Once every year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) joins with the St John’s University School of Law to host a triathlon where senior law students compete in a series of mock negotiations, mediations and arbitrations. This year I was asked by FINRA to serve as a judge. It takes place on a week end and the dress code is specified as business casual. Every student wore a suit and tie. Every suit was black. But for the lack of sun glasses the event could have been mistaken as a gathering of U.S. Secret Service men and women.
The competition takes place in lower Manhattan, just a short walk from Zucotti Park, better known locally by its former name, Liberty Square. This, of course, is the camp grounds of the people who call themselves the 99 and Occupy Wall Street. With a 2 hour lunch break, you know what I did. Two blocks up to Broadway, hang a right, walk past St Paul’s Church and there it is, Zucotti Park. St Paul’s, by the way, was opened in 1766 and bills itself as Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use – a place where George Washington worshiped and where 911 recovery workers received around-the-clock care.
A march had started and was coming up Broadway from the park. A motley, but not too motley crew was holding the usual signs, “BANKS ARE OUR ENEMY NOT IRAN”. “WE ARE THE 99”, AND ‘FREE PALESTINE” were about as offensive as they got. There were no Nazi signs, no call for blood and almost no profanity, but they weren’t Tea Party types either. The marchers looked more like a roster of the perpetually unemployed and perpetually protesting types. They stood in stark contrast to the triathlon competitors just a few blocks away.
I asked a marcher for a copy of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. As he handed it to me he wanted me to know it was the official paper of the movement. I folded it and tucked it away for future reading. When I reached the corner of Viscotti Park there was an official looking man sitting at an official looking table with a sign – INFORMATION. The man was about 40, clean-shaven and respectable looking except for his cap. Now I’ve seen a lot of grimy caps. I’ve even worn some, but never like this one. It looked like he could wring it out and get enough to change the oil in his car; but he probably didn’t have a car.
He had copies of the same newspaper on his table. I asked if it was the official paper of the movement. He said “there is no official paper of the movement”. I asked if there was a connection between Occupy Wall St and the international movement Occupy Together. He hadn’t heard of Occupy Together. I asked if his group had a list of their demands. He answered “No. we are still creating one in the General Assemblies”.
“Where are the General Assemblies held”? I asked. “Right here in the corner of the park. We gather every evening and the people decide by a democratic process what the demands should be.” he replied. Then he turned away. I guess he was embarrassed because of his hat.
The “angry mob” doesn’t seem so alarming up and close as they do on the TV news. They simply are not achievers like the law students. However they do vote. They also serve well as a propagandic public relations platoon in a politician’s Army of Useful Idiots.
As long as the country continues to produce law students like those I saw and judged at the triathlon, we as a nation have nothing to fear. Our greatness is currently under threat. As to the threat “This too, shall pass.”
Please read later posts on the subject of the Occupy movement. Things are changing very fast, and not for the better.
My faith is not in the weakness of the demonstrators. It is in the strength and character of the youths I met at the FINRA. triathlon. The Occupy groups have no apparent cohesive leader yet. When that changes, to fear or not to fear, that wlil be he question..
Thanks, Bob, for your “Wingtips On The Ground” perspective. You gave me a little hope that the movement in the Park was not yet “Sixties-ish.”