The blowback from Wednesday's OWS-affiliated Fare Strike—in which people chained open subway entrances in roughly 20 stations—has begun. And it appears that in addition to the local fuzz and the MTA, the feds are sniffing around, too!
Quickly after the incident hit the news, the NYPD let it be known that it was investigating the incident. And while no arrests have been made, they have definitely been talking to workers who may have been involved in the stunt. According to the Post, "A clerk and a cleaner at the Beverly Road station in Brooklyn — one of the spots of the citywide protest — were questioned by MTA brass for two hours," and another agent was also questioned. But an inter-Occupy e-mail we obtained says the stunt made it all the way to the F.B.I. Here's the e-mail, with identifying information taken out (emphasis ours):
Hello Everybody, I know this "fare strike" is really exciting and the action went off fairly well but I want to offer some words of caution... In case you don't know who I am, I work for TWU Local 100. It's unclear how much rank and filers actual participated in this. From what I've pieced together from several sources (and it's hard to get the full story) OWS activists got phone numbers for station booths (probably from [redacted], a retiree from the union) and called in and posed as turnstile maintainers and did the action. Most of you probably don't know this, but those station agents are getting hounded by management and have had house visits from the FBI. These station agents are now at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods! They will surely be disciplined, hopefully there isn't legal repercussions as well. The gothamist article makes this seem like the union was involved, but officers and the union hall didn't know about this, which is a good thing because they don't need to know, and don't want to know because it protects the union legally. Building a real fare strike like in Greece or Spain takes a movement and mass public support (and consciousness raising) and can't be accomplished by a publicity stunt. There are also other ways to get the same message across without risking people's jobs. For example, the Young Communist League several years ago used to do actions in Harlem where they bought unlimited metro cards and swiped people in for free all throughout morning rush hour. People recognized that as affectively [sic] not paying the fare and it also doesn't put workers' jobs at risk; it also gained public support for the organization.
This is just a little food for thought. I just don't want people to get swept away in the excitement of all the direct action and not realize they may also be pulling other people into their shit, and those other people are going to catch the fire, not them. If it happens that station agents lose their jobs because of this I can guarantee it will hurt the relationship between TWU and OWS. That's not what either group wants. Let's not just toot our own horns and get wrapped up in the ultra-leftist emotions but also think about this strategically and seriously. That being said, let's create a broad discussion about how to build a public movement for a fare strike and not just the clandestine "propaganda as deed" actions that make anarchist avtivists feel good about themselves.
The FBI has not yet responded to our e-mail regarding their interest in the action. Meanwhile, the way the stunt was pulled off was much more interesting than we'd expected. Sucks for those unsuspecting station agents though.