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November 18, 2011

Occupy Oblivion

I saw this photo yesterday and it just keeps offering more — more tidbits of irony, more cultural reflection.

First though, it’s important to consider the photo in the context of the very out-of-the-ordinary day. Following Occupy’s eviction from Zuccotti Park just 36 hours before, and in light of similar evictions across the country, nerves were raw as protesters marked the two month anniversary of the movement with the intent to march on the Stock Exchange.

The photo was taken by Rolling Stone photo editor and friend-of-the-Bag, Sacha Lecca. He writes:

This was on Pine Street, feet from the intersection of Pine and Nassau where there had just been a lot of arrests, some very rough. The police had just pushed the crowd onto the sidewalks, leaving the street clear. This photo was taken at 9:16:02 AM literally TWO MINUTES after the arrest of the retired Philadelphia police captain in almost the same spot. (Note: he was arrested because he stepped into the street, and sat down). I felt it was telling how the man in the suit could very easily and undeterred, walk right through.

The photo hits many chords. One involves privilege, and the consistent clear path it offers those with the resources. Another is protection, as if NY riot cops were exclusively clearing the way, and keeping away the riff-raff, for our well-tailored friend. Finally, what makes the photo for me is the sense of utter obliviousness toward the 99% — as well as how most of the faces on that sidewalk seem to be deeply digesting that fact.

I’m interested in everything else you’re picking up here.

PHOTOGRAPH by Sacha Lecca/Rolling Stone.

See Bag’s complete OWS coverage here.

About the Photographer


  • Anonymous

    Our jaunty privileged master reminds us of the new spin for the old formula: e pluribus unum – out of many, one. For the founding fathers it meant that relatively weak individuals united create one powerful force for the benefit of all. Nowadays it means out of many only one is worth anything.

  • Cathifa

    I noticed that he’s wearing earbuds.  He’s literally “tuned out”.

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  • Ktn

    The suited man’s posture is perfectly erect and forward.  The glimpse of his red tie indicates that he is well seasoned in knowing how the game is played.  The color red is a “power” color, that is why many business people and politician incorporate it into their daily wardrobe.  It makes me curious how the protester would come across if they too dressed in suits with red ties or red blouses. 

    Part of the reason why the protesters are dismissed by the well-dressed 1% is due in part to how scruffy the protesters look.  They’re dismissed as dirty hippies.  It would be be humorous and perhaps up-lifting to see them all suited up for a day with the same message, “They got bailed out.  We got sold out!”  Giving the visual message of sameness yet not at all.

  • Stella

    It’s interesting to see the expressions of those men across the street and wonder what they’re thinking about this scene.
    Is the press confined to one side of the street here?

    • Sacha Lecca

      Stella, the protesters are on both sides of the streets here. Many reporters and photographers regardless of having a press pass (I do not) have been among the crowd. I’ve only seen a few instances where a photographer have been able to cross a police line.
      I had just been in the intersection photographing the arrests when the crowd got pushed back and onto the sidewalks, at first to allow a few vehicles that had been stopped, to get through.

  • bks

    I like the fact that the OWS people look friendly.


  • pragmatic realist

    In the old south it was the black people who had to step off the sidewalk and walk in the street. I don’t think the man is mindful of the fact that he is the one who had to step off the sidewalk, and that the only way he is able to go on his way is because he is protected by hundreds of police. Does it dawn on him that if the police were not there, what would happen to him? I like to think that he is scared to death.

    • glenn

      What do you think would happen to him? OWS people do not threaten individuals with bodily harm, even banksters.

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  • Anonymous

    The 1%er is utterly oblivious, a self-involved rooster (echoes of cock/prick) strutting down the street, too important to be bothered by the dirty little people watching from the sidewalk. He may very well be concerned about getting out of the crowd before the combined odors and grime rub off on him.

    I think this pic should be printed up poster-size and distributed around the country. This hot young swell(ed head) could be the beacon that brings the entire 99% swarming out of their armchairs.

  • Aurora

    This picture seems to confirm the statement of the retired Philly police captain:  that he fears that the NYPD are becoming the Mercenaries for Wall Street.

    Also, our One Percenter here is literally marching to a different drum, the beat-beat-beating heart of gimme…(is that too harsh?)

    What is happening for sure today, is that as I cruise my normal menu of newswebs, there are quite a few images of uniformed, helmeted, booted para-militaries beating on the crowd…and I can’t tell until I read the headline if it is in the US, or Egypt, or….

    (makes my tummy hurt…)

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  • Shirley Gregory

    I thought about this one for a while, and then it came to me: the thing it reminds me of is a passage from Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse,” where he was discussing the end of the Nordic settlement in Greenland. He noted that the largest, most well-off households appeared to have been the last to meet with their fate. I don’t have the passage in front of me, but he tried to imagine what was going through those people’s minds, and whether they tried unsuccessfully to fight off the hungry masses before they too succumbed.

  • r

    Oh he may seem oblivious but he knows those people are there. He knows.
    And they are not going away.

    Big things. REALLY BIG things-events-have a schedule all their own.

  • psychohistorian

    I feel sorry for this guy.  He is part of the 99% but is scared shitless about losing his job more.  His look is one of fear.

    Look at the length of his suit coat sleeve…not one of the 1%….just someone who, for reasons we can only conjecture about, is intent on getting to where he needs to go in the middle of the protest….and yes, the police state is trained to be biased towards what someone is wearing, and defer to their purpose.

  • Some Guy

    he could be delivering cocaine ,and is in drag.Look at that cheap j.c.Penny suit .He didn’t have time to get the sleeves altered .This is not a c.e.o. ,look at the shoes ,maybe a cold caller getting lunch for the crew .That cheap canvas bag ,tells me he is not well heeled ,or is a serious computer tech ,oblivious to fashion .Maybe he just robbed a bank .But chances are he is some retail sales guy or a cog going to some job trying to tune it all out . Maybe he is a mystic in a state of satori with a sense of humor and is using his jedi powers to disguise himself and walk through the mayhem untouched while listening to some enya or miles davis .I hope he isn’t listening to enya,maybe he is listening to rage against the machine , or some old roger waters .

  • ahp378

    I normally just creep on this blog via my Google Reader, but I felt compelled to comment on this one, because I think what’s represented here (at least to me) is purely visual and visual only- for better or worse, we live in a society where people will respond to you based on the way you dress and the way you carry yourself, and there’s no denying we all judge people the same way ourselves, at least in terms of first impressions.  I’ve countless times taken up the “act as if” method when it suits me and I don’t doubt you have too, and while I’m not implying that’s what’s going on here, I think you can still see the point I’m trying to make- the streets are not clear for this man because he is “privileged” or “has resources”- they are clear for him because he LOOKS and ACTS like he does.  Which, after all, is what this blog is all about, right?  The way things appear?  Just sayin’…

    • bks

      I think you mean  “lurk” not “creep”.


  • Conservativenproud

    He wasn’t arrested because he wasn’t protesting and blocking traffic. He was actually doing something productive for society- going to work. Something the “99%ers” wouldn’t know anything about.

    • Thomas

      There are a great many other countries that share your hostility toward democracy. Perhaps you’d consider making one of them your home?

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  • pragmatic realist

    Nothing would happen to him, except maybe someone would try to talk to him. But he doesn’t believe that. He thinks they would tear him apart, because that is what he would want to do.

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