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This morning, when protesters at Occupy Wall Street awoke, word spread that the daily march was going to be different. With Monopoly money in their mouths and wearing suits, protesters were to become “corporate zombies,” a symbol of Wall Street’s soullessness. Out of the estimated 500 marchers, about a fifth of them came decked out in zombie makeup. This decidedly lighthearted approach came after the pretty heavy events of last weekend, with 700 protestors arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge and stories trickling out about being stuck in MTA buses until 3:30 a.m.
Back in Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street has coalesced into a series of “working groups,” amorphous democratic committees that meet every day to discuss their various issues. We got a look at the protest schedule, which is as heavily regimented as summer camp: breakfast at 7:30 a.m., Occupier’s Meeting at 10 a.m., General Assembly at 7 p.m., etc. Working groups meet at appointed times: Arts and Culture at noon, medical at 5:30 p.m. and, perhaps most critically, public relations at 3 p.m. This schedule is pretty set for the moment, revolving around the noon protest to hit the lunchtime crowds and the 5:30 p.m. protest to hit the commuter traffic.
Today’s protests had zombie makeup involved, the result of an Arts and Culture working group meeting yesterday. We tracked down the man responsible for “corporate zombies.” Giving his name as “Mercury Cloud” (but introducing himself to a fellow protestor as “Oliver”), he helped an estimated 100 protestors into zombie makeup for the march at noon.
“There was an idea that we need to do some visuals that counteract all the police images that are in the media,” Cloud explained, “to come up with fun, playful images — performance art, so to speak.” Mercury Cloud describes himself as an artist, but had never attempted anything on the scale of today’s zombie protest. He wanted to “give this protest visual energy,” and is currently contacting artists for more eye-catching projects like today’s zombie protest.
We also talked to a zombie aficionado Matt, who walked away before we could get his last name. “Zombies have been used throughout history to point out poignant sociopolitical issues we have in this society,” he explained. “The guy who started zombie movies in general, George A. Romero, all of his movies have been sociopolitical commentary ranging from sexism and racism in the ’50s, commercialism in the ’60s and ’70s with Dawn of the Dead, then right up to imperialism and military escalation with Day of the Dead. So I think it’s really poignant to me, although people maybe see it as a little bit silly.”
While Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame) sang across the park, we spoke to Becky Wartell, a protester on the Arts and Culture working group who had washed off her zombie makeup but assured me she’d been part of the march earlier that noon. (Arts and Culture is apparently Occupy Wall Street’s most popular working group. Judging from the drum circle next to us, the folk singers across the park, and the stray ukulele players waltzing around, this wasn’t hard to believe.) The indian pipe circle (maybe the Spirituality working group?) next to us wafted patchouli throughout Zuccotti Park, and then a protestor still wearing zombie makeup lunged at us and tackled a guy to our left.