Saturday night I walked through Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park in New York City and my opinion of the movement completely changed—and the change wasn’t in favor of Occupy.
Last Saturday I ran Tough Mudder, which is a 12 mile obstacle course that consists of fire, mud and water obstacles. I slept at my friend’s house in New York City and asked him if he would mind if we walked down to Occupy Wall Street.
“Sure,” he said.
When I got down to Zuccotti Park, I was kind of surprised by what I saw. It was a little late, maybe around 11 p.m., and what I witnessed was a pretty small area loaded with tents. I’d say the whole space was about the size of three basketball courts. Maybe a little bigger, but I had imagined something much larger. It was very quiet. Many people were sleeping.
I walked through, navigating the tents, and realized very quickly that a large portion of people were there because it was a free and “cool” place to stay in New York City. I heard one guy talking to another that he and his group had come to New York City from Arkansas and had never seen NYC, and he was happy to be sleeping at Zuccotti Park. “Yeah, we’ll be staying here for the next eight days and then we’re going to head back home.”
I passed by a table where cookies and food were being handed out for free, and then I passed by some genuinely strange people—some very old (they appeared to be on drugs to me), and then young college types in their early 20s.
Again, I couldn’t help but think that all Occupy Wall Street was about for a lot of people was a free place to sleep in New York City and hang out.
There is little doubt in my mind that some people were there because they want the economy to improve, want their own situations to improve, and they are feeling hopeless. But I can tell you that from what I saw, they are not in the majority. Most people were having a good time at the good old free camp ground in New York City and were there for the pure adventure of it. It didn’t feel right to me.
I consider myself a pretty openminded, even liberal guy. But I didn’t feel good about what I saw on Saturday and I have to be honest, Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to break up the protesters in Zuccotti Park today was the right thing to do. (Read The New York Times take on the protest being broken up todayfrom an order by Hamptons resident Mayor Michael Bloomberg). I believe that the protests will continue after this, but I think they will continue by people who generally know what they are protesting for and are not there because they think it’s cool to camp out in New York City for the week.
Here’s a video of my walk through. It’s a little dark but it gives you the idea. After you watch, let me know what you think of Occupy Wall Street.