“The real story for tomorrow morning’s paper was there were just not that many people out here,” Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday during a press conference at the Bellevue Hospital Center, where one of the police officers injured during the Occupy Wall St. protest was receiving treatment.
Speaking of the real story. Yesterday’s Day of Action, which marked the 2nd month of the protest and was the first major protesters’ activity after the clear up of Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, mobilized thousands of New Yorkers in the five boroughs. Many people reported having taken the day off work or left their workplaces earlier to join the march. Many others who couldn’t take the time off said they support the initiative.
Throughout the day yesterday, protesters passed out fliers and shared their stories with other New Yorkers. Some spoke about their personal struggles losing jobs and homes, carrying student debt; others said they were frustrated with the course of the economy and corporate greed.
Most protesters were peaceful, and hopeful that their presence and message would make a difference.
Their efforts and hopes, however, are likely to be played down today by right-wing media and politicians. Just as much as yesterday’s march was portrayed by some as the Armageddon.
Surely, as it may happen in a major demonstration, some extremists appeared to have infiltrated the protest with the intention of inciting violence. We think they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But those extremists must not define the vast majority of demonstrators who participated peacefully, let alone a movement that has revived civic participation around the country.
Despite their lack of policy agenda, Occupy Wall Street has done an extraordinary job at bringing attention to America’s growing inequality and the dangerous consequences it portends for the middle class. To be sure, achieving such awareness and mobilizing so many people would have cost millions of dollars by regular means.
The crowds peacefully protesting yesterday at Foley Square speak for themselves. Their presence is the message. And that is the real story.