The left-wing, anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street camp-out in Lower Manhattan stretched into its third week, bolstered by an influx of labor unions. The story made the front of Thursday’s New York Times along with a large photo of protestors in Foley Square, “Seeking Energy, Unions Join Wall Street Protest.”
It’s a far cry from the paper’s coverage of the first major Tea Party rally in Manhattan. The paper’s hostile reporting of the nationwide Tea Party rallies on April 15, 2009 (Tax Day) virtually ignored a supportive crowd of thousands, citing in a single sentence an Associated Press report on Newt Gingrich speaking at the Manhattan rally. The report made Page 16.
Labor reporter Steven Greenhouse and Cara Buckley promoted the labor perspective on Thursday.
Stuart Appelbaum, an influential union leader in New York City, was in Tunisia last month, advising the fledgling labor movement there, when he received a flurry of phone calls and e-mails alerting him to the rumblings of something back home. Protesters united under a provocative name, Occupy Wall Street, were gathering in a Lower Manhattan park and raising issues long dear to organized labor.
And gaining attention for it.
Mr. Appelbaum recalled asking a colleague over the phone to find out who was behind Occupy Wall Street -- a bunch of hippies or perhaps troublemakers? -- and whether the movement might quickly fade.
So far, at least, it has not, and on Wednesday, several prominent unions, struggling to gain traction on their own, made their first effort to join forces with Occupy Wall Street. Thousands of union members marched with the protesters from Foley Square to their encampment in nearby Zuccotti Park.
“The labor movement needs to tap into the energy and learn from them,” Mr. Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said. “They are reaching a lot of people and exciting a lot of people that the labor movement has been struggling to reach for years.”
In fact, the unexpected success of Occupy Wall Street in leveling criticism of corporate America has stirred some soul-searching among labor leaders. They have noted with envy that the new movement has done a far better job, not only of capturing interest, but also of attracting young people. Protests have spread to dozens of cities, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
What precisely is that criticism? The Times doesn’t say, perhaps because the Occupy protests are more a collection of various grievances than specific demands (as Greenhouse hinted at deeper into the story).
Greenhouse at least committed some accurate labeling when reporting on the activists’ confrontations with the police:
Others said they were wary of being embarrassed by the far-left activists in the group who have repeatedly denounced the United States government.
Those concerns may be renewed after a disturbance about 8 p.m. Wednesday as the march was breaking up. The police said they arrested eight protesters around the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, after people rushed barriers and began spilling into the street. While a couple of witnesses said that officers used pepper spray to clear the streets, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said that one officer “possibly” used it. Several protesters were also arrested at State and Bridge Streets at 9:30 p.m.; the police said one protester was charged with assault after an officer was knocked off his scooter.