Politics
Politics

Video: Occupy Protester Mark Read Creates "99%" Bat Signal in NYC

| by Michael Allen

As Occupy Wall Street protesters were walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday evening, a series of images flashed across the side of the Verizon building, located near the East River, starting with a circled “99%” (video below).

The 99% was followed with: “LOOK AROUND / YOU ARE A PART / OF A GLOBAL UPRISING / WE ARE A CRY / FROM THE HEART / OF THE WORLD / WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE / ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE … OCCUPY EARTH / WE ARE WINNING / IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING / DO NOT BE AFRAID / LOVE.”

The web site BoingBoing.net tracked down the signal’s creator, Mark Read, to find out what had inspired the display and how he pulled it off.

Read said: “Initial talks focused on having a thousand people taking the bridge in the afternoon, and continuing in a militant mode of activism. We started thinking about creating a more unifying moment. A celebration of the birthday of Occupy Wall Street."

"Maybe taking the roadway and having lots of arrests might not be best thing. … And a guy named Hero, who has been central to a lot of facets of the occupation since the beginning, turns to me and says, ‘We need a bat signal. The 99%.’”

“I said, 'I think I can do that.' I know just enough about how the technology works that I think I can pull that off. And for the past two weeks, I’ve worked full time on figuring that out.”

Read explained that he has a background in working with “a community of friends who deploy spectacle and art in the service of radical politics.” Through these events, he has “met people with a variety of skill sets, strange and magical abilities,” and he was able to get many of them working as a team.

He also needed a location from which he could project the images, and for that he found a single mother living in a city-subsidized housing project across from the Verizon building who was enthusiastic about having them use her apartment.

She brought her whole family together for the light show, and even when the police started pointing at their window (one can only imagine what crime they would have been charged with), the family’s mood remained festive and defiant.

“This is choosing hope over despair, Read says. “This is actively and resolutely making that choice. … I know we’re heading into winter in New York, but this feels like springtime.”