Occupy Wall Street’s most visible anti-Semite was picketing the Financial District long before Zuccotti Park was occupied.
Carrying a variety of hand-lettered signs with anti-Semitic messages, images of the man — who has been vehemently disowned by the mainstream of the protest movement — have been instrumental to the case that Occupy Wall Street is tainted by animus towards Jews.
But though he’s been a presence at Zuccotti Park almost since the protest began, the man who identified himself to Salon as David Smith was in the Financial District earlier this summer, on his own, carrying similar placards.
Smith is featured in two or three of the four clips of anti-Semites at Occupy Wall Street in a video produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel’s video. He’s been photographed and extensively written about.
In an interview with a Glenn Beck-affiliated website, he told the interviewer that he is homeless.
During a trip to Zuccotti Park to observe the early stages of the protest on September 19, two days after activists first set up camp there, the Forward’s Nate Lavey and I watched as Smith entered the plaza with his cardboard sign, was confronted by one vocal passerby, and then was chased out of the occupied plaza by a shouting mob of activists. Police eventually intervened to separate him from the crowd.
Smith is a familiar face to those of us who work downtown. The Forward office is a few blocks from Wall Street, and I saw him at least once earlier this summer, picketing silently near the New York Stock Exchange.
In the Beck video, Smith says that he is losing his sight. He espouses an anger at banking institutions that doesn’t seem too far from the mainstream of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but then veers off onto an anti-Semitic rant. Occupy Wall Street protesters have taken to standing next to Smith with signs ridiculing or opposing his message.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.