By Lucas Jackson
It has been one year since a group of protesters began sleeping on the ground in Zuccotti Park to protest growing income inequality, corporate influence on politics, climate change, and a number of other issues.
One year ago no-one had heard of Occupy Wall St. and it was fascinating to watch the excitement and size of the protest grow over time. What began as a rag tag group of people who came together to make a semi-permanent presence near Wall St. to spread their message in the heart of the New York financial district quickly grew. For those of us who live and work in New York it was a refreshing change to have a news story grow organically in a city where everything is always polished and shined to dullness in order to present to the media.
For the first time since living here there was a story that allowed you in to cover not only the unplanned demonstrations and actions but also the participants as they sat in Zuccotti dreaming and planning the direction of this movement. Most of the time demonstrators have to pre-approve everything they did with the NYPD and the city but Occupy was refreshingly obstinate in not pre-approving anything and took advantage of their constitutional right to assemble and demonstrate their displeasure with the direction of the country.
Ironically, throughout the movement it has been the police who are giving the movement it’s biggest boost on the national stage. First when a video captured an NYPD commander named Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying a number of protesters, followed by the NYPD arresting hundreds of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, and police in Oakland injuring an Iraqi veteran with a pepper spray canister.
Combined with their fight against income inequality and the link between money and politics the movement hit a chord as the story began to circulate through the media. The perception that banks and the people associated with them had swindled the public in the form of massive bailouts galvanized a large number of people, quickly spawning mirroring Occupy encampments in Washington D.C., Denver, Oakland, Los Angeles, and dozens of other cities. For those of us covering the growing demonstrations it seemed like a movement that would only grow especially as it began to turn the national discussion at the time to talk of the 99% and the concentration of income and wealth held by 1% of the population.