With the first anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement coming up next month, we thought it would be a good time to revisit filmmaker, artist, and casting director Daniel Peddle’s feature on the protesters from our Spring issue. Despite repeated raids and increasingly brutal weather, what Peddle found when he visited the site on a cold December day was a group of people still deeply committed to their cause, even as they were trying to figure out exactly what it was. The Occupy movement lives on today, although it has moved largely out of the public consciousness, and as we head into another tense election season, it’s worth remembering once again what exactly is at stake in November. Peddle’s thoughts on the more surprising aspects of the camp are below, followed by quotes he collected from the activists themselves about what led them to put their own lives on hold for a larger cause.
Well I got there late. I was not in NYC when it went down and by the time I got back it was just after the raid and some very bad weather. I was frankly surprised there was anyone left. It was the real diehards in a way…the people who were still braving the cold to give this voice a face.
A lot of the older folks got cut from this story but still it was overwhelmingly young. It felt very student movement to me with a few wise cat professor types thrown in. But my biggest feeling down there, or what took me back for several weeks after, was this sense of a brand being born. A clear alternative voice and face questioning the establishment. I think much of its threat was its nature of just being an idea…at that moment the movement was quite unapologetic in its desire to only be an idea. It did not want to be identified at that time with an eclipsing organization as it was still a forum getting its voice. Still open and being defined. That was really cool to witness.
Coming off the tail of my Trail Angels film about the Appalachian hiking community, I could also sense this was a group of green people. It is a very simple yet poetic and symbolic gesture to “occupy” a “public space.” To sit your ass there and be like, Listen up people, we are camping!
Funny, I kept buying these great t-shirts with these awesome graphics down there. I found that so ironic that ultimately here I was spending money and buying something and these “Occupiers” were realizing, Hey we can cash in on this shit! It was so refreshingly American! A real gold mine in potential logos!!
This one guy’s t-shirts were selling out and I was going down there early like an addict.
“I would be doing a disservice to myself, past generations, and generations to come if I didn’t join the fight.” —Nikki Whetstone, 26, Artist
“The divide between the rich and the poor puts power in a small amount of hands who have failed us in every way possible from the environment to healthcare. Wake up from the American Dream and create a better American reality!” —Nick, 23, Construction Worker
“Everything I’ve learned in life is that people should be treated equally.” —Shae Willes, 22, Student
“It seems that the movement in the Arab Spring is contagious, and the West can learn that media and speaking out can make a difference in the bigger picture.” —Sally Tsai, 25, Student
“I think we should remember that nonviolence is the only type of demonstration that becomes stronger with every attempt to destroy it, and that love is the only cure for hate.” —Hunter Schipman, 20, Student
“Occupy Wall Street is a miracle. It is what I have been waiting for. I am here because I believe that the 99% has the power to take back what is ours. I believe that we deserve a better world to live in. I want economic justice. I want people to be more important than dollars and cents. I want revolution.” —Diana Lutzak, 21, Student
“OWS is a release of societal frustration. It is an expression of what makes us human: our impulses to break from obsolete societal molds (such as the false paradigm of perpetual growth, corrupt capitalism, the racist police state in our city) and express ourselves in the fresh air, amongst friends, family, and strangers.” —Djani Johnson, 27, Occupier
“I’m here to support the redistribution of wealth for better education.” —Zachary Darr, 21, Visual Merchandiser
“The most important issue now is government and corruption. They keep trying to control us more and more, taking away our freedom for profit. It is sickening and needs to be ended. If we don’t stand up for our freedom then it will be taken from us. All of our other problems are rooted in this.” —Dylan Novak, 18, Student
“I want to help bring about the downfall of the ancient regime.” —Brett Plantas, 23, Occupier