By Nick Batson, Ethan Freedman, and Jodie Mann
Zuccotti Park came alive with protesters once again Saturday, March 17, as Occupiers took up their former post to celebrate the six-month anniversary of the movement that swept across the entire world last fall.
Occupy Wall Street began in September as a response to the growing inequality of wealth distribution, the unchecked corporate crime wave and a general discontent with greed and corruption among the wealthy. Protesters marched to Battery Park and then returned to Zuccotti for a 24-hour reoccupation of the park.
The NYPD was already at Zuccotti waiting for the Occupiers to return. They lined the perimeter of the park, with plastic handcuffs at the ready.
Ydanis Rodriguez, a democratic city councilman, was arrested November 15. He said it’s not the first time he has been a part of a social movement, having protested against tuition hikes in 1989 at City College.
He is also among those who are mad about the treatment of the demonstrators. “They cannot violate our freedom of speech,” he said. However, Rodriguez said he does feel optimistic about the prospects for the movement. “It’s a new beginning,” he added, breaking into a smile.
From college kids to married couples, people of all ages showed up for the protest. Some were veterans of the movement, while others had only attended a few times.
Janna Powell, a student at Hampshire College made the trip from Massachusetts to join the protest.
“We’ve gotten to a point where people are sick of the unfairness,” she said. “We’re all here to show solidarity.”
Robert Reiss said that he had been there since the first ten minutes of the occupation. Reiss sees the movement in a historical continuity. “I think that our purpose here is to complete the unfinished business of FDR’s New Deal,” he said.
Some had a more philosophical outlook on their purpose. Chris Black was at the occupation for the first time on Saturday. “I think what’s important isn’t what happens in the park, it’s what people take away from the park,” said Black.
He observed that the relationships among the Occupiers were those of a family. “I think there’s a lot of kinship here, which is why people keep coming back,” he said.
Melissa Freedman, an attorney, was upset with the police response of the arrests of demonstrators. “They do it to criminalize dissent,” she said. She continued that the police commit constant First Amendment violations, and make arbitrary rules to facilitate that.
“It was like we were a virus to them,” Freedman added, referring to politicians like Bloomberg. “At its heart, it’s anarchism, and [dissidents] don’t believe in top-down.”
Andrea Haenggi, a choreographer also in attendance, and her partner Robert Neuwirth, gave protesters the opportunity to “slow down and really observe” by loaning out typewriters.
“We want people to really experience this in a different way,” said Haenggi. “Everyone just sees and tweets now. It’s not the same as observing.”
Protester Jennifer Norval took advantage of the opportunity to use a typewriter at this weekend’s reoccupation. “A photo is so instant, one moment in time, so you lose the value,” she said.
According to the New York Times, police entered the park at 11:30 P.M., arrested protesters for trespassing and closed the park. According to police, 73 people were detained.
During the day protesters seemed prepared to continue their occupation until they could really make something happen.
“I have occupation in my heart,” said Ben Maurer, a long time Occupier, “and this is our last hope to make a difference.”