am hopeful, but I fear this peaceful middle class uprising is too little too late. The wealthiest of the aristocrats, the so-called One Percent (more like the one thousandth of a percent) are currently in the process of systematically destroying our empire, the same empire that has provided them with vast riches. Lust for power and money generally makes even the most high-born people turn very, very stupid. Especially the high-born.

The most wealthy aristocrats have destroyed countless empires throughout history with their unrestrained greed. Is it now America’s turn to be destroyed by our own Corporate Elite? Is it reasonable to think that the occupations can save the rest of us from the depredations of the Elites? Can they save the Elites from themselves?

Wall Street Speculators Drink Champaign And Mock The Citizens Marching Below, Sept. 27 2011
Wall Street Speculators Drink Champaign And Mock The Citizens Marching Below, Sept. 27 2011

I am afraid that these Occupations are the last peaceful uprising before our nation violently commits suicide. I think that when the Elites panic, they will then bring home the military from the corporate wars in Asia to impose a terroristic corporate dictatorship upon our nation. That’s when the serious domestic violence will commence.

At this point in time I don’t see how the Corporate Elite can be stopped with peaceful actions by the middle class. But against all logic I remain hopeful. I know better than to give up.

Academy Park Encampment, First Morning
Academy Park Encampment, First Morning

About 10 AM Saturday morning October 22, The Wife and I went down to Academy Park in front of City Hall to see how the first night of the Albany encampment went. There were about 30 tents set up, and people were going about their morning business. The food table was loaded with breakfast and people casually helped themselves.

This first morning outdoors things were still being set up, but everything looked clean and orderly and people were well organized. This is what confounds the authorities the most, how the Occupiers function efficiently with no leaders and no controlling organization. Indeed, few things scare leaders more than citizens who don’t need leaders.

The day before, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, apparently frightened by the idea of politically uncontrollable hordes camping right outside of his door, declared that he would send State Troopers to arrest anybody who “trespassed” up the hill in Schuyler Park, which is owned by the State. To emphasize his irrational terror, the Governor publicly recommended that Albany mayor Jerry Jennings send the Albany Police to evict the encampment from Academy Park, which is owned by the City. Cuomo declared a deadline of 11 PM.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings And NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings And NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

But Albany Chief of Police Stephen Krokoff had already issued his own statement that morning, the first public figure to do so:

At this time I have no intention of assigning officers to monitor, watch, videotape or influence any behavior that is conducted by our citizens peacefully demonstrating in Academy Park. In the event we are required to respond to a crime in progress or a reported crime we will do so in the same manner that we do on a daily basis.

We are living in a new world where the Albany Chief of Police acts like a cop and not like a political toady. Jennings, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, lost control of the City police in September of 2009. His Majesty can no longer spit orders at the police and expect obedience, not without a protracted and politically debilitating public showdown.

Albany Chief Of Police Stephen Krokoff
Albany Chief Of Police Stephen Krokoff

But Jerry put His best face on it. He told the Hearst-owned Times Union, "I told my chief, 'Do what you have to do, don't violate First Amendment rights, but maintain safety... I said to my chief, 'Use your judgment.” His chief? I don’t think so. Now Cuomo knows that Jennings can’t command the police like He used to.

The story making the rounds at the Albany Occupation (“This place is one big rumor mill,” I was told) was that Friday night Jennings was getting systematically plastered at McGeary’s bar, muttering nonstop deprecations about the encampment and all the people involved. A person sitting nearby overheard and twittered some of His Majesty’s choicer snarls as they happened. (I am intentionally withholding identifying details.)

By Monday morning it was reported that the State Police were signaling reluctance to attack the Occupiers. I have word from an informed source that the Albany County Sheriffs are quietly declining to stage an attack. As if that weren’t enough, Albany County District Attorney David Soares went on the Keith Olbermann TV show to explain why he did not intend to prosecute any of the Occupiers for trespassing.

Breakfast At Academy Park
Breakfast At Academy Park

Basically the local police understand that they are not the target of the Occupiers. Our cops do not intend to become stand-ins for the aristocrats and their politicians. Clearly our locals are smarter than the NYC cops, and certainly a whole lot smarter than the Oakland, California police, who have proved themselves to be nothing more than thugs in uniform.

The Occupiers had stayed up late the first night. A fair sized crowd of supporters, including six members of City of Albany Common Council, stood with the Occupiers in solidarity waiting well past 11 PM for the threatened invasion. That’s why many of the Occupiers were just emerging from their tents at 10 AM on Saturday, it was a late night. But fortunately no attack came, no one had been hurt or arrested.

Corporate Content Providers Interview An Occupier
Corporate Content Providers Interview An Occupier

Most of the Occupiers are young and white, but not all. I saw a few black folks and believe it or not several younger Baby Boomers also slept out overnight. But night time temperatures are dropping, as they do this time of year. I expect that by late November we will see only the hardiest young folks continuing the occupation.

The Wife and I were nearly the first solidarity tourists to arrive at the encampment Saturday morning, eventually other sympathetic tourists showed up. Three of the TV stations showed up along with some print reporters. To my surprise, these corporate content providers acted low key and respectful.

I was impressed by the dedication of some of these folks, that’s why I think the Occupation will last into winter. More than a thousand communities across the country (!) have occupations like this right now, Albany is kind of late getting on the democracy train. But the folks involved have soberly prepared for this and learned from others, certainly there was plenty of discussion at the “General Assemblies” at Grand Street community Arts (GSCA) these past three Sunday afternoons.

Occupiers And Supporters Along Washington Avenue
Occupiers And Supporters Along Washington Avenue

On Saturday evening a probably bogus rumor went around Academy Park that Governor Cuomo was stepping up the pressure on Jennings to lean on “His police chief” to evict the Occupiers. It didn’t happen, but a call went out for supporters to stand with the encampment. The Wife was ferried down to the encampment by our Common Council member, she guessed that maybe several hundred people had turned out.

During that solidarity support visit, she witnessed an extraordinary example of how the Occupiers prepared for the Occupation. A couple of jerks patronizing the downtown Albany Beer Improvement District (BID) apparently had drunk themselves into a pro-corporate frenzy and decided to stagger uphill to the encampment and start a fight.

As The Wife described it, the two drunks targeted some modest fellow standing along Washington Avenue holding a homemade sign, verbally picking on him and threatening to assault him. One of them grabbed his sign. That’s about when a number of large males from the encampment drifted over and quietly surrounded both of the drunks.

Bathroom Location Map
Bathroom Location Map

Being tough guy corporatists the drunks couldn’t stand to be surrounded by wimpy liberals, so one of them threw a punch. Almost instantly the large males pushed their bodies close to the drunks so that they were immobile. Then the large males moved the drunks down the sidewalk toward City Hall where a police patrol car was stationed.

The Wife was amazed that as the body masses moved down the sidewalk she could not even glimpse the drunks inside their escorts. Finally she saw the drunks being warmly interviewed by the cops. (They were not arrested.) As you can see, the Occupiers are so well prepared for this encampment that they even know how to effectively maintain security without weapons and without outside control.

Third General Assembly At Grand Street Community Arts (GSCA)
Third General Assembly At Grand Street Community Arts (GSCA)

Among the preparations for this encampment, along with the aforementioned General Assemblies at GSCA, there were several preliminary public actions in Albany.

The second Sunday of this past October, a gorgeous late afternoon, The Wife and I were driving back home with our personal watercraft on top of the car. We had put in at Lansingburg north of Troy, and had paddled the short distance across the water to the Waterford Farmer’s Market which happens every Sunday in the warm months. The market has been a little sparse of vendors since the waterfront was wrecked by the two recent hurricanes, but that didn’t stop us from buying a bunch of stuff from the handful of farmers and entrepreneurs.

Anyway, as we drove up Morton Avenue we could see a lively march coming down the sidewalk past the row houses. “We’re the 99 percent!” they shouted. Indeed, that’s what the various OWS groups around the country are calling themselves, The 99 Percent.

Pre-Occupation March Down Morton Avenue
Pre-Occupation March Down Morton Avenue

Personally, I think they are being generous by symbolically including the unsympathetic Upper Middle Class among their ranks. After all, the Upper Middle Class are among the few Americans who have been lucky enough to receive “trickle down” benefits from the recent massive subsidies that have been given to the Elite One Percent. These Upper Middle wannabe elites don’t appear to be interested in joining the OWS movement.

Of course, if things continue the way they have been going, then the Upper Middle Class will also eventually be disenfranchised from political and economic privileges once the Elite One Percent has no more use for them. But most of them don’t know that yet. I talk to them enough. Right now they’re too busy rereading Ayn Rand and snickering at us lesser income folks to think about anything besides their own social status.

(Incidentally, I’ve written a sequel to Atlas Shrugged, here it is in it’s entirety. “Chapter One: All the farmers went on strike and soon there was no more food. John Galt starved to death. The End.” These upper middle class wannabe elites ought to put down their dumbass Ayn Rand while they still can and read the Grimm Fairy Tale, “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg.” Or maybe the prophetic tale “Yertle The Turtle” by Dr. Suess. Yertle was not the only turtle who landed face down in the swamp when Mac sneezed.)

March Down Morton Avenue
March Down Morton Avenue

But I digress. About 40 boisterous people marched down the sidewalk, mostly white and most in their 20s. Some had babies in tow, and there were a handful of oldsters among them. Some had signs, and one woman had a big paper mache mask, but she acted too shy to show it off for my camera. The guy with the megaphone jumped around enthusiastically.

“Join us!” the white folks hollered at the mostly black folks sitting or walking in front of the buildings on lower Morton Avenue. Ever since the biggest slum properties along there have been de-privatized and subsequently renovated, people now feel secure enough to sit outside along the sidewalk when the sun shines. But none of the neighbors were inclined to get up and follow after the middle class white folks, they smiled and nodded and watched them after they passed by.

I would have been surprised to see anyone along Morton Avenue stand up and march with these aliens visiting from the other side of Lincoln Park. Many of my neighbors in the South End have lived so far from prosperity for so long that white middle class rebellion against Wall Street means absolutely nothing to them. But the 99 Percenters from the other side of the park deserve credit for at least attempting to cross the strict class and racial divide.

Zuccotti Park, October 2011
Zuccotti Park, October 2011

On October 14 The Wife went down to The Big City to see the real thing, the encampment at Zuccotti Park. She was doing what a lot of people are doing, playing solidarity tourist for a few hours on a sunny Friday afternoon in Manhattan. Indeed, she reported that all the restaurants and other small businesses within walking distance of the park were doing a tremendous amount of business. (Note: The Occupiers have restored the original name Liberty Park, I use Zuccotti here for clarity.)

Again, it should come as no surprise that most of the long-term Occupiers of Zuccotti Park are in their 20s and healthy. Us old folks, accustomed as we are to climate controlled interiors, are incapable of dealing with such mild privation. Not only are we oldsters too lazy to fight for our country, we would all wilt and freeze like fat petunias if we were forced to sleep outdoors for a few days.

Zuccotti Park is quite small for all the fuss, a triangular park bordered on all three sides by roadways. It’s like Thompson Park in Albany and not much bigger. The park is actually two blocks from Wall Street itself, jammed between the Financial District and the ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site (now misnamed “Freedom Plaza.”) It’s the only greenspace down there, the one living thing in a vast cemetery of concrete buildings. But it’s close enough to annoy the right sort of persons.

Media Trucks Alongside Zuccotti Park

Media Trucks Alongside Zuccotti Park

According to The Wife, the two longer streets bordering the park are closed to vehicular traffic. The long street on one side is lined with police vehicles arranged to look like they are ready to attack. The other long street is lined with media trucks apparently all corporate media. The short street borders on a main thoroughfare and remains open to auto traffic.

The crowded park is surrounded by portable metal barriers with cops stationed menacingly along it. However there are openings in the fence so that The Wife had no trouble going in and out. None of the cops tried to stop her or any other solidarity tourists from taking pictures.

She reported that despite periodic invasions by the police to disrupt their organization and “confiscate” their belongings, the Zuccotti Occupiers have been innovative as they repeatedly rebuild the encampment. She saw a medical tent, a library, and a very organized food distribution system. She saw donations of food, clothing and blankets arrive that were being sent by nearby restaurants and supporters to make up for the police confiscation's.

Occupation Supporters In Zuccotti Park

Occupation Supporters In Zuccotti Park

She was most impressed by the Human Megaphone. Sound systems are strictly verboten by the authorities, so the Occupiers have had to improvise. It works like this. The speaker will state a short phrase, and then the entire crowd will repeat that phrase. The phrase travels back through the crowd, and when it has reached the far back of the crowd, the speaker will then say his or her next phrase which the crowd will repeat.

Eventually the entire speech is heard clearly. Believe it or not, it works very well. Some of the Human Megaphone speeches have been broadcast on Democracy Now! this past month. Also, it was interesting to watch the Albany Occupiers practice their Human Megaphone skills on that first Saturday.

I’ve come to see that what makes the Occupiers a force to be reckoned with is their self-sufficiency. They are demonstrating that they can make do with what they can find, and that they are not dependent on officially sanctioned services. They can and will take care of themselves, thus they can practice political independence.

Police Vehicles Along Zuccotti Park

Police Vehicles Along Zuccotti Park

The Long Island boys wearing NYC Police uniforms appear to be baffled and frustrated by the occupation of Zuccotti Park. They want to invade the park and start beating heads, but every time they do so a video goes out on the internet of the assault and the offending officers end up facing approbation and suspension. Confusion and contradictory orders from mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is clearly frightened half out of his aristocratic wits, aren’t helping.

The problem for Bloomberg is that The Whole World Is Watching very closely, and there is no way to suppress the flow of information out of Zuccotti Park without igniting public and possibly legal condemnation. You see, perhaps the biggest reason why the Elite One Percent has gotten away with looting away our country’s wealth these past 30 years is because thanks to the corporate media monopoly on information hardly anyone has been watching. But now everyone is.

By my count, it took the local Albany corporate media 18 days before they made their first mentions of the Zuccotti Park occupation. It makes me wonder what all that media equipment sitting on one side of Zuccotti Park is being used for. Their information suppression failed because of instant reporting by the corporate media’s competitor, the internet.

The Library At Zuccotti Park

The Library At Zuccotti Park

Naturally, once the corporate media has reluctantly caught up with the internet, they’ve been struggling to spin negatives that stick. But so far they can’t seem to get a handle on how to discredit the occupation of Zuccotti Park. Let’s look at some of the routines they’ve been floating.

1) The Occupiers Are Anonymous Terrorists The standard line got dropped early on as information about the middle class nature of the occupation got out.

2) The Occupiers Are Dilettante Rich Kids This line from the owners of the corporate media, who themselves are the real dilettante rich kids.

3) The Occupiers Are Violent Anarchists Except they’re very peaceful. The Associated Press (AP) put out an obviously staged photo of a “protester attacking the police.” It landed on the front page of the Daily Gazette as straight news.

4) The Occupiers Are “Wannabe Tea Partiers” The line promoted by that silly little twit George Will. He says that these grassroots anti-corporate Americans really want to become astroturf pro-corporate Teabaggers. Yes, that makes sense but only if you watch a lot of TV.

5) The Occupiers Are Not Tough Enough “How long can they last?” was a hopeful local newspaper headline the other week. We will see fewer Occupiers as the weather turns bad to worse, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a dedicated hard core camps out until spring.

6) The Occupiers “Don’t Know What They Want.”

This last is what the Voice of the Corporations has settled on by default. Actually, what the Occupiers want is obvious and discernible at a glance, they want an end to a sick system that rewards the corporate rich and hurts the American people. And they want what they call Democracy, that is, access by consensus to all decision making. Only the blindest ideological idiot is incapable of seeing that.

Zuccotti Park NYC October 2011: Like An Ongoing Festival

Zuccotti Park NYC October 2011: Like An Ongoing Festival

The corporate media has been baffled by the lack of an ideological agenda on the part of the Occupiers that they can twist out of shape, twisted until it becomes a parody of itself. Nor are there any controlling leaders of the occupations that they can set up and then destroy with slanders. The Occupiers are too savvy to help the corporate media pull their standard tricks.

Indeed, that is the other thing that terrifies the corporate media owners about the occupations, that such a large number of news worthy people no longer take their corporate propaganda seriously. These are not a bunch of Teabaggers who obediently repeat the lies they are told by their TVs. These are Americans, true liberals who take personal responsibility for the community in which they live.

Signs At Zuccotti Park In Manhattan: Makes Sense To Me

Signs At Zuccotti Park In Manhattan: Makes Sense To Me

The situation today is not the same as with the Liberal Revolution of 1776, when the high low and middle economic classes were united against the common foreign enemy. Today the enemy is internal, the same enemy of civilization that has risen again and again throughout history. It is the greedy rich who turn on their own people. They steal from their own empire until the empire is impoverished.

But once everyone's wealth is stolen by the aristocrats, all of the things that made the empire great and powerful are also gone. Soon even the military disintegrates. By the time the barbarians show up at the gates there is nothing left to defend and no one willing to fight. That’s when the empire falls.

From Portland, Oregon to Wall Street Occupy America!

 

Thus I am not filled with boundless optimism by the occupations. But at least some patriots still care about our nation enough to try to set things right. So we should all support the Occupiers in Albany, NYC and everywhere else across our country, support that includes donations of food, clothes and blankets. Especially blankets, I’ve been told.

All us lazy old folks should be grateful that these young folks are putting their bodies out on the street for the rest of us. They are doing the sorts of things us Baby Boomers should have been doing decades ago if only we weren’t so self-centered and easily distracted. The Occupiers are our proxies whether we know it or not. Let’s do what we can to help them get through the winter.

 

All photos of Zuccotti Park by The Wife


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Comments:
If you are having difficulties posting a comment, please email Daniel Van Riper. We are experimenting with our spam filters, and we do not want to exclude any legitimate commenters, just spammers!


Posted by:Roger Green
Posted on:10/29/2011
Comments:
Great reportage.
I will say that George Will has gotten sillier over time, and more irrelevant, even to conservatives.


Posted by:Roger Green
Posted on:10/29/2011
Comments:
In fact I mentioned this piece, and your wife, here: http://blog.timesunion.com/rogergreen/lynne-and-dan/2487/


Posted by:Barbara
Posted on:10/29/2011
Comments:
You forgot another negative by the corporate media - the protestors smell bad. I am a little shocked at how many people up here repeat this corporate propaganda, because you can't tell what people smell like from looking at pictures.
Anyway, you can be poorly groomed (which I don't think the protestors are) and still be right.
Cuomo doesn't want issues from his past which the corporate media buried for him coming back to bite him on the butt. Wasn't he attorney general when this lawlessness was taking place? And he's concerned about tresspassing in a park?
My parents worked hard all their lives and aren't living as well in their retirement as they should be able to, because their careful investments were affected by the financial meltdown. These protestors are doing us a favor, but some of us are to dumb to realize it.


Posted by:GH
Posted on:10/29/2011
Comments:
Every time I hear people accuse the occupiers of not knowing what they want, or not having clear goals, my answer is "so"? These are kids who largely played by the rules, went to college, now they're out, mired in debt and can't find work. Why? Because overqualified jerks like me are "occupying" the jobs that they might otherwise get, just to get their foot in the door in corporate drone America, like their parents did. Our whole system failed them, and if their answer to that is to roll their own economy/society --- who can really blame them? It gives me some faith in humanity, and I agree that we should do all we can to support them.
I fear I may agree with your assessment that in some ways, it's too little too late. But I hope I'm wrong.


Posted by:Heckler
Posted on:12/29/2011
Comments:
Heh.

When's your article about the Hearst-fueled conspiracy to make Mr. Mishler and his common council stooges the figureheads of Occupy Albany coming out?


Posted by:Dan Van Riper
Posted on:12/29/2011
Comments:
Heckler - You mean, when will I discuss how the corporate media creates scapegoats that it then uses to promote falsehoods? Stay tuned... or read the archives.


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