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

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?