One of the reasons Occupy Wall Street has been so notable is the movement's often outrageous creativity in coming up with protest tactics, and their latest one is one of the strangest and most specific. There's the Occucopter, and that takeover of a television set meant to resemble the encampment at Zuccotti Park, and of course there's the whole concept of protesting by camping out in city parks in the first place. On Monday, the latest odd Occupy tactic debuted: Squidding. It's a pretty broad protest tactic rooted in a really specific reference, comparing Goldman Sachs and its ilk to blood-sucking squid. You can expect the squid symbol to make its way into the Occupy lexicon as it shows up at future protests, along with camping tents and cries of "we are the 99 percent."
Essentially, the bit consisted of dressing somebody up like a giant squid to represent Goldman Sachs and then holidng a fake press conference in front of Goldman's actual headquarters, organizer Mark Bray said. The squid, which only spoke in gurgling noises, answered the "reporters" through a translater, "As the quesiotns become more confrontational, the squid tried to answer them and then leave and 'go back to work,' " in Goldman's offices Bray said. "but of course the police didn’t let it go back to work." After the squid stunt, the protesters moved to a second action at the World Financial Center, headquarters for Zuccotti Park owner Brookfield Office Properties, where 17 of them were arrested.
The idea stems from this quote in Matt Taibi's April 2010 Rolling Stone piece "The Great American Bubble Machine." Taibi writes of Goldman: "The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." On Monday, Occupy Wall Street used that quote as the basis for an elaborate bit of street theater in New York during protests in concert with the West Coast effort to shut down ports.
The occupiers dreamed up the protest as an alternative to actually shutting down port operations. "We got contacted by the West Coast asking for a solidarity action in New York. We didn’t think the port thing would be appropriate or feasible here, so we did this instead," Bray said. "The squid is going to be a staple now of some of our protests, along with some other elements that will remain secretive until we unveil them," said Kanene Holder, who played the squid.
The protesters have a whole litany of complaints against Goldman, but the specific connection to the West Coast action comes from its ownership stake in port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT, both of which have been involved in long-running labor disputes with the International Longshore Workers Union. The union itself, however, distanced itself from the protests, saying it cost members their day's pay.