Last Friday around noon EST, the NYC blogosphere, from Gawker to Gothamist to BrooklynVegan, lit up with rumors that Radiohead would be playing a “surprise show” for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrators in downtown Manhattan. We even wanted to share the news with you.. But then sometime after 1 pm, when the bigger news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, had picked up on the story, Radiohead’s PR firm came out and said something to the extent of ‘this isn’t happening’. Yet the OWS group insisted the performance was still on, so I made my way down there to check it out in case something happened. It just so happened that Radiohead did not play, though I thought I heard the makeshift band play some Radiohead riffs.
The OWS protest is noteworthy in and of itself however. My first impressions were that this was a mostly ragtag bunch of hippies, and while that may have been true, underneath the most outrageous appearances, there was some measure of organization and a message. As I plodded through their home in Zuccotti Park, I found areas designated as a kitchen, a makeshift medical station, a library and a media center with working computers. A group had gotten together to play music at one end of the park. A man in saffron walked around handing out cough drops. And most importantly, people were walking around asking for donations so the group could continue their protest. All the while, NYC police had created a perimeter, including vans and a lookout tower and occasionally made their way through the park to get people off the sidewalk.
The movement was initiated by the culture-jamming group, Adbusters. The reasoning behind the protest is legitimate (at least in this writer’s opinion) as the group seeks to eliminate the widening class divide. Some comparisons have been made in the news of the OWS protestors to protestors in the Arab Spring and Tahrir Square, at least in the simple regard of the latter inspiring the former. Many of the OWS individuals also are having trouble finding work, and hoping to affect government. They would like to remind American’s that “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
The only person I spoke to in the crowd asked why so little media attention was given to the protests. Silently, I wagered that big news agencies may not have felt the need televise this gathering as, unfortunately, the protestors are still categorized as the margins of society and not mainstream enough to broadcast. A false report that Radiohead were performing drew more people to their location (albeit briefly) than the news report of peaceful demonstrators getting maced.
If you wish to support the Occupy Wall Street protestors, you can visit their site at occupywallst.org and click the link for donations. They have a mailbox set up and a special pizza available, the “OccuPie”. The group has affiliates spread out in several other cities as well.