The Occupation of 90 Fifth Ave.: An Overview
Additional reporting by Stephany Chung
The New School found itself at the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement for a fleeting moment yesterday, when more than a hundred students from colleges across New York City took over the Student Study Center at 90 Fifth Ave., barricading the space and staying there overnight. The situation remains fluid and uncertain, but here at The New School Free Press we’ve been tracking the progress of the occupation, the third at the university in four years. Students from NYU, Columbia, Hunter, Pratt and CUNY Grad joined New School students in the occupation yesterday, and while only a handful remained there this morning, a large group is expected to return later today for a General Assembly meeting.
It all began at around 3 p.m. yesterday, November 17, with a scheduled student walkout. An estimated 20 students showed up in the Vera List Courtyard — a smaller turnout than had been expected — before marching around campus, beating a drum and urging others to leave their classes and join in. The initial reaction from students was underwhelming. At Fogelman Library, one student protester made a speech, announcing the walkout and inviting others to come, while a fire alarm rang in the background — another protester had, evidently, set it off. But no students left the library, and a security guard apathetically asked all students to ignore the alarm. The protesters met a similar reaction when they entered a classroom on the fourth floor of the 66 W. 12 St. building, where a lecture was underway; students watched with apparent disinterest as a protester stood in front of them, beating a drum and shouting for them to “come join!”
The protest gained momentum, though, as New School students gathered on the northwest corner of Union Square Park, where a crowd of other OWS protesters were holding a General Assembly. After rallying there for about an hour, hundreds of protesters began marching towards Fifth Avenue, where they stopped traffic between 14th and 15th Streets. Struggling to keep the protesters on the sidewalk, the NYPD set up a police barricade on 14th Street, but to little avail — people pushed against the police and onto the street.
It was during this battle on Fifth Avenue, at approximately 4:15 p.m., when student protesters began to enter the building at 90 Fifth Ave. and take over the Study Center on the second floor. Around 40 people had entered the building, and were already blockading the space by pushing tables against the escalators and covering the windows with signs and banners, when police blocked the front entrance and stopped more protesters from entering.
“Don’t leave! We need you!” those who had made it into the building shouted to people still on the street. “Join us!”
Concerns remain about police action, as The New School does not technically own the building. But the owner, Aby Rosen, a real estate mogul, has taken little action so far. For now, the occupation remains peaceful, no arrests have been made, and the administration is striving to resolve the situation without legal action or police force.
The New School Free Press will be covering the occupation of 90 Fifth Ave. until it ends. Check our website for new information.