The protests of #OccupyWallStreet in lower Manhattan are a refreshing break from the kabuki rituals that now pass for American democracy. Finally! Some unscripted reality of sovereign citizens exercising their freedoms of free speech and assembly, defying the tacit rules of the mainstream media and speaking from conviction, not tactical calculation. Like its kindred public protests in Cairo, Madrid and other cities, Occupy Wall Street finally broke through to mass consciousness via a citizen-posted video on YouTube that went viral. It showed the NYPD spraying mace on a peaceful, defenseless young woman confined by the cops in a pen of portable orange fencing.
The protesters have done a fantastic job of self-organizing their little community in Zucotti Park (formerly Liberty Plaza). As NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof reported yesterday, “The square is divided into a reception area, a media zone, a medical clinic, a library and a cafeteria. The protesters’ Web site includes links allowing supporters anywhere in the world to go online and order pizzas (vegan preferred) from a local pizzeria that delivers them to the square.” The protest is a stellar model of civic virtue and self-governance, proving once again the instinctive nature of commoning.
Now that the protests are spreading to Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, among other cities, we shall see if the political classes can contain the pent-up frustrations and resentments that have been ignored, indeed scorned, for the past three years. (Some Wall Street financial types reportedly drizzled champagne on the protesters from their office building windows.) While corporate profits soar after an unprecedented series of taxpayer bailouts, neither Obama nor Congress have strained themselves to help the millions of people victimized by the banks, oil companies, insurance industry, pharmaceutical industry and their corporate brethren.