There are a lot of layers of meta to last night's "occupation" of a Law and Order set depicting Occupy Wall Street, but somewhere in there a few members of the so-called 99 percent are pretty seriously put out that protesters disrupted a crew of workers just trying to make a living. The cycle of jokes is almost endless when it comes to a real protest infiltrating a fake one built for television. But while it makes for great internet (check out the Twitter hashtag #mockupy, for starters), the stunt did leave production workers grumbling about hypocrisy among those who purport to speak for working people.
"During #mockupy protest, #ows defaces props and sets of L&O:SVU recreation of Liberty Plaza. So torn in my feelings about this," tweeted Eric Hart, a props artisan and photographer. "Prop Masters frequently use own stock, lending or renting to the production they work on, or borrowing from colleagues," he continued. Then: "IOW, defacing and disassembling of set and props not necessarily an attack on corporate America, but on working class TV crews"
On Friday, Curt King, a spokesman for NBC Universal, said the network had no comment. Warren Leight, an executive producer of “Law & Order: SVU,” sent a series of messages on Twitter that began, “Saddened by last night’s events.” The tweets were deleted about 45 minutes after they appeared, and a call to Mr. King about why they had disappeared from Mr. Leight’s Twitter feed was not immediately returned.
“We understand OWS emotions run high,” Mr. Leight had said, “and also protesters’ fear of having their images and history co-opted by corporate media — the irony here is the scene we couldn’t shoot portrayed OWS in a sympathetic light.”
In another tweet, he said, “And harassing night shift production assistants. Those are not the images of OWS we wanted our audience to see.”
“Let’s move forward,” he added. “Peace.”
A spokesman for the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, which represents production workers in New York, was unavailable when we called.
The line between protesters, those they are protesting, those they are representing, and those trying to stop them from protesting certainly gets blurry in the retelling of this story, which is what makes this particular action so fun to read about. Twitter wiseacre Odvo made some funny comments in that direction: "Did the fake L&O cops want to crack real OWS protester heads? Would the real cops side with their doubles or the protesters?" And then: "Were the fake OWS protesters afraid of the real cops? How could the cops tell them apart?" So did Sandi Bachom, who captioned the below photo: "NYPD peacefully protesting our peaceful protest as 'Mockupy' Wall Street Protesters Occupy Law & Order:SVU @ FAKE Zuccotti Park set 12/9/11." Honestly, we're not even sure if these are real cops (no, they are).
The protesters themselves were pretty amused by all the self-referential confusion of their action, and the confusion on the ground, telling police, "We're all just extras," according to Gothamist.
Then there was the question of the show's permit, which the New York Post said had been revoked, but which the Occupy Wall Street Twitter stream suggested never existed. Plenty others reported the show had originally had a permit, though, so we're going with that news. Still, the idea the show was squatting gave the occupiers no end of delight. "Of course, we didn't have a permit either. So @solidarity @nbclawandorder! Just don't do it again," Occupy Wall Street crowed via Twitter. But it rankled plenty of protesters that NBC could get a permit in the first place to do the exact thing they couldn't. "I'm sure if you paid them a vast sum of money they would let you have a protest no questions asked," tweeted Eric Edington-Hyrb. Maybe it's not such a bad idea. After all, Occupy still does have some money to throw around. Perhaps they could rent a camera, apply for a permit, and continue the occupation. Or the movie of the occupation. Or whatever.