"Day of Rage" protests, September 17, 2011: N.Y., L.A. and S.F.
September 17 was supposed to be the Day of Rage, the starting point of an anti-capitalist revolution that (in theory) was going to sweep the country coast-to-coast. As I noted yesterday, "The plan is to protest in state capitals and major cities across the nation, but the focus of the revolution will be in New York, where a hoped-for 20,000 anti-capitalists will 'occupy' Wall Street."
I dutifully sent my operatives out to cover what were to be three of the largest Day of Rage protests -- in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles -- so humanity would have a full record of this pivotal moment in history.
Really, I should have learned my lesson by now: The bigger the build-up to a protest, and the more grandiose the promises, the louder the sound of the bellyflop onto the dustbin of irrelevancy.
In other words: "Day of Rage" was a massive FAIL.
This photo essay includes photos from all three protest sites (NY, SF and LA) integrated together, to give you the feel of the fizzled revolution as a whole.
The photographs in this essay are by:
Urban Infidel (New York);
Ringo (Los Angeles);
and Chicken Kiev, juklux, and zombie (San Francisco).
All credit goes to them.
In New York, a disappointing crowd of only about 1,000 people (a mere 5% of the predicted attendance) gathered around Manhattan's Wall Street to protest against capitalism. But right off the bat, the protest's completely mixed message was glaringly apparent. Half the protesters wanted more government (as exemplified by this satirical "capitalist pig" cutting the "social safety net")...
...while the other half wanted less government, an attitude succinctly summarized here as "FUK DA GOV."
So -- which is it?
Over in San Francisco, where a mere 90 protesters showed up (OK, 100 to be generous), the exact same self-negating mish-mosh of a non-message prevailed; half the protesters, such as these "US Uncut" activists leading the march, wanted more taxes and more of a welfare state; while the other half...
...wanted to "Decentralize everything," which is the polar opposite of a state-controlled economy.
Basically, the distinction is between communist theory and the anarchist approach.
In American politics there are two strong currents of anti-capitalist thought: Marxism/communism/socialism versus Anarchism/far-left-libertarianism. The problem is that these two ideologies are fundamentally at odds; one advocates hyper-centralization of political and economic power, while the other advocates hyper-decentralization.
In earlier times, the communists and the anarchists hated each other; they are natural enemies. But in recent decades they have formed an uneasy and deeply unstable alliance; since they both hate the status quo of American capitalism, they feel they ought to band together and smash the system as a unified front, and worry about how to pick up the pieces later.
But the Day of Rage revealed that this alliance can never succeed, because it can never offer a consensus philosophy; it's impossible to draw the sympathy of the great masses when you offer two completely divergent philosophies as your "unified message." In truth, there is no unified message, and there never can be; that's why the "Day of Rage" organizers couldn't even decide on what their one single demand would be at the protest.
I feel this is a turning point in the anti-capitalist movement; the failure of the much-hyped Day of Rage proved that the communists and the anarchists never will be able to smooth over their differences, and the far-left will necessarily fracture in two. The anarchists will break free of their socialist bedmates and drift more toward honest extreme libertarianism and anti-authoritarianism; while Team Marx will no longer feel the need to temper their collectivist message with a bunch of dishonest slogans about freedom and independence.
The Los Angeles Day of Rage crew made the peculiar decision to hold their event in the city's Olvera Street, the touristy Mexican-themed pedestrian marketplace near the site of the original Spanish settlement. Despite all the promotional hoopla, a completely humiliating 20 people showed up.
But none of the organizers bothered to find out in advance that September 17 was Fiestas Patrias on Olvera Street, "the largest Mexican Independence Day celebration in the State of California at the birthplace of Los Angeles; Placita Olvera. 200,000 attendees expected." Oooooooooops!
As a result, the tiny protest was completely overwhelmed by the non-political festival-goers. And, irony of ironies, the fiesta was packed with corporate sponsors, who set up glitzy and well-attended promotional tents all along Olvera Street. So much for the anti-corporate message!
The NYPD protected the Wall Street Bull statue from almost certain vandalism.
The New York event, as you might expect, was populated by more than its fair share of "colorful" characters, like this Bradley Manning flasher...
...and this milquetoast suburbanite faux-jihadist with his feeble "power to the people" fist. Sad, really.
His doppelganger in San Francisco posed nobly for the cameras. Tell me folks, seriously: Is there any authenticity left in American poltics anymore? Or are even the most "radical" activists nothing but a bunch of reality-show poseurs?
The S.F. protesters gathered in front of 555 California Street, a towering Financial District skyscraper formerly known as the Bank of America building (before BoA merged with other corporations and moved its HQ to North Carolina). The structure remains as the icon of West Coast capitalism. A huge American flag flapped in the wind above the protest, as if to mock.
The SF event seemed to be more overtly anti-capitalist than the others. Everybody was already celebrating its demise.
Must go! Now! Do what I say!
At the exact same moment down in LA, the corporate mascots were trouncing the pitiful protesters.
The crowds swarmed the capitalist booths, and utterly ignored the anti-capitalist naysayers.
Well, not everybody ignored them -- after a while, the cops came over and basically shooed the protesters out of the fiesta, and made them stand across the street.
Back in New York: "Your Day$ of Plenty are numbered (#ed)." Is that a warning of some kind, or just an informed economic forecast?
"...my friend." Nice touch.
Are these hippie New Yorkers praying to Mecca? No. They're just taking a break from smashing capitalism to engage in a bit of public yoga. Although that doesn't make them devout Hindus, either; just cringe-inducing exhibitionists.
Looks like "End Corporate Personhood" finally did emerge as the "winner" in the contest to determine what would be the "one single demand" of the New York protest. Despite this, perhaps 1% of the protesters at any of the events held up "End Corporate Personhood" signs, this guy being just about the only one. Unified message? Pshaw! That's for amateurs!
At every single Day of Rage protest that I'm aware of, Lyndon LaRouche devotees showed up, trolling for converts. Previously, when a few of them made unwanted appearances at 2009 Tea Party protests, displaying their by-now trademark Obama/Hitler signs, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the left went into conniptions accusing the Tea Party of comparing the President to Hitler. Since then, of course, the LaRoucheites have showed up at plenty of left-wing protests as well, where they're actually a better fit, anyway -- disproving the smear that they were part of the Tea Party.
The LaRoucheites hovered around the periphery of the S.F. protest, and no one complained or stop them.
Down in L.A., there were so few authentic protesters, that the LaRoucheites comprised a significant proportion of the attendees.
When the L.A. cops shooed the lefties away, the LaRoucheites also got the boot.
Once across the street, the L.A. protesters further beclowned themselves by unfurling a huge banner that egregiously misquotes one of the most famous lines in Hollywood history, spoken by Peter Finch in Network: but in this case, the classic "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" becomes the stilted "I'm as mad as hell and will not take this anymore!"
How can so few people make so many errors?
This L.A. protester had my absolute favorite sign of the day: "Democracy Not Plutocracy -- you fuckers."
Great way to win hearts and minds!
You may have noticed in the background of the previous picture someone wearing a V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask. Here he is again (with yet another incomprehensible sign), putting a mask over his mask -- in case anyone recognizes that he's really Guy Fawkes!
The San Francisco protest was practically lousy with Guy Fawkeseses.
The mask's hipster quotient has received a major boost in recent weeks in San Francisco, as the hacker group Anonymous (who wear the masks to insure anonymity during their rare public appearances) has this month been engaging in weekly anti-police protests against BART (the local commuter rail system), upping their street cred. Now, anybody who wants to self-identify as an Anonymous member can just go into a Halloween costume store and for $3.99 become an anti-hero hacker! (Computer knowledge not required.)
But I've always wondered this: How hypocritical is it to wear a plastic toy, designed and licensed by the Warner Brothers corporation, and manufactured in a polluting slave-labor Chinese factory, to advertise a mainstream Hollywood film, starring overpaid actors, the profits from which will go to corporate shareholders, and yet you think that by doing this you're somehow anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian?
The 90 or so S.F. protesters stood aroud for an hour listening to a litany of boring speakers, most of whom didn't know how to use the megaphone properly, and didn't have anything worth hearing anyway.
To spice things up, a group of young anarchists started burning dollar bills, as a way of showing their displeasure with authority.
Take that, you evil piece of paper and everything you represent!
Luckily, there are plenty more of these in the trust fund account daddy set up for me. Now BURN BABY BURN!.
Urban Infidel captured a truly remarkable video of a New Yorker who's at least 3/4s white (but who identifies as black) ranting about racism:
"Are you a white man? If you're a white man, then shut the fuck up about race, because you don't know shit other than how to rape and kill."
Quite chilling, actually. If you think you can "win the argument" against protesters like these, then I recommend you watch these videos for a reality check. No one is allowed to win anything against them, because the rules already define you as the loser.
Intense anger + severe mental illness + political indoctrination = a whole heap of trouble for this country.
Other New York protesters were decidedly less abrasive and more amusing -- like this noodnik who wore spoons around his neck and announced that "Our economy is modeled on a cancer."
"Excuse me, anybody seen 1969 around here? I think I took a wrong turn at Woodstock."
Meanwhile, the two mutually exclusive ideologies did silent battle in the background. Marxists held up signs promoting socialism...
...while anarchists wore shirts decrying socialism and capitalism alike as simply two different forms of extortion.
Did no one at any of these events notice the self-defeating contradiction?
The San Franciscans' anti-capitalist rants were gaining no traction whatsoever. Holding a protest in the Financial District on a Saturday is like holidng a tailgate party at the Astrodome on Tuesday morning: nobody's there.
Chic fashionistas just strutted on by and didn't even turn to look. Harsh!
Frustrated, the organizers announced a change of plan: They would march to a nearby Wells Fargo branch, invade and occupy! So, off we went.
But, you see, they didn't count on me throwing a monkey wrench in the works. I skittered ahead, and got to the Wells Fargo about two minutes before the protesters did. I stepped inside and told the security guard that a group of political activists were about to take over the bank.
Then I slipped out the other door and came around front. By the time the protesters finally arrived for their "sneak attack" ...
...it was already thwarted. No one was allowed inside. Awwwwww!
So the leaders once again made a strategic blunder by announcing that the next target was going to be the Westfield mall, an upscale shopping center a few blocks away on Market street.
Once more I ran ahead, went inside the mall and warned the guards of the upcoming invasion. The guards immediately sprang into action, and started coordinating the defense on their walkie-talkies, and holding the doors closed.
By the time the protesters arrived, it was yet again too late; the guards had used handcuffs to lock the outer doors closed, but had to leave one inner pair of doors open as an emergency fire exit.
The trapped shoppers looked agog at the bewildering political signs pressed against the glass doors.
A couple of protesters managed to slip in through the momentarily unguarded fire exit door, and childishly rode up and down the escalator ranting about the evils of capitalism.
One stood his ground for a full minute and unleashed a blistering tirade at the mystified shoppers, before being unceremoniously escorted back out the door.
After that, the guards sealed the entrance completely, and instructed shoppers to find another exit. (They were lucky that the Fire Marshall didn't witness this; locking an entire exit of a full shopping mall is a major safety violation.)
Angry shoppers were shunted out a side exit; many were fuming.
Note to protest organizers: Next time, don't announce out loud where you're going to go. You never know how many saboteurs like me there are in the crowd!
After that, the protesters were basically out of ideas. With nothing else to do, they crossed the street to the cable car turnaround and started harrassing the tourists. The guy with the megaphone was given the cold shoulder; the folks in line for the cable cars literally turned their backs on him.
"Stop ignoring me! Repeat: Stop ignoring me! I am haranguing you, and you must respond, even if to disapprove. Without your attention, I have no existence!"
Then we walked in circles around Union Square, to get those picture postcard scenes with cable cars in the background.
The Pelosi-votin' upper-class shoppers in from Pacific Heights were suitably affronted by all the liberal-bashing. Dearie me!
Many of the chants were anti-police; but the S.F. cops just took it in stride, as they are trained to do. In fact, the cops very politely escorted the children on their little temper tantrum around the square.
Of course, behavior like that only further angers the Ragers: Stop contradicting our anti-authoritarian narrative! It makes us looks foolish!
The protesters then passed a trio of breakdancers performing for spare change; in the ultimate humiliation, the breakdancers managed to outdraw the revolution by at least a 2-to-1 margin. Ouch!
Back down in L.A., one of the protesters asked a question I think we've all been wondering: "What is really on your agenda?" Quite so. The answer to that would clear up much of the confusion about the "Day of Rage." Sadly, I get the suspicion that not even the organizers know the answer.
Another guy held up what at first might seem like an utterly indecipherable slogan: "1 person 1 dollar 1 vote." What could it mean?
But the same (or at least similar) slogan cropped up here in S.F. and in N.Y. as well.
A scan around the Day of Rage web sites sheds only a meager shaft of light on the mystery. It seems to be a popular slogan among lefties this month, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus on what it even means. Some blogs characterize it as a cry for "voting with your wallet" -- to only buy sustainable, "green" or fair trade products from non-corporate producers. But other bloggers cite the phrase as a warning about the push to tie voting power to income. Hmmmm...a head-scratcher. (If you have any clarification about this, please educate us in the comments section!) (Update: Ringo says the slogan is a call to limit campaign contributions to $1 per person, including the candidates themselves. Despite being unconstitutional -- good idea!)
Other lefty fads popular this month in San Francisco, for all you trend-watchers: Adolescent middle-class anarchists who have never labored a day in their lives sporting "IWW" badges as if they even qualified as "workers" at all, much less "industrial workers."
What would a real Wobbly from the early 20th century think of these softies?
Truthers? Yeah, we had Truthers, sorry to say. They never really go away; like herpes, they return periodically even after you think they've cleared up. Always remember: There is no cure for Truth.
This is what is known as an "alternate fact-space."
Ah, the ever-sinister "they." What have "they" been up to? "They take our money. They take our homes. They take our rights." All kidding aside for a moment, which amorphous "they" has acheived all this? The Federal government? The banks? The court system? The boogeyman?
To add insult to injury: "They" also don't give a fuck about you! Just when I thought I had "they" all figured out, now I'm back at square one.
And then suddenly -- the answer! "They"'s true identity revealed at last!
Back in New York, satirical "preacher" Reverend Billy addressed the crowd though an old-fashioned white bullhorn. Urban Infidel captured this classic image of him about to speak to the crowd at its maximum extent.
Others were a little less subtle in their Christian-bashing.
And our final word goes to Los Angeles, where this delightful couple, who in another era would have been the perfect picture of innocent young love, cavalierly spews profanity, not because they're trying to be outrageous, but simply because it's the only vocabulary they know.
And here's an update from "Brian" in the PJM comments section:
A follow-up report from NYC's financial district: While they claim to be settling in for a long "occupation," the biggest effect they're having here is helping out some of the local pizza parlors and forcing chessplayers to move up to Washington Square Park. They've taken over most of Zucotti Park, a small square at Liberty and Broadway, and that's about it. They haven't even inconvenienced anyone who works here, and people who actually work on Wall Street won't even notice them. It's possible that the LA protest was even lamer, but probably not by much.