In midst of the frenzy at Zuccotti Park, under a giant pink umbrella, a small group of Occupy Wall Street protesters hover over laptops surrounded by mounds of equipment covered in blue tarps. A beaten up cardboard sign rests at their feet, the word “media” written in Magic Marker. This is the Occupy Wall Street media headquarters.
Colin Laws is a 19-year-old here from Connecticut who came to OWS to help the media team. “We got people that monitor social media such as Twitter and Facebook, people that monitor the news, people that Livestream,” he said. “That’s a huge thing, actually, because that’s how get a lot of our news out to our followers.”
A week ago, Laws was one of those Livestream followers, watching the streaming video of Zucotti park over the internet. And then after weeks of just watching the Global Revolution Livestream channel, he sold his TV and all of his video games and bought a bus ticket to New York.
Hero Vincent – yes, that’s his name – is a protester-turned Livestream broadcaster-turned icon. In a Livestream clip from last Friday, right after the city announced it would not evacuate the protesters to clean the park, Hero V announced the victory, saying “We are at a beautiful moment right now. There’s thousands of people out here as you can see. We’re all standing in solidarity. I’m losing my voice again unfortunately.”
If the live stream has news anchors, he’s it. But “news anchor” is not his formal role. There are no formal roles or any formal schedule. The OWS Media is as loose as the protest itself. Hero, for instance, said, it “just happened” that he became the channel’s anchor. “Like, I’m comfortable in front of the camera. ‘Cuz I’m a performer, so like, getting in front of the camera trying to inspire people to do stuff is just who I am.”
Hero’s got the looks for TV as well; tall and lanky with big brown eyes and a quick smile. Still, even he seems surprised by his sudden celebrity. “This guy walks up to me and is like, are you Hero? And he says, ‘Man, I saw your video. The only reason I’m here today is because I saw your video.’ And he’s like, ‘Thank you, can I take a picture of you?,” he laughed.
Another anchor, Vincent, never wanted to be a journalist, if that’s what he is. His Livestream fame is just a byproduct of what he really came down on day one to talk about. “You know, like my family has been foreclosed on. My father’s been unemployed for a couple years now. My sister’s in school with high tuition. It’s just been a long time coming,” he said. “We’ve been working hard. I’ve been working since I was 14 just to help my parents put food on the table. So it was inevitable for me to be here.”
But for other members of the Occupy Wall Street press corps, this may jumpstart another career in, well, media. Luke Richardson works on the live stream, shooting film, charging batteries, guarding the equipment; tasks he says are distributed across the team.
When I asked about his prior experience, he said he was a waiter. Four days into protesting, he quit his job. We didn’t get into the ironies of quitting work to protest unemployment. Richardson said this might be career advancement, just, in a career he had never considered before. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. How I could parlay this into some way to sustain myself? Because I do have bills to pay. And I love this and I want to keep doing it,” he said.
Richardson is not alone. Several members of the media team, from an antique dealer to an English Master’s student, are suddenly reconsidering their future careers. Colin Laws, the kid who sold his TV to pay his way to New York, didn’t only leave Connecticut because of Hero Vincent.
“Another reason I wanted to get down here was because I’m looking to become a journalist,” he said “and I was going to go to school for it but this was going on. And I did not want to wait.”
Not only has the Occupy Wall Street movement spread from city to city, Livestreaming has caught on around the world, too. You can now watch demonstrations live from Los Angeles to London.
This story also aired on NPR’s All Things Considered.