November 17, 2011
90 Fifth Avenue New York, NY
The New School is being occupied, right now! Fifty plus students (and one or two faculty members) are gathered on the second floor of 80 Fifth Avenue. It is 10:00pm when I receive the text. They’ve been occupying the space since four o’clock.
White walls and fluorescent tubes. The escalator is shut off. At the top, a table blocks my way. “Are you press? Are you administration? Are you plainclothes?” I flash my student ID and am permitted entry. An impromptu General Assembly is being held. The students are tired. They are discussing whether to have a GA at all. I step away. I am super tired. There’s food, beer, wine, San Pellegrino. All donations. A giant cardboard box full of gourmet bread is ripped open and graffitoed: “a cornucopia of carbs”. A cinema is being built. The computer stations are dedicated to tweeting, getting the word out, and monitoring news from the outside world. There are canvas and poster board signs taped up. Some very large canvas paintings hang out the window, covering a TD Bank marking. “Zuccotti’s Dead, The Virus Will Spread”, is decorated with a great big eyeball.
Stark factions among the students. Pseudo-fascist radicals, psychology majors, social and civil rights activists, young politicians, artists and writers all gather in the main hall. Anyway, I’m having excellent conversation. Occupants chatter and celebrate.
The next morning, all is peace. Most are asleep. David Van Zandt, President of the New School University, brought coffee and donuts. More excellent conversation with those who are conscious. The viability of occupying this space is in serious question. Wells Fargo rents it from a private owner, and has donated use to The New School. Said private owner, purportedly, is not happy. There is also contention whether this occupation is really an act of civil disobedience if the students negotiate with administration. A few display less than what could be called gratitude for coffee and donuts.
There is a Student General Assembly today at 2:00pm. Teach-ins and events are planned. Some people ask for the formation of a free university. Both political and domestic policies are discussed. Reporters from the New York Times, the New School Free Press, and the Wall Street Journal wait downstairs for over an hour while we debate whether to allow them access, or to speak to them at all. The progressive stack and consensus processes always take time.
Words by Kathleen Purcell
Photographed by Kathleen Purcell