Video: Ayers, Dohrn Visit Occupiers (Plus: Midnight Rap Battle With Police)

Former Weather Underground leaders Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn expressed support for Occupy Wall Street protesters during a visit to Union Square late yesterday afternoon. The sublime later gave way to the ridiculous as the park was shut down at midnight and protesters challenged the police to a rap battle.

Speaking to a small group huddled on the west side of the square, the husband and wife duo praised the Occupy movement’s use of direct action. Ms. Dohrn said, “Agitation lights up the truth, and what Occupy has done by agitating in its nonviolent, beautiful, imaginative way, is to teach by shifting the frame, by re-imagining what’s possible. And what’s possible is that capitalism cannot solve our problems.”

Ms. Dohrn, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law specializing in juvenile justice and human rights, urged the movement to remain independent. “You’re going to be beset, not only by the police forces and the military forces here, but by a lot of forces that want Occupy: Democratic Party, electoral forces, sectarian organizations,” she said. “But your brilliance was your independence.”

Mr. Ayers urged the protesters not to idealize the ’60s, even while young and old Occupiers hung on his every word. “One of the worst things about the mythology of the ’60s is the idea that somehow, back then, we had the best music, the best sex, the best demonstrations, and I’m here to say, it’s still good,” he said, to chortles of laughter from the crowd.

Mr. Ayers also admonished the group not to expect support from the mainstream media. “Don’t look to The New York Times to affirm you. Do not look to the media to affirm you,” he said, going on to add, “We need to build our own integrity, and that’s what lasts.”

In a 2008 New York Times op-ed, Mr. Ayers, now a retired professor and educational reformer, criticized the media and the “sound-bite culture” for attempting to denigrate then Presidential candidate Barack Obama by exaggerating his connection with the Weather Underground co-founder. The anti-Vietnam War group gained notoriety when it placed explosive devices in empty offices at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol, as well as at a Chicago statue commemorating police casualties in the Haymaker riot.

Hours after Mr. Ayers spoke, at midnight, police barricaded Union Square Park as expected, once again rousting the occupiers onto the sidewalk and triggering a planned “rap battle” against police officers.

The rules of the battle were simple: a rapper would emerge from the Occupy side to dis police officers across the barricades. The officers would then be given ten seconds to respond. If the police refused to issue a rebuttal, a point would be awarded to the Occupiers.

With cold rain and hail pelting them, a series of rappers hurled insults at the police, who stood in ranks, stone faced. The only rebuttal from “police” came when a group of impersonators from the “99th Precinct” (in fact activists from the East Village-based environmental group Time’s Up) came forward with a devastating dance routine.

Their efforts were in vain, however, as the crowd booed them and awarded a point to the challenger.