The Occupy Wall Street protestors offered a lesson in community organizing on Friday afternoon: if you are trying to increase the size of a demonstration, a rumor that Radiohead will be playing a free show helps.
People surged into Occupy Wall Street's downtown Manhattan base camp of Zuccotti Park, responding to Internet reports that Radiohead would appearing in a show of solidarity. Instead of a concert, they got a protest.
It's more important than Radiohead, a protestor reassured the restive crowd, his voice amplified a system in which the audience shouts back each sentence. It really is.
By a little after 4 p.m., the time Radiohead had been rumored to play, it was becoming increasingly evident that the band would not materialize. A few half-hearted chants emanated from various spots in the crowd and dissipated, like a beachball being swallowed by the crowd at a rock concert. The clatter of drums came steadily from the opposite side of the park.
Some of you have heard we might have a special guest today, a different speaker shouted. Those reports have been retracted.
Before the announcement could prompt a mass exodus, other speakers made their case, one by one, for why the protests transcended a Radiohead show in importance.
Speakers Outline Protest's Importance
We're trying to create a space, to create an environment to talk about our grievances, one speaker said, asking people in the crowd to raise their hands if this was their first time at the Occupy Wall Street protest. Chants of whose park? our park! and we are the 99 (a reference to the wealthy top one percent) rippled out with some gusto.
Another speaker announced a silent march to 1 Police Plaza to commemorate our friends and comrades who were met with extreme brutality by the police. Video of police officers using heavy-handed tactics -- including a police officer spraying two protests without any apparent provocation -- have circulated and galvanized support for the protests. When the next speaker asked the crowd to sit down most people obliged, sitting on the concrete or crouching in flower beds.
A coalition of unions and community organizations announced on Wednesday their support for Occupy Wall Street, a potentially pivotal endorsement. People had come expecting Radiohead, but when four workers from the Transit Workers Union stepped in front of the crowd and pledged their support, saying that your cause is a just cause and we the people have a right to occupy the streets, the still-seated crowd roared its approval.
You can contact the reporter at j.white@IBTimes.com