Next stop, the internet table, where Drew Hornbein is sitting in front of a sign-up sheet for volunteers. He explains that the internet group is like the media team and press team, a semi-autonomous section of the General Assembly, and their objective “is not the conversation itself, but facilitating it.” Horbein says his team runs the New York City general assembly (NYCGA) webpage.
The NYCGA is the governing body of New York City’s Occupy Wall Street; it meets every evening at 7 pm, where all the committees come and discuss their thoughts and needs. It is open to all who want to attend, and anyone can speak. And while there is no named leader, some of the members do routinely moderate the general assembly meetings. Hornbein and the Internet team update the minutes from every meeting, along with other need-to-know information for organizers.
The big project they are working on now is getting Internet to the park as a whole, which Hornbein says will help, “eliminate the information hierarchy.” He explains that right now, the media area has the computers and the connection, but because “they have a job to do,” it is cut off from everyone else. “We’re trying to create this model society but at the same time we’re recreating some of the bad things,” he says. “Our big concern is to get Internet to the rest of the park.“
The Internet table is in its first day, but Hornbein has been working as part of this committee since July, when the call to Occupy Wall Street first went out from AdBusters. He says he used to work as a freelance graphic designer, but quit as soon as he heard about this protest, “I was working on this dinky little e-commerce site that gets 500 hits a day,” he said. “Now I am working on a site that is getting 50,000 to 100,000.”
As it got closer to the time of the march, almost 3 pm, I headed back over to the media table, hoping that people are back from their meeting. They weren’t, but I do meet Todd Graham, a freelance artist. He has a tag around his neck, with the handwritten words, Todd, Occupy Media Team. He works gathering audio and pictures for the live feed. He tells me that at first, he was skeptical about the demonstration—thrown off by the ambiguity. But he started coming everyday, attending General Assembly meetings, and decided to help. He says media team meetings are usually centered around coordinating where different people like him will be, to make sure they have all points covered, recorded, and beamed to the world.
Graham tells me I must meet Monica Lopez, one of the primary organizers behind the livestream. She traveled from Spain to Wall Street, after spending the last four months demonstrating in Madrid. She says she is a freelance photojournalist, and came to help with the media; she is considered an expert on this topic by other members of the team. While we talk we are interrupted by an electricity crisis:
“The generator is off!” someone shouts. “We need gas for the generators,” the man continues, and Lopez gets up to help.
I see Brian Phillips, the ex-Marine, head over to a microphone, which I am surprised to see since he said the rules were no amplification. “Mic check,” he shouts, to a resounding “mic check!”
He continues, in fragments, to say: “A lot of us are marching today. We need to be safe. We ask that no one break the rules. No one is allowed to go on the street. We ask that no one starts a riot.”
“Don’t even say the word riot!” someone in the media area shouts from behind me.
Phillips continues, “Today, Glenn Beck’s followers threatened to kill us. This is a serious issue.”
“No it isn’t!” a voice from the back shouts. “You’re so stupid. Don’t spread this. It’s not worthy of our attention.”
“Dude, at least approve the message before you say something. Seriously. Seriously,” another voice says.
Lopez sticks up for Phillips, “People have to know that people threatened us. It is our right as media to tell them.”
I turn to a man named Justin Wedes, who looks at me and says “just working stuff out” and laughs. He seems to be the only person so far to recognize the name Columbia Journalism Review. Turns out, Craig Silverman wrote about him in a post for CJR, after he concocted a fake press release, and it got picked up by the AP as a real story.