Frances Goldin, 87-year-old Occupy protester unsuccessfully tries to get arrested

In response to the police crackdown on Occupy protests across the country, thousands of people assembled with renewed energy at Occupy Wall Street on November 17th, dubbed the Occupy Wall Street Day of Action. While most protesters understand there is a chance they might be arrested, one protester was actively trying to make that happen. Frances Goldin, 87, has been arrested nine times for civil disobedience; her goal is to make it 12.

With purple-streaked hair and a sign saying “I’m 87 and mad as hell,” Frances Goldin could not get arrested despite the fact that younger protesters were being arrested all around her. In the clip below, she describes asking an officer what it would take to get arrested. "I said, 'What if I socked you in the eye?' and he said, 'I'd give you a free shot,'" Goldin said. "'Well, what if I used my knee and kicked you in the groin?' He said, ‘You’re not going to get arrested!'" Considering all of the bad publicity and viral videos of police brutality, the officers were not about to arrest an elderly woman.

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But Frances Goldin is no ordinary elderly person. She’s a life-long activist and radical literary agent. Since 1977, Goldin’s literary agency has published fiction and serious, controversial, progressive non-fiction that reflects Goldin's radical political point of view. She has represented authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Dorothy Allison, Frances Fox Piven, Martin Duberman, Adrienne Rich, Staceyann Chin, Martin Espada, Alix Dobkin, Juan Gonzales, Fred Jerome, Staughton Lynd, and iconic feminists including Charlotte Bunch and Esther Newton.

Goldin is also the only living founder of the Cooper Square Committee, an organization that works with Cooper Square residents to contribute to the preservation and development of affordable, environmentally healthy housing and community spaces so that the Cooper Square area remains racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Frances Goldin was arrested for the first time protesting the Robert Moses Expressway, which would have destroyed the Lower East Side.

Her work on this issue is the subject of an upcoming documentary film called It Took 50 Years: Frances Goldin and the struggle for Cooper Sq. In the film, Goldin describes how early experiences of anti-semitism sowed the seeds for a lifetime of social justice activism. After she married, Goldin joined the Communist Party. In 1951, at age 27, she ran for New York State Senate as a member of the American Labor Party, headed by W.E.B. DuBois. She and her husband were put under surveillance by the FBI and blacklisted for their political activities. (Watch the teaser for the documentary here.)

In 2007, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice awarded Goldin with the Rabbi Marshal T. Meyer Risk Taker Award for her work supporting radical writers, her work with the Cooper Square Committee, and her life-long fight against the death penalty, racism, homophobia, homelessness & other social ills. (Watch Goldin accept the award on Youtube.)

In October, Goldin joined the mass of protesters who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge — the event that finally made the press start paying attention to Occupy Wall Street. She said, "I think what this group has done is let people understand the disparity and that our government is not taking care of the 99 percent." What keeps her going? Her fellow protesters: “Their spirit, their dedication, their love - It's like food, it gives you energy."

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Frances Goldin, 87-year-old Occupy protester unsuccessfully tries to get arrested." 22 November 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 24, 2024) <>.