Occupy History

Occupy History: September 17, A Movement Begins (Part Two) with Priscilla Grim

(Priscilla Grim is an activist in New York City. She was involved in organizing, media, and outreach with Occupy Wall Street as early as August of 2011, the month before protestors of the 99% occupied Liberty Square on September 17.

In Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street, Danny Schechter notes, “September 17 is the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. Years later, on that day, Francis Scott Key finished the poem that was to be turned into “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. It was the day of The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in the American Civil War. It was the day the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel was signed, and it was the day that the New York Stock Exchange reopened after the attack on 9/11. It was also the day Occupy Wall Street was launched.”[i]

10 years later, in Part Two of her Occupy History with HTR, Grim recalls what September 17, 2011 was like for her, how her participation in Occupy evolved from that day on, and the beginnings of the movement in the park.)

My daughter and I went down to Liberty Square. It was super chill. The Grannies for Peace were there, all kinds of things. It was a beautiful day.

Then people were hanging out at the park and they started gathering for the General Assembly, which we stayed for a little bit of, but by that time my daughter was really tired and needed to get home.

A friend of mine invited me to come over to her place with my daughter, because they were having pizza and a movie or something. So, while we were over there, I was watching on Twitter. Everyone was talking about all these people getting arrested. I was like, “Holy fuck,” because I’d been blogging for about two weeks on my Twitter handle to get people to go out to the park, and I was like, “Oh my God, these kids are getting arrested and I helped convince them to do it. Like, what the fuck.”

I’m talking to my friend and I’m like, “KIDS ARE GETTING ARRESTED AND I DID THAT. THAT SUCKS.”

She was like, “Well, do you wanna go down there? Like, whatever you need …”

And I was like, “YES, I FEEL RESPONSIBLE. Like, this isn’t what I was in it for.” I mean, I was really upset. 

So, my daughter stayed with her for the night, and I just went down there with some coffee and was like, “Fuck the police.”

I was still drinking tea at that point, because I’d stopped drinking coffee for eight years when I got pregnant with my daughter and then it just made me feel weird afterwards, so I never drank it again, until Occupy Wall Street.

They had about 50 NYPD officers around Zuccotti Park holding the flex cuffs, in the riot arresting gear they put on, and there was about 120 people in sleeping bags in the middle of the park.

(laughs)

It was the most ridiculous fucking thing. Like, “Really? Why do you guys have a helmet on? Aren’t you, like, hot in that? There’s no reason.”

So, I basically didn’t sleep. I just sat up and watched, just walking around the park the whole time, because I was like, “If these motherfuckers do anything, I’m sending it to Spectrum News NY1.”

People started coming in around 6:30, 7:00 a.m., to bring breakfast to everyone. Then I went and got my kid and we went home. She hadn’t slept much either, so we slept the next day.

And then we went back to the park, had dinner there, and stayed for the General Assembly, started getting into it, meeting people.

Around then, I found out about, “We Are the 99%,” and that it had been approved by the General Assembly and everything but there was no work being done on it, so I met with creator and was like, “Hey, I have all this experience in content marketing and stuff and I can help out.” It was largely just blogging and promoting at that point.

He was like, “Cool,” and we both just started publishing as fast as we could, which, apparently – since a lot of other people were treating their blogs like a typical magazine, they would take a lot of time in between posts, and since we were publishing probably 25 to 50 posts a night – that was part of what set the publishing world on fire about Occupy.

As long as it wasn’t, like, a weird porno post, we would put it through, and we only ever got two really bad ones like that, which kind of surprised me.

The way you submitted the posts is that it has to be approved by an editor, so we did have to read them all, because we also didn’t wanna put through something that was gonna inspire people to hurt themselves or others or anything like that.

So, we read through all the posts, which were all so heartbreaking. I remember reading through these things for publication and just breaking down in tears, just realizing how hard people were struggling.

You know, and this is during Obama, before the horrors of 45. I mean, we thought things were kind of going to be okay, but they really weren’t, and they were never okay.

So, anyway, I started working with the creator and another editor, just reading through the entries and publishing as many of them as we could, then I started working with the Occupied Wall Street group of bloggers and editors, did a lot of promotional work for The Occupied Wall Street Journal, and when I started working with occupywallst.org, that’s when it got really heavy really quickly, because that website was run by an amazing group of trans women, but 2011 was not like 2021, and we had a lot of problems with white cis-male people and leadership. 

So, because we had trouble getting people to help out with that effort on that platform, it just wound up being a lot of work for us, because there wasn’t anything else built. There was another website being built by the General Assembly, but it didn’t actually launch until, like, May of 2012 or something.

So, we had to get out announcements all the time, which was why we had the Twitter handle. Then, at that point, we had so much traffic happening, it was ridiculous. We were still writing on the page up to about two years later, just because there was so much traffic and it was such an amazing and remarkable ability to be able to reach millions of people with no marketing budget.

That’s why we still have the Facebook page and write on it, because we’ve reached 60 million people a year, and there’s a reason, and we made sure that it was completely steered toward anti-capitalism.  

But after the 17th, I slept in the park a couple times, but not a whole lot, because I lived in Brooklyn, but that was true for a lot of people living in New York City: We would show up from morning until very late at night but then go home while other people were in the park – God bless them – but sleeping in Liberty Square was awesome. It was fun.

[i] Danny Schechter, Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street (Cosimo Books, 2012)