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Occupy Museums Protest at Lincoln Center Gets Bolster from Philip Glass, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson

by Allison Meier on December 2, 2011

Occupy Museums at Lincoln Center (all photos by author)

Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed joined last night’s Occupy Museums demonstration at Lincoln Center, held to coincide with the final performance of Glass’s “Satyagraha” at the Metropolitan Opera.

The three-act opera, part of Glass’s sprawling Portrait Trilogy that also includes “Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten,” is inspired by Gandhi’s time in South Africa, which was influential in developing his belief in non-violence. The goal of the protest was, as stated in a press release, to stand against “the anti-democratic policies of Lincoln Center and Bloomberg.”

From the release:

Previously, Occupy Museums and other OWS groups came to Lincoln Center to protest the “generous philanthropy” of David H. Koch, the funder of the Tea Party and of anti-global warming research, who uses philanthropic contributions to the former New York State Theater to whitewash his misanthropic reputation and write off his taxes. We will return again to Lincoln Center, where ‘Satyagraha’ has inspired us to once again challenge the ruthless nexus of power and wealth and reclaim our public space and common dignity.

Police on the steps of Lincoln Center Plaza

Before Glass arrived, others at the demonstration stepped up to the “people’s mic,” one describing a scene in “Satyagraha” where the performers all remove their shoes as a sign of solidarity and humility. The speaker encouraged all those present to remove their shoes and, despite the weather dipping down into the 40s, many did and placed them in a line beneath the police barricade, which blocked everyone except ticket holders or early arrivers from the plaza. It appeared that at least one, and possibly two, arrests were made during the night’s protest, both people who crossed the metal barricade into the plaza (although it was not clear what was the exact cause of arrest).

Barricade between the sidewalk protest and the plaza

Justin Brown, who was handing out copies of the Occupy Wall Street Journal, said that the protest was “exploring the contradiction of an opera of protest” taking place at Lincoln Center, which was barring the protesters from entering the plaza. The fact that Bloomberg LP is a corporate sponsor of Lincoln Center, along with Mayor Bloomberg ordering the recent sweep of Zuccotti Park, was also a point of protest. However, another protester named Steven, a fan of Philip Glass and a previous participant in Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, said, “If someone is going to fund the arts, no matter who it is, I’m not going to object,” and said that part of the protest should be that the arts aren’t getting enough funding.

Occupy Lincoln Center

As the opera’s audience exited from the theater into the unusually empty plaza, some people joined the protesters who chanted “off the stage, into the streets,” while others paused to take a photograph or followed the barricades to the crosswalk away from the sidewalk protest.

A Satyagraha-inspired protest sign

Philip Glass himself soon came out into the plaza and walked through to the crowd (he had been at the opera’s final performance), giving a statement of support for Occupy Wall Street. As he talked through the people’s mic, the crowd on the plaza side of the barricade, composed of audience members, became just as dense as the crowd on the sidewalk, the barrier in between disappearing. The short statement he made was more of a poem than a speech:

“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take physical shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil, and setting virtue on her seat again.”

Statue of Liberty protest puppet

Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson addressed the crowd after midnight, with Reed stating:

“I’m a musician in New York. I’ve played all over. I was born in Brooklyn, but I’ve never been more ashamed than to see the barricades tonight. The police are our army. I want to be friends with them, and I want to occupy Wall Street. I support it in each and every way. I’m proud to be part of this.”

 

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