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A New Place to Call Occupied: A Report from an Occupied Union Square

A New Place to Call Occupied:  A Report from an Occupied Union Square
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OCCUPIED UNION SQUARE, NY – Four NYC Parks Enforcement officers stand on the outskirts of the sidewalk as the low rhythm of hand drums blend with a smooth Jazz saxophone. The crowd, about 300 strong, is relaxed and chatting. It feels like the old days again. As I walk amongst the crowd, familiar faces and new smiles greet me and I decide to sit and chat.

The now infamous yellow Occupy Wall Street banner, designed to replicate caution tape hangs high and proud over a group of occupiers. Pillows, blankets, brothers and sisters converge under its framework. Telling stories of the long winter, countless hours spent laying the groundwork for what is set to be a monumental spring, our humble beginnings in lower Manhattan and how much farther we must travel on our journey. Food donations have already begun pouring in only reinforcing that feeling of nostalgia. The spirit of the Occupy Movement that seemed all but lost not long ago has burst back to life since the six-month anniversary and subsequent raid. It feels like coming home.

In speaking with some friends I learn that OWS has once again found ourselves a loophole. We are quite resourceful for “dirty hippies”.  Our latest occupation, now in day three,  is allowed to stay for some very interesting reasons. Union Square Park is patrolled by Park Rangers or Parks Enforcement Officers during hours of operation. This means the police have no jurisdiction over the park unless Park Rangers call them in to handle a situation AFTER the park closes at midnight. Ironically, the exterior of the park, where we have set up camp, is mandated to remain open 24 hours as a major subway station is located in the square. However, the NYPD can’t enforce anything other than open flame/noise violations or the congregation of more than 25 people having a single conversation (thank you NDAA ) because the Park Rangers go off duty at midnight. It’s almost poetic justice. As I continue to scan the perimeter I see a few “white shirts” and the occasional patrol officer but as before they remain removed. No barricades or wrist band clad monsters lurking, not a single mainstream media source in sight.

As the evening continued rather than the numbers dwindling, the crowd seemed to have increased, spreading itself out along the south side of the square, mindful to remain in small groups to protect the occupation. We played sports, sang, danced—spring training in full effect. Sidewalk chalk turned the once gray paving stones of Union Square into a canvas reminiscent of just a few days earlier in our “starter home” as remnants of the once sprawling OWS Library are set up on a staircase.  Six months and two evictions later it seems we have a new place to call Occupied.

A relatively uneventful evening progressed at the new home of Occupy Wall Street and I decided it was time for me to depart. I had to work very early but promised friends, old and new, I would be back tomorrow.  My faith in Occupy and my brothers and sisters continues to be renewed with each action I attend. As I sat down on the subway for my short trip back to Brooklyn a smile comes across my face.  I take a huge bite from my fresh boston crème donut, courtesy of The Peoples Kitchen and hum to myself, “this occupation is not leaving!”

-Nicole Pace-

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3 Responses to “A New Place to Call Occupied: A Report from an Occupied Union Square”

  1. Cory Panshin says:

    Union Square has a marvelously rich history of radicalism and free speech:

    It became a civic center for the city’s left, as well its working class and immigrants. Union Sq. was home to the Communist Party’s national headquarters, the radical Yiddish newspaper Freiheit and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. . . .

    For decades before, however, Union Sq. had already been known as the city’s “Speaker’s Corner.” On Sept. 5, 1882, 25,000 marchers gathered in support of an eight-hour workday and a ban on child labor in what became America’s first Labor Day parade. Through the first half of the 20th century, Union Sq. continued to be the scene of myriad demonstrations — and frequent clashes with police.

    One of the most significant riots was on March 6, 1930, when a demonstration against unemployment turned into a free-for-all after the police prevented protestors from marching down to City Hall. The melee, which was immortalized in a famous 1947 painting by Peter Hopkins, resulted in 100 injuries, 13 arrests and pressure on city officials to allow freedom of assembly in the square. . . .

    “The square was the one spot where people could talk about anarchism or communism and not go to jail. Every society needs at least one spot like that,” said Alfred Pommer, owner of New York City Cultural Walking Tours and a student of U.S. labor history. “What started as a union of roadways became, symbolically, a good place for people to unite.”

    In one memorable incident, Emma Goldman was arrested for a speech she gave there and charged with inciting to riot:

    When the Panic of 1893 struck in the following year, the United States suffered one of its worst economic crises ever. By year’s end, the unemployment rate was higher than twenty percent, and “hunger demonstrations” sometimes gave way to riots. Goldman began speaking to crowds of frustrated men and women in New York. On August 21, she spoke to a crowd of nearly 3,000 people in Union Square, where she encouraged unemployed workers to take immediate action. Her exact words are unclear: undercover agents insist she ordered the crowd to “take everything … by force”, while Goldman later recounted this message: “Well then, demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both, take bread.” . . .

    A week later she was arrested in Philadelphia and returned to New York City for trial, charged with “inciting to riot”. During the train ride, Jacobs offered to drop the charges against her if she would inform on other radicals in the area. She responded by throwing a glass of ice water in his face. . . .

    The assistant District Attorney questioned Goldman about her anarchism, as well as her atheism; the judge spoke of her as “a dangerous woman”. She was sentenced to one year in the Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary. . . . When she was released after ten months, a raucous crowd of nearly three thousand people greeted her at the Thalia Theater in New York City. She soon became swamped with requests for interviews and lectures.

  2. Cory Panshin says:

    I didn’t get the link for the first of those quotes entered properly. It should go here.

  3. Heike says:

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    i am reading this wonderful informative piece of writing
    here at my home.

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