Last night, representatives of Occupy Wall Street facilitated a General Assembly in Washington Square Park. It was a smaller crowd than usual, never more than 150 people or so, but the topic at hand could prove important. The GA’s purpose was to discuss a proposal to occupy Washington Square Park, something the protesters hinted at this past weekend after their massive Times Square rally but didn’t accomplish, as the handful who tried to stay in the park after midnight were arrested.
The facilitators stressed that “the GA is not really making a decision whether to occupy,” but the support of all those gathered for a new occupation seemed like a given. The occupation would be separate from but parallel to the one at Zuccotti, which is a month old today.
During the meeting, which took place in the center of the dried-out fountain, the crowd was asked to split into four groups: those who wanted to occupy Washington Square Park, those who wanted to support the occupiers but not participate in the occupation, those who wanted to discuss how to expand the movement, and those who were against occupation. No one came out against the proposed occupation.
The would-be occupiers numbered about 30 and gathered at the northern side of the fountain. Led (or “facilitated,” rather) by Justin, the man who runs the @OccupyWallStNYC Twitter account, the group talked about the challenges of occupying a big public park like Washington Square.
“There’s a huge difference in scale,” a young woman said.
The park closes at midnight, meaning that an attempted occupation will translate to tussling with the cops. “I’m pretty aware at this point that if we do this we’ll be throwing down with the police,” a Direct Action working group member named Susanna said.
One thing the occupiers all agreed on was how reclaiming public space packs a symbolic punch that’s missing when occupying a privately-owned public park like Zuccotti.
That sentiment wasn’t echoed by the occupiers’ less hardcore peers in the expansion-of-the-movement discussion group, who suggested finding another space like Zuccotti that is public but owned privately. Even less hardcore: the expansion group suggested finding an indoor space.
A proposal to hold General Assemblies in Washington Square Park every day this week was discussed at length for about an hour, and finally decided upon: they’ll be held every day until Sunday at 5:30 p.m., so as not to mess with the 7 p.m. Zuccotti GA.
In order to build a separate, concurrent occupation and not be thrown out or arrested immediately by the police, the group would need thousands of people on top of the crew already occupying Zuccotti. And the Parks Department makes it clear that no overnight camping is allowed in any city parks.
So, when can we expect Occupy Washington Square Park? Maybe soon — the addition of daily GAs in WSP this week can be read as a momentum-building move, a way for the protesters to build a presence in the park and recruit new occupiers there.
We’ll report on the brewing occupation as (or if) it develops.