Singer Michael Franti Joins Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York
Three weeks into the occupation in Lower Manhattan, celebs (Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore) keep stopping by to pay their respects to the protesters. On Tuesday, singer Michael Franti strolled through the encampment with his guitar, playing along with drummers and kicking off the general assembly.
Occupy Wall Street is like a Rainbow Gathering with a political purpose. People are sleeping on cement and food keeps pouring in from donors. What's surprising is you don't smell nary a whiff of marijuana in Zuccotti Park at Liberty St. between Broadway and Church St. There are just too many cops surrounding the place.
The uber-democratic assembly went on for hours. Every statement was echoed by crowd repeats so all could hear. Hand signals indicated pleasure and displeasure with statements. While there are very real sanitation and security issues in the park, the main focus of the meeting was Wednesday's march to Foley Square. The last time the occupiers marched (Oct. 1), 700 of them were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge.
But with union support of the protest and march, it's likely the NYPD will be wearing kid gloves rather than ready with batons this time around. Stewart Applebaum of the Retail Workers Union told the eager crowd, "We are with you. Together we can revitalize a progressive movement around the country."
Strange bedfellows, unions and a bunch of disenfranchised crusties, but coalitions are what drive movements. With the cold weather coming, it's unclear how long the Wall Street camp-out will last. But for now it's a breath of fresh air from what appears to the formation of a new left. Conservatives have the Tea Party. Now liberals have Occupy Wall Street.
Photos by CelebStoner
Jeff Mangum And Michael Franti Play Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park continues to be a magnet for celebrity musicians offering their support and serenading the occupiers with unamplified sets.
Last night, the performances bracketing the twice-daily General Assembly meeting came from dramatically different corners: the strident protest jams of Michael Franti, and the oblique introversion of Jeff Mangum.
Franti, the driving force behind Spearhead and before that the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, stepped up to the stone bench that serves the protesters as a podium wearing pigtails and a tall-crowned cowboy hat. Announcing the General Assembly would start shortly, Franti played several songs, including 2007's "Yell Fire," which features the lyric "Three piece suits and bank accounts in Bahamas / Wall street crime will never send you to the slammer."
A self-described activist for more than two decades, Franti told the audience that showing up for your first protest easy. "But it's difficult to come the second and third time, waiting to see the newspaper the next morning to announce that Wall Street has changed its ways," he said. "In order to keep coming back," Franti told the crowd, "it takes what we call soul."
On the other end of the evening, after the occupiers had spent much of their energy in a multi-hour meeting, came a hushed, vespertine set by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. Performing in the round by the steps on the east side of the park, Mangum ran through lovely acoustic renditions of many of his most famous songs, asking the audience what they wanted most to hear. "This is for you," he repeatedly told them.
Mangum played softly, but somehow the din of the occupation fell away to accommodate him, the drums and sirens subsiding as he slowly spun to face the entire circle gathered around him. He encouraged everyone to sing along, which they did, especially for his last two songs, "King of Carrot Flowers" and "Oh Comely." Protesters roused themselves especially when Mangum worked round to the lyric "Know all your enemies/ We know who our enemies are."
Notoriously press-shy, Mangum declined the Voice's request for an interview, but by way of compensation offered a hug and a drawing. (Perhaps a portrait? Perhaps.)
Occupy Wall Street Day 19: Mass march planned for afternoon; Jeff Mangum, Michael Franti, Deepak Chopra stop by