Laurie Penny: Working out what they want in the shadow of skyscrapers

This is a resistance movement that has gone global, and it has done so without any defined leadership or central set of demands

Share

At the nerve centre of global capitalism, 23-year old Julia, who failed to find a job after graduating, has set up camp with a gaggle of new friends on some makeshift mattresses. "I want to get out of this country, because I feel like maybe it's failing a bit," she says. "That American dream that we've all bought into, I feel like it's not really here anymore, and it might be somewhere else." That Julia is wearing an enormous, fluffy orange bear-hat with boggly eyes detracts only slightly from her message.

The Occupy Wall Street camp, called to protest against what members call "the 1 per cent" of American society who have "stolen all the money" has now been in place for two weeks. Its chosen location is the deeply symbolic Liberty Plaza, in the shadow of the skyscrapers of Wall Street. An eclectic mixture of hardened activists, school students, union members and laid-off workers of all ages and backgrounds have assembled here with sleeping bags, and numbers have swelled to 2,000 after videos of police assaulting demonstrators with pepper spray went viral online.

"Fight crime, not freedom!" chant the occupiers at police officers around the square. After a hands-off week, this weekend's 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge suggested that the NYPD was cracking down with a vengeance.

As protesters drift back into Liberty Plaza, sodden with rainwater and full of adrenaline, they dash to the makeshift media centre to file reports and try to locate their friends, many of whom are still in plastic cuffs on police buses. A schoolboy holds up a sign reading "Where's my future?". This is a resistance movement that has gone global, and it has done so without any defined leadership or central set of demands.

"I think that's a strength," says Bobby Andrews, 52, a New York sheet-metal worker for 32 years who has been at the occupation daily after work. "Protests aren't new, but this type of organisation is brand-new, I'm pretty sure, for everybody. They're intentionally not developing in a hierarchy. If they had, it would have too narrowly defined what's happening here."

Holly, also 52, says: "Not everyone has the same agenda, but everybody knows they want a change. They're not quite sure what to do or where to start – but they're here."

Whether that's enough to bring the change, only time will tell.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links