Yesterday (Saturday, October 15th) saw the largest Occupy Wall Street event to date with estimates of participation running as high as 20,000 in New York City. But New York was just one of many cities across the globe that saw protests yesterday. Encouragingly, the protest movement may finally be taking on an international character which mirrors the international nature of the corporations that dominate our political processes.
It is unfortunate that much of the press coverage has focused on the number of people arrested. This makes it seem that this was some type of sporting contest between the protesters and the police. In fact, the overwhelming message was one of being respectful of the police (in part not to provoke arrests). This reflects the consistent message of non-violence and the broader theme that 99% of the people in this country have a common interest in a new social compact.
Doctors for the 99% has become the name for an informal group of health activists who have set out to support the occupation. We participated in a teach-in of sorts at Washington Square Park that started yesterday around 1PM. Since the use of megaphones or amplification equipment is prohibited in the park, we used the technique of a “human microphone” where the words of a speaker were repeated by the larger group. This lovely video by Jun Mitsumoto will give a sense of the meeting and how the microphone worked:
During the teach-in we heard speakers from Physicians for a National Health Program, the National Physicians Alliance, the International Action Center, the New York State Chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians as well as many individuals telling their personal stories. One of the Occupy Wall Street organizers informed the crowd that there was a Health Working Group called OWS Healthcare for All. We learned from one of the OWS street medics that the National Nurses United has been providing them with health support.
Meetings of OWS Healthcare for All take place on Wednesdays and Sundays at 5:30 PM at Zuccotti Park/Liberty Plaza “under the Big Red Thing.” (Right across the street from Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield)
One of the speakers was New York Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried (seen above) who was gently critical of the slogan Health Care for the 99%. He pointed out that we needed one health care system that would cover 100% of Americans. He also noted that a tax on the wealthiest 1% could pay for health care and for the things that kept people healthy such as housing and education. The OWS health organizer later passed around a petition supporting Assemblyman Gottfried’s proposal for a single payer health care system in New York.
Around 3PM we left Washington Square and began a march up 6th Avenue to Times Square. Dr. Steve B has posted some pictures and videos on the Daily Kos under the title: My 8 year old joins Health Care for All at Occupy Wall Street today.
Here is one of his videos from the end of the march in Times Square:
As we arrived in Times Square the massive police presence (dozens of cops walking in the middle of the streets with gloves on and big stacks of plastic hand-cuffs fastened to their belts) felt unnecessarily intimidating. It was also confusing that we were initially sent by the Police down one of the cross-street towards Times Square only to be told to leave (again by the Police). This effectively dismissed us from further involvement in the the protest. But, as noted above, no one wanted a confrontation.
Additional picture are available at this Flickr site.
posted by Matt Anderson