Among the remarkable developments at Liberty Square have been the Working Groups, created by occupiers to forward the movement’s goals. In these groups ideas are exchanged, strategies are collectively shaped and the future of the occupation is being written. Here are dispatches from a few.
Since the best place to reach the 99% is on the subway — where 10 million New York commuters travel daily — Occupy Subways is turning New York City’s underground into a democratic platform. Elsewhere in the city, Outreach has helped general assemblies convene in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn. Efforts will culminate in a day of service bringing Occupy Wall Street supporters into communities as volunteers.
Staffed 24 hours a day with 15 to 20 volunteers, the group ranges from nurses and doctors to street medics, herbalists, chiropractors, EMTs and acupuncturists. No one is turned away. “We practice the ethics of medicine,” said Pauly, 27, “meaning everyone will be treated no matter if they’re a police officer, active drug user or wearing a suit and tie. We run a city within a city.
Holding daily training sessions to assist occupiers navigating the choppy waters of public debate, the group “uses direct democracy and the facilitation process coupled with some inclusive radical concepts,” said Craig Stephens, 24. “Mediation in large groups is very hard but it’s very rewarding.”
The Food group, which began on Day 1 of the occupation, has received hundreds of donations from local farmers to sympathizers in Europe and Asia. “Yesterday we had a thousand people at dinner alone,” said Laura Gottesdiener, 24, and “we’re serving more than two thousand meals per day. Something we’re trying to fight against is the notion that, in this country, your socioeconomic status determines your health.” All are welcome and all are fed.
People of Color
Two weeks into the occupation, POC emerged in an effort to reach out to those who felt alienated by the movement. “Communities of color have historically been at the bottom of the 99%,” said Sharon, 23. “We wanted to make Occupy Wall Street more diverse in leadership, voice, perspective and participation, and a safer space for marginalized communities.” With about 250 members, it operates as a caucus with a variety of subcommittees that engage with other working groups.
Helping people acclimate to the realities of living and sleeping in a park, the group has distributed hundreds of donated blankets, sleeping bags, jackets and fresh pairs of socks. “We’re here for people’s comfort,” said Christine Rucker, 22, who has been occupying since week two. “If people forgot something, we’re here to provide those things. We’re family.”
Perhaps the most visible feature of Occupy Wall Street are the signs held up by occupiers conveying messages that get beamed around the world. “Graphic design is sometimes called ‘communication art,’” said Emily Schuch. “I hope this group can help foster communication between working groups and especially help Occupy Wall Street communicate to the world at large.” Working in print, web media and graphics, members of the design group have produced posters, infographics, banners, stickers, buttons…and anything else you can name.
This article was published in our third print issue on October 11, 2011.