OWS Free University Rocks Madison Square Park, Draws Bigger Crowd Than Shake Shack

Steven Thrasher
Class at Free University in Madison Sq
Somewhat ironically, it's the Occupy Wall Street May Day event that is the least controversial that is most reminiscent of the best of Zuccotti Park's heyday. The Free University of New York -- largely sponsored by CUNY students and faculty who chose to take their classes into Madison Square Park today, where they were free and open to the public -- recalled Zuccotti's finest hours, when freewheeling political debate and the exchange of ideas dominated a public space unseen in modern New York.

The big question this reporter had before arriving was, if Free University were to really affect the public life of Madison Square, would it be able to draw a bigger crowd than Shake Shack?

It actually did.

Event organizers never meant for this gathering to be antagonist, and worked closely with park managers and the NYPD to guarantee it would be a peaceful, safe space. Outside of the park, balloons and info tables welcomed visitors in a fashion more inviting than their counterparts last fall in Zuccotti.

Inside, classes met on the ground and at various monuments. In an hour loop I took around the park, I was able to hear lectures and lessons from Truthdig's Chris Hedges (railing about "The Death of the Liberal Class," a rigorous discussion of "classical political philosophy," a critique of U.S. and global incarceration practices, a history lesson on student activism at CUNY (including reflections from a student activist who'd protested at City College in 1968), a discussion of the Palestinian state, and a course on the business behind mathematic and algorithms.There were also martial arts and yoga classes.

Steven Thrasher
Class on incarceration and reducing violence, ironically in front of Civil War General David Farragut

Classes were also given by noted individuals likes Frances Fox Piven and Wayne Koestenbaum.

The overall theme of this protest was about the role of education and its privatization and marginalization as a public good, especially in terms of humanities education. The organizers seemed to think that the best way to "strike" at CUNY was to open up their education to everyone and attempt to air their ideas. But, besides some of the content (theater students staged a mock wedding between the CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Kroll Securities CEO Jules Kroll "in richer and richer"; Hedges railed that hedge managers are scared "shitless" that "people might actually think"), there was hardly any conflict. The atmosphere was light and open, and gave the NYPD nothing to be afraid of.

Things began to wrap up when flanks of the Guitarmy began to appear and groups began to converge towards Union Square.

@steven_thrasher | sthrasher@villagevoice.com

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Dear Stupid Occupy Idiot Sucker, 

I know you mean well. I know that you have justified issues with the criminals on Wall Street, such as Lloyd Blankfein, and the other jews who have stolen literally BILLIONS of YOUR dollars (well, at least your parents dollars). I know that all the neurotoxic "ecstasy" use has lowered your IQ by about 10 points. So I'm going to try to break it down for you in a way that even you can understand:

1). George Soros is one of the biggest shyster criminals on Wall Street. 2). George Soros gives money to all the jewish organizations like Adbusters who are sponsoring your Occupy movement.

Why do you think that the biggest shyster criminal on Wall Street would sponsor your movement? BECAUSE IT'S DESIGNED TO HAVE NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER. 

George Soros knows that if you go out, clap your hands, sing some songs, play some bongos, maybe meet a new bf or gf, that all of your "rage against the machine" will be forgotten, after you let off a little steam. 

That's why he pays for this. That's why he pays for this, and sits in his office laughing at you, while you chant your little chant, and talk like a preschool idiot in your "consensus building" group. 

Please pull your head out of your ass and STOP BEING SO GULLIBLE. 


I will ignore your anti-semitism for a moment to try and outline the flaws in everything else you said.

The Free University, which is the article you are commenting on, was not a protest where we "go out, clap your hands, sing some songs, play some bongos, maybe meet a new bf or gf, that all of your "rage against the machine" will be forgotten, after you let off a little steam."

Did you actually read the article? Did you attend? Do you have a clue what you're actually talking about? It's quite obvious that you are uninformed. You really should at least read the article that you're talking about so you sound somewhat relavent instead of a racist idiot.

Second, the free university was run on a minuscule amount of money from OWS, and on barely any money whatsoever for the size of the event. This was simply done on dedicated man-power by people who care. This would 100% have been done without any money from OWS (who you accuse george soros of funding).

You should also really try to stop lumping people into these large groups, which you then classify and judge. It's just not accurate and people will discredit you because blanket statements are wrong for most people. It also seems to make you hateful and full of anger, which just doesn't seem healthy. Just relax a little bit, stop hating, and try to be constructive.

I wish you the best of luck on becoming a better person in the future.


The surest sign of ignorance and fear is the blaming and scape goating of other groups.Bonus points to anyone who can count out all the assumptions and name-calling you have resorted to...yes, you really seem like you care about the "stupid occupy idiot suckers". This world has gone to shit with attitudes like yours. Wake up and stop with the fear-mongering. 


Nazi Troll, go back to Freeperland.

Fuck off and die of cancerAIDS,

Comrade General Strelnikov

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault