Katrina Brees paraded around Wall Street Tuesday in a white marching band costume and white furry boots, pulling a tricycle transformed into a sculpture of a pink unicorn. She drove all the way from New Orleans to help with the Occupy Wall Street protests, “to lift spirits and lend support,” she said, resting her hand on the unicorn’s head.
An artist and dance troupe leader driving 1,300 miles to protest what she sees as corporate greed is quite a display of populist anger. So what does Brees think about Bank of America’s recent announcement to charge customers $5 a month to make debit card purchases, which has generated similar feelings of outrage across the country?
[Related Article: Many Consumers Outraged by Bank of America’s Big New Debit Fee]
She hadn’t heard about it.
“Why should I care?” Brees said.
Others say the fee is a topic of discussion, but it hasn’t exactly become a major rallying cry among protesters.
“I talk to people about it 60 or 70 times a day,” says Daniel Levine, 22, a protester who was manning an information desk. “But I don’t know if anybody’s doing anything about it.”
It would seem a happy happenstance. Just as a group of protesters is beginning to gain international media attention to its anti-corporate agenda by occupying a park in the middle of the Wall Street financial district, Bank of America announced it would begin charging people a fee to use their own money.
Comments on Credit.com and other financial news websites were almost uniformly negative, with many people saying they would close their Bank of America accounts immediately. Even President Obama criticized the move, saying it may merit action by federal regulators.
This is precisely the kind of moment for which most nascent activist organizations pray. For at least a few brief days, the roving eye of the 24-hour news cycle is fixed on the same issue bringing the protesters together: Populist anger at Wall Street.
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But because Occupy Wall Street is such a diverse gathering, with a purposefully decentralized structure and no official spokesperson, it could be argued that the protesters are doing something that one rarely sees in our media savvy era: They’re letting a big news event slip right by.
“I haven’t heard anybody talking about it,” said Sara, 25, a volunteer at Occupy Wall Street who declined to give her last name. “Maybe you should go talk to the community outreach committee or the direct action committee. Maybe they’re working on it.”
We couldn’t find the direct action committee’s table, which supposedly is located somewhere in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, tucked in amongst the media table, the protesters sleeping under plastic tarps on blow-up mattresses, the drop-off station for donated food, the drumming circle, the phalanx of New York City police officers, and the hundreds of people generally milling around the park on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon.
We did find the outreach committee’s area, where a volunteer named Brian Harris was busy stretching a grey tarp over the table while carrying on conversations with five different people at once.
“No, we haven’t been talking about it,” Harris said. “My sole focus is getting ready for a march tomorrow.”
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All images by Jamie Pietras