Posted by: Mark Gimein on October 26, 2011 at 5:25 PM
The scrum of Zuccotti Park defines the media image of the Wall Street protests. A maze of police barricades, signs, and the mass of tents and soup kitchens, a festival of disaffection that makes for good video.
Advertised less is that the de facto headquarters of the protest isn’t in the park. It’s four blocks away in the atrium of 60 Wall Street, also—this is a level of irony that’s nearly surreal—the US headquarters of Deutsche Bank. The atrium is a space open to the public (these are common in New York, often required as a condition of development) and it’s a boardroom for the nominally leaderless movement—the main meeting spot for the working groups that devise the protesters’ agenda and tactics.
I was clued in to this by an academic involved with the movement who told me that while she was regularly in planning sessions at the Deutsche Bank atrium, she no longer went to the square. Though committee and working group meetings are open, few of the protesters camped out in the park seem to venture there, or at least to the groups she is involved with.
“When they show up,” she told me, “they’re like mythical beings. We know they’re doing an important thing, maybe the most important thing, but we don’t see them.”
Full disclosure: I haven’t been to 60 Wall Street yet. Even a quick look at the list of events at the Occupy Wall Street site, though, gives a sense of the work getting done there: the “vision and goals” meeting, the facilitation training sessions, the communications meeting. The scene, as you can see in the picture above, is more sedate than in the park. Neither organizers nor the press have had much inclination to highlight it. It doesn’t make for the same kind of theater—though Aaron Sorkin could probably do a lot with it.
The same friend also offered some perspective on the vagueness of Occupy Wall Street’s goals. It is, she explained, like Audrey Tautou’s strategy of seduction in the movie Priceless: don’t say exactly what you want. As long as people aren’t sure, they’ll keep watching and listening.
Update, 6:45 pm: It’s worth noting that the police response to the demonstrations in Oakland has clearly given the protests a darker cast.
(Photographer: Liza Eliano/Hyperallergic)