Three years after thousands took to the streets and camped out in lower Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street members were out in Zuccotti Park on Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary and continue spreading their message.
And although the anniversary gathering didn’t draw the same numbers as 2011, many members said the community organization is very much alive.
“We’re a leaner, meaner movement now,” said Harrison Tesoura Schultz, a member of Occupy the NEED Act and Occupy Weed Street.“It takes decades for social movements to work, if you think it can be done in three months, you need to cultivate more patience.”
Schultz, 31, is a former data analyst who is working toward his Ph.D. at The New School. About a year ago, Schultz and Lorna Shannon, a 30-year-old pre-K teacher, quit their jobs to focus on activism. Their focus includes decriminalizing marijuana and promoting a “Green New Deal” instead of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Shannon said a weekly “4/20 fight club” in Washington Square Park allows the group to “practice martial arts and get high together” in front of the police as a way to change stoner stereotypes.
“It kills the ego, and focuses on the process more so than the outcome,” Schultz said.
“Three years ago you had thousands of people in the streets, and it was amazing,” said Marni Halasa, a member of Occupy Alternative Banking Group, which meets at Columbia University to discuss the financial industry.
“Now you don’t really have that anymore, but what I see happening with Occupy is we’re still in existence, we’re smaller, more fierce groups.”
Halasa, 48, was dressed in a police officer-esque costume on Wednesday, standing in front of a her “wish list” of banking executives she’d like to see to go to jail.
“I think the public is slowly but surely realizing that a small percentage of the population has all these benefits, all the social mobility, and we don’t and there’s reasons for that” said Halasa, who recently started a company, called “Revolution is Sexy,” to help community groups and individuals mobilize and get their messages out.
“The case is that the whole economic and societal system is skewed against you. That’s why you don’t have a job,” Halasa said.
Many of the Occupy supporters, who weaved in and out of Zuccotti Park throughout the day, expressed the idea that climate change was a priority, and handed out flyers ahead of Sunday’s People’s Climate March.
“(We’re) looking down the barrel of a gun that’s called climate change,” said John Zangas, a member of citizen journalism group DC Media, while speaking to a crowd. “Threats to exterminate millions of people in our lifetime, that’s a pressing issue.”