OCCUPY WALL STREET BAT SIGNAL
BAT SIGNAL TEAM
A coalition of labor unions had called for a national day of action on November 17 to push back against austerity and demand infrastructure improvements and jobs. Actions were planned for 17 bridges in 17 cities. In New York City, a permit was obtained for a large rally in the Wall Street area with a march over the Brooklyn Bridge to follow. November 17 also happened to be the two-month birthday celebration for Occupy Wall Street. Within spitting distance of the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway stands a 32-story grey concrete slab of a building commonly known as “the Verizon building” due to the huge Verizon logo at the top. A flat windowless expanse approximately 75 feet in width extends up the face with low ambient light. In the days before the action, we began to realize that we would be able to project not only the 99% symbol, but also words large and bright enough for people to read from the bridge. Amazingly, all went as planned, and the action was even more successful than we could have hoped. The 20,000-strong crowd on the bridge went crazy. We could hear them shouting, cheering, and, yes, “mic-checking.” We were interacting with the crowd, mixing the projections on the fly in response to the crowd’s reactions. It was the galvanizing, unifying moment of joy and celebration that we’d hoped to provide for this burgeoning global movement toward a more just and democratic world. The action worked because all the elements fell into place: the technology was powerful, the weather cooperated, and the scale suited the occasion. Most vitally, though, the action was embedded within a movement and played on elements from movement culture-both in style and in substance. The “human mic” and “mic check” were immediately grasped and appreciated. Most of the language came from chants or well-known slogans. The “bat signal” itself required no translation. It’s a part of our cultural commons, part of the “spectacular vernacular” of global pop culture, a symbol we all understand to be a call for aid and an outlaw call to arms-after all, isn’t that precisely what the Occupy movement represents? Of course, Batman is actually a quasi-sociopathic millionaire vigilante. A one-percenter, you might say. But by filling that symbol-by occupying it-with our own content-“99%”-we appropriated it for the rest of us. And in this reconfiguration, we were no longer waiting for some superhero, be it a masked vigilante or the first black president, to swoop in and save the day. Rather, we were the response to our own call for aid.