While the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t have one specific person leading the way, the diverse assembly of organizers, volunteers, and activists has attracted one notable name eager to be the protest’s mouthpiece: Russell Simmons.
When news that the tenants of Occupy Wall Street, who have turned New York City’s Zuccotti Park into something of a tent city for nearly a month, would be “evicted” for a clean-up by the real-estate company that owns the park, it sparked outrage, particularly with Simmons. The mogul, who visited Occupy Wall Street earlier this week with Kanye West, tweeted that he has “been there 15 times” since and was more than willing to sacrifice himself so that the Occupy Wall Street movement could stay put at its main hub.
On Thursday night Simmons posted from his page, “Dear @MikeBloomberg pls do not throw out protesters at Zuccotti Park. I will pay for clean-up to avoid confrontation #OWS.” He followed up with another tweet to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, “Dear mike I have long supported u and u have been good mayor, don’t take me to jail tomorrow I’m not 22 I don’t wanna go :-) but I will.”
As it turns out, Simmons, nor those stationed at Zuccotti Park will have to go anywhere, for now. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The real-estate company that owns the small park at the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement has postponed a planned cleaning of the site, a New York City deputy mayor announced early Friday morning. The decision by Brookfield Office Properties Inc. to delay its planned cleaning of Zuccotti Park means that the protesters who have been living at the site for nearly a month will not be forced to depart and remove the tarps, beds and other items accumulated during the ongoing demonstration.”
Simmons, who alerted followers that he would be at the hub of the Occupy Wall Street movement at 7 a.m. this morning, tweeted when he heard the news that no one would have to leave Zuccotti Park, “Thank God no confrontation no violence no jail. Clean-up cancelled. Thousands of peaceful people. #occupywallstreet.”
So has celebrity involvement from the likes of Simmons helped strengthen the Occupy Wall Street cause? EW spoke to Occupy Wall Street protesters earlier this week during the “Millionaire March,” in which thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Upper East Side neighborhood to visit the homes of wealthy and powerful residents such as News International CEO’s Rupert Murdoch. The consensus from most was that having celebrities at their side only helped their cause. As one protester put it, “Everybody’s voice should be respected equally, but when you have a celebrity, their voice carries much further. So if they can spread the message in an articulate way, that’s great.”
Of course, not every star has something nice to say about Occupy Wall Street. While Simmons called the demonstrators, “brave, patriotic yng ppl” on Twitter, Saturday Night Live alum Victoria Jackson, who paid a visit to Zuccotti Park as well, said of the group, “I think they are against capitalism.”
Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly had his own choice descriptions of the Occupy Wall Street-ers who have taken up residence in the downtown Manhattan park. During Thursday night’s installment of his Fox show The O’Reilly Factor, the host wondered, “Do we [have] all kinds of crackheads down there?” after reports that drugs have possibly been at the Occupy Wall Street site. We wonder what Jon Stewart will have to say about that.
In other words, we may not have just a culture war on our hands, but a celebrity culture war as well.