This past weekend, I ventured down to Zuccotti Park in New York to check out the Occupy Wall Street movement first-hand. I've seen it on TV and have certainly read about it via different channels on the Internet, but it's always good to see things first-hand before building an opinion or making any kind of statement.
After spending an hour or so down at Zuccotti Park, I can firmly state the following:
I have no idea what the heck is going on down there.
The funny thing is, I don't think many of the folks down there know what's going on, or even why they are down there.
My trip to Zuccotti Park started from Carmine Street around 10am. Ok, I was at a bar at 7am watching Liverpool / Manchester United duke it out.
Off topic: Mr. Dennehy's is great for watching matches.
I walked down Varick from Carmine and took in the sights and sounds heading towards the World Trade Center. Mostly tourists and shopkeepers - not a whole lot of activity for a Saturday morning.
I followed my digital compass / map and as I turned the corner, the park was right in front of me, filled with all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. There were folks making signs. Amateur reporters poking around. Bewildered tourists. And police. Lots and lots of police. With more police arriving (I saw three NYPD vans screaming down Broadway on my walk back uptown.)
I'll be honest, my first thought was "Oh dear: Haight Street". Or, there's that stretch between Santa Monica and Venice Beach where folks are selling their wares.
The only differences were these folks seemed to be smashed into a rectangular area, and the police were watching them closely. Very closely.
An aside: Ever been to Haight Street in San Francisco near the entrance to Golden Gate Park? In front of the Amoeba Records store is an interesting mix of kids: There are kids hustling drugs at the entrance to the park. Then, there are kids with $80 sneakers looking for change who were dropped off at the McDonalds by their moms driving Volvos. Interesting.
As I walked through the park, I had this overwhelming, heavy sense of "Huh?". There was a big board that showed upcoming activities. In another area two girls were creating a sign. Someone else was chatting with a pal while holding a stack of Occupy Wall Street Journal newspapers. Seemed to me like a lot of hanging out.
I walked past one guy with an Apple laptop who was planning the day's schedule: "Bryant Park at 3pm, Times Square at 4pm...".
When I got to the other side of the park, I stood and watched passersby and their reaction to the protestors / supporters voicing their strong opinion about, um, being there? A bunch of those hop-on / hop-off buses streamed by. Cops walked by chatting with curious onlookers. Everyone had the same borderline look of interest.
Then, I left.
Quick note: This beauty was on display, roughly one block away from Zuccotti Park, and roughly pointing at Zuccotti Park...
My initial impression: My expectations were way too high. It's a disorganized, smelly mess with no central message or focused outreach.
Maybe this movement is still forming an overall core message and direction. Maybe this movement is growing so quickly without fundamental communication between cities / groups to help spread any further.
Here's the thing, unless someone very well known steps up to be the central figure (and they won't - wouldn't they part of the 1%?), this movement is going to fizzle out really quickly. Yes, there's lots of attention and it's spreading like crazy. I mean, heck, I walked down there after hearing so much about it, just to see what the big deal is.
What needs to be done? Two simple things:
- Find the core message, and rally around it - big time
- Distribute the message everywhere
The first one is hard. What's the core message? I know it has something to do with Wall Street, although I'm confused since they weren't actually on Wall Street. So, it probably has something to do with jobs? Or, our financial institutions? Or, the government's reaction to health care?
I know it has something to do about the 1%. Or the 99%. I don't know. But I'd sure like to know.
Once that's done, the second part is really easy. Plaster that message everywhere. I'm some guy walking down on a Saturday to check out what's going on. I walked from end to end, clearly not involved with the group. I'm on the edge.
What if someone approached me and said "Hey - We're doing this, can you help with that? If not, no biggie - feel free to take a flyer to learn more about what we're doing here."? I'm obviously interested, now I'm either in or out. Instead, I just walked through the park, sporting the classic line from Brian Reagan: "Something changed".
Oh, and there were more people like me walking around. Lots more. Some tourists from foreign countries (take this home to spread the word) and others visiting Ground Zero. Missed opportunity, that.
Not to say their movement isn't successful. I mean, here I am, blogging about my experience and even providing rich content to share what I experienced.
Unfortunately, that experience, right now, is a big *shrug*.