Tag Archives: #OccupyWallStreet

The People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street

It’s day 24 of Occupy Wall Street 1 and the thousands of protesters there have been organizing themselves into pseudo governments and various working groups. 2 The place is turning into a petri-dish kind of accelerated model of semi-anarchic social planning. The coolest aspect of the new microsociety, however long it’s going to last, is the The People’s Library of #OccupyWallStreet.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/listentomyvoice/6215907949/in/pool-1820877@N22
The OWSL was started by an NYU library studies student setting out a pile of books – other protesters started adding books, found protection for the books from the weather, and (now) have made a catalogue of the books and are collecting donations. On the library’s blog, OWSL announced that a criminal justice attorney for a New York nonprofit offered her legal services to the library as it deals with the semi-sketch logistics of being an uncovered library located in a public park. The library has about 15 volunteers (described as “a mix of librarians and library enthusiasts”) and a barcode scanner.

According to their catalogue, the library has about 400 books, with about 50 donations per day coming for the last few days. OWSL’s catalogue includes kind of what is to be expected in the library of a strange semianarchy made up of people with too much time, from Reading Lolita in Tehran to The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Volunteers say that they’re having constant requests for copies of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. There are a few less expected titles in the catalogue, though, too, like Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement3 and Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

OWSL volunteers say that they do not discriminate when it comes to which books they put out – by nature of those donating, they have mostly liberal political and philosophical theory. But, one of the volunteers said, “if someone came with a truckload of Rush Limbaugh’s books, we’d put them out. We’re not opposed to having a dissenting voice.”4

One volunteer was asked to describe the library’s purpose: “People want to know, ‘What’s your agenda?’” he said. “Well, the status quo doesn’t have an agenda. Everyone here, in the aggregate, are people who feel disenfranchised and powerless. It’s perfectly legitimate to be frustrated. I don’t have a solution. I’m not an anarchist. I’m here because I love books.”

I'm not an anarchist. I'm here because I love books.

This attitude is what gives a sense of legitimacy to OWSL: its dedication to the availability of information in general, not just the forward movement of the protesters’ varying agendas. It’s admittedly heartening to see that one of the first things that develops in a group of people staying still for a while is a library. The agendas and decisions of the protest aside, let’s hope that the spirit of the indiscriminate availability of information and discourse remains in at least this aspect of the movement.

1 If you’re not terribly aware of what’s going on in NYC, and are interested in politics or social media or culture or anthropology or basically anything, read up on the Wiki page – for more laughs, read the .
2 For example: Sanitation, Food and Kitchen, Arts & Culture, Public Relations, Direct Action, Media Spokesperson Relations, Internet, Information, and “Peacemakers” [Security]. source: http://www.examiner.com/populist-in-long-island/night-and-day-life-at-occupy-wall-street
3 For substantial feelings of anger, horror, and loss of hope, Google the Quiverfull movement.
4 source:
http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/10/10/occupy-wall-street-their-own-mini-government-complete-with-library/#ixzz1aOZwBPAe

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#OccupyWallStreet: Protesting with Hashtags

So there’s about a thousand people protesting on Wall Street (ish) right now and I don’t really know exactly for what. The movement is #OccupyWallStreet and it started on September 17 and consists of about 1,000 (mostly) student-aged people (My official estimate of the demographic: I’m picturing literary references and lots of beards) just kind of hanging around the Wall Street area. Sometimes there are marches. People are sleeping in the park. People online are ordering pizzas to be delivered to the protesters. One girl took off her shirt.

You might want to know what people are actually protesting – that’s where things get more vague. Some advertisements speak of the need for One Demand, but nobody has decided what that demand is or should be or could be. Interviews with the protesters range from the idiotic to the informed, revealing mostly a mixture of the two (along the “I don’t know who my house representative is but I can tell you the percentage of the population that holds 50% of the wealth” line). The attitudes seem to be predominately socialist, or at least anti-capitalist, with lots of complaints alluding to the Bush tax cuts, the 2008 bank bailouts (if you don’t really know what those are about either, a good explanation by my friend Chris here.), and a lot of derogatory use of the word “corporations”.

An #OccupyWallStreet protester with an Anonymous mask and a hijab.

The whole situation is a strange crossover between internet networking and the real world – the Twitter support and piles of enthusiastic comments and exclamation all over the web have only translated to about 1,000 protesters at any time, and not even in the street the protest was planned for (the NYPD blocked off the key sections of Wall Street before any protesters got there). Online, however, the results are impressive (it’s kind of like looking at the Ron Paul campaign) – Anonymous, the 4chan-based hacker group with frightening amounts of power, is credited for much of the protest’s popularity.

It’s fascinating and kind of beautiful to watch – this is the first generation that grew up with the internet, and you can tell. Twitter-based protests are just called “protests” now. We are the generation that will use hashtags in our protest signs. It’s like old protests, but improved: we still have unconstructive platitudes, but at least some of them are ironic, dangit.

The coming-of-age of the first generation raised on the internet looks like this.

The use of the word “Occupy” in the title seems inaccurate, as if the protesters knew what they would do if they actually got control of the place. I’m imagining collages made with cut-up quarterly reports.

The thing is that Wall Street is now just as nonphysical as the organization of the protests – there’s not really much actual money to burn, anymore, and there aren’t safes full of the hoarded wealth of the rich. Significant money never really physically goes to Wall Street, or really anywhere – money is numbers in a computer and property value and stock value; it’s kind of hard to figure out where it actually exists.

The physicality of the protest is less impressive than its internet following and even seems a little incongruous – it’s like the event is being swallowed by its own abstractness; an internet-developed protest trying to cross the line of physical reality and occur in front of a physically symbolic place just doesn’t work out in the digital age.