50 arrested as Occupy protests at the “church of the 1%”
CHANTING: All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!
NOOR: Thousands rallied in New York on December 17th to mark Occupy Wall Street entering its fourth month. Demonstrators celebrated the movement’s success in popularizing the discussion of income inequality and alternative economic and political structures. Instead of targeting property owned by a Wall Street firm, protesters had their eyes set on vacant land belonging Trinity Church, one of the oldest and wealthiest in the nation. Using a makeshift ladder, occupiers scaled a chain-link fence to gain access to the property. But the occupation was only briefly successful and resulted in more than 50 arrests. The Real News spoke with public school teacher and Army veteran David Suker shortly before he was arrested.
DAVID SUKER, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: I think the consciousness of America has been lifted, and I think we’re seeing the onslaught of a new day in the United States of America and throughout the world. So it’s just a first step. We have many years of struggle left to go. But we’re teaching our children today what’s important, and that’s a struggle toward justice and equality.
NOOR: Leading the action were members of clergy who voiced strong opposition to Trinity Church’s refusal to give occupy protesters a camp site. Civil rights veteran Reverend Phil Lawson flew in from Oakland, California, to take part in the demonstrations. He says Trinity Church was targeted because it represents the interests of Wall Street.
REV. PHIL LAWSON, EAST BAY HOUSING ORGANIZATION: You have in one place what I would consider the corruption of faith with the financial institutions of the United States in this Trinity Church, because Trinity Church is the wealthiest church in America. It owns $10 billion worth of property in New York City.
REV. DR. MEL WHITE, COUNCIL OF ELDERS: What’s most relevant here is that they own this piece of land, and we thought, because it was kind of dedicated to public use, that it would be natural for Trinity to allow us to use this as an encampment place. But they decided against it. And we found out later that their board, their vestry, are the 1 percent of the 1 percent. They’re the richest, most powerful real estate owners in the country, and they don’t want a conscience camped out in their shadow.
NOOR: In the three months since a few hundred began camping out at Zuccotti Park, the protests have turned into a global phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands have participated in occupations that have spread across the globe. Meanwhile, the movement continues to garner broad popular support. A recent Quinnipac University poll found more than two-thirds of New Yorkers agree with the views of Occupy Wall Street. Thousands took part in the December 17 New York protest, despite dozens of arrests, several instances of police brutality, and freezing temperatures. Here are some of their voices.
ARUN GUPTA, OCCUPIED WALL STREET JOURNAL: The occupations [incompr.] the 99 percent into being. The movement did not exist before the occupation. But more importantly, there’s a relationship between what the occupy spaces are and the politics that are coming out of it. People feel that they can come in as themselves and have an equal say. And this is just–it’s an epiphany for virtually everyone in our society. It is completely at odds with what we’re constantly told, that your only social existence is that of a consumer. The Occupies completely invert that, give us a new form of existence, and show that there are alternatives that are not just possible, that are existing, and that people can join in a meaningful manner.
JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: It’s just real important that, I think, people like me come out and support however we can. I’ve been out here pretty much since the beginning. It’s a very important movement. You know, I’m an organizer, and I think the way you beat a lot of money is a lot of people. And I think that’s–Occupy Wall Street has been doing that very well. And we have to continue showing that the movement–you can’t evict a movement, you can’t arrest an idea, and I think this is proof positive of that. And it’s up to people like me who have the ability to effect laws to take what they’re saying and make some kind of policy change. Everybody’s blaming the people here for not having solutions, but I think they do have a fundamental message, and it’s up to people like me and our illustrious mayor to do something about it.
BRYANT BAILEY, IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST WAR: I know just for IVAW, their recruitment has–or membership has increased fivefold since we announced that we were with Occupy Wall Street. Well, I mean, a lot of the veterans out there are the 99 percent. You know, people are coming home–my cousin’s coming home to no job, you know, and having a hard time getting through. The Scott Olsen incident was a huge, huge kind of eye-opener for veterans. I mean, for myself personally, it’s the whole fact that we took an oath to defend the Constitution, and that oath doesn’t end just ’cause you’re out of the military. You know, you promise to do something, you keep your word.
JUSTINE, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: I’m out here because a lot of people have opinions on this whole Occupy movement from what they see on the news. And unless you’re here, you don’t know what’s going on. People–before I say, oh, this is stupid, these crazy people, we don’t know what they’re doing, at least come here, see what’s going on before you criticize a movement that you know absolutely nothing about. So before I sit on Facebook and say, oh, these silly occupiers, they’re messing everything up, at least come here and be a part of something. So in 50 years when everyone in the world reaps the benefit of what these people are doing, they’re going to sit back comfortably and say, oh, this is great. But you weren’t out here watching police beat [inaud.] out of everyone the whole time. You weren’t out here in the cold. You weren’t out here walking up and down the streets. I just want to make sure when I’m reaping the benefits, I was a part of the work too. That’s all.
NOOR: Reporting for the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in New York.
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