A Night with Occupy Wall Street
A call went out over the Internet stating that the city of New York was preparing to “clean” the park where the Occupy Wall St protests were taking place and that the protestors would have to leave the park during this cleaning. The occupiers were cognizant that this was a thinly veiled attempt to evict them from the park. They asked for people to converge on the park to defend it from the NYPD who would be charged with clearing it.
Having watched this movement from its inception, their message of eliminating the influence of money on our government resonated deeply with me. Their message of corporate and Wall St greed also resonated with me. I remember the horror I felt at the spraying of the penned in protestors, I recall the anger I felt when I viewed the videos where the police entrapped the demonstrators on the bridge and then arrested hundreds of them. The time had come for me personally to take action.
I quickly gathered together a folding chair, a tarp, (the weather called for heavy rain), and my video camera and hopped on the last bus leaving Chinatown. I arrived at the park close to midnight and witnessed several hundred occupiers. I found an empty spot to “camp out” and setup my small site. The next hour was spent in discussion with many of the people in the park. They were very welcoming and friendly. I thought of the many videos I had seen that showed the fringe element of the occupiers in their attempts to try to discredit the movement. While I did see a few fringe types, they were a very small minority. Instead what I discovered was that these mostly young people were both articulate and committed. They clearly outlined the problems within our system as they perceived them.
At approximately 1:00 AM, a light rain started falling and I decided to sit on my chair, using the tarp for shelter. I watched as the crowd quickly adapted and almost instantly everyone seemed to wearing ponchos or utilizing umbrellas. Then I received the first real surprise of the visit. The skies opened up and almost instantly started pouring heavily. Immediately a great cheer went out among the crowd that reverberated between the large buildings that surround the park. This sent a chill down my spine. These people were so used to being wet that they actually welcomed the rain.
At this time I noticed my tarp which was only 1 season old and had been sitting in the sun for the summer, was not water tight. Some of the lining had deteriorated and water was entering. It was not long before I was sitting in the chair fully soaked. I looked around and saw how these young people adapted to the rain and to not being allowed to have tents in the park. Many of them covered their sleeping bags with tarps and the openings to the bags with umbrellas. I knew that this was not completely watertight and that they were sleeping in wet conditions. Here I was wet and uncomfortable for one single night and these amazing people put up with this discomfort for weeks in order to protest what they believed in. I felt anger at those who would not allow them to post tents. The arrogance of these people subjecting someone’s child to have to endure this sort of indignity. Would they do the same if their sons or daughters were here?
After a while the rain let up, and normal activity returned to the park. It was now around 2:00AM and I would estimate that less that ¼ of the people were sleeping. There was an electricity in the air and a great concern about the pending confrontation with the NYPD, the enforcers and protectors of the money powers. During this time I explored the park and found that the levels organization were truly impressive. This park had: an information booth, a kitchen, a media center, a first aid station, a general assembly area, and a lost and found. So much for all the media propaganda on how these people are disorganized anarchists. They actually have their own newspaper!
On the back was a map with all the information people would need to navigate the park.
On the front, the flyer stated that being intoxicated in the park was not acceptable behavior, that everyone needed to respect others and property rights, and that it was important to keep the park clean and to protect the flowers and other plants.
After the rains, crews were immediately dispatched to start sweeping the areas to both clean them and to eliminate puddles that had gathered in low lying areas. This park was clean. There was absolutely no reason to have to have outside crews come in and “clean” the park. During the rest of my night there, the sound of sweeping could always be heard in the background.
Around 3:00AM it started to rain again and even though my tarp was not totally watertight, it still kept most of the water off of me. Again a sudden deluge came down and again a great cheer went out among the crowd. A huge clap of thunder was heard and then another cheer rang out and echoed throughout the park. It truly obvious to me that these people really did not care about being wet. I had also reached that point, once you are soaked, it doesn’t matter how much more you get wet. If the authorities thought that by making these people uncomfortable by denying them tents they would break their spirit, they badly miscalculated. This had the exact opposite effect and made them stronger. I could feel it. I again felt anger at the authorities for their arrogance in this. I thought about all the ignorant people who posted comments on the Internet about the “dirty hippies, “flea bags” and “smelly” people at these protests. These ill informed people have no idea of what is happening here beyond the propaganda they are hearing. When was the last time any of them suffered this sort of discomfort and indignity to protest something they believed in? These ignorant rants were coming from people who are empty shells who simply parrot what they have heard on the corporate media.
These protestors were forced into these degrading conditions by our elected leaders, the paid servants of the money powers. The city did not even provide toilet facilities. Don’t most cities provide them when they know large crowds will be in a public place? This was another one of the sad attempts to try and suppress this protest. The city resourcefully dug up a law that was over 160 years old about not wearing masks in public as an excuse to arrest protestors. Another one of the sad and shameful attempts to try and suppress this protest. Each obstacle thrown in front of these people ultimately only strengthens their resolve. There were so many of these attempts.
The irony of the situation is that the corporate controlled media had been ignoring this protest for weeks until the video of the indiscriminate pepper spraying of the penned in women went viral on the Internet. Then the NYPD tried to go after people with cameras, but there were so many of them, their efforts also went viral on the Internet and even the corporate media started broadcasting some of the clips. The movement grew in strength every time the authorities responded with force. Then came the mass arrests on the bridge and the movement grew even stronger with more and more people coming to the park and with protests spreading to hundreds of other cities across the nation and even the world. The resolve of these occupiers was strengthening and they had lost their fear of arrest. This was being compared to Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Violence against the demonstrators was backfiring and having the opposite effect the authorities desired. Donations of food, supplies, and support were pouring in from around the world. Worldwide news coverage had turned negative against the authorities.
The time was now around 5:00 AM in the park and I had slept little during this night. The vast majority of demonstrators were also awake awaiting the General Assembly meeting to determine what the collective response to the NYPD would be. All decisions are made democratically in this community. (All the people who call this anarchy, please take note.) All night more and more people were entering the park and it was soon obvious that the number of people in the park was increasing rapidly.
At approximately 6:00AM the park was so full that you could hardly fit another person into it. Why did the police not open up the barriers that were trapping so many people into such a small area? They could easily have closed the 2 minor small streets on either side of the park to accommodate the swelling numbers. This would have kept traffic flowing smoothly on Broadway and Church Streets while having a minimal amount of officers to control traffic flow. Instead the authorities have directed the NYPD to use large numbers of manpower to enforce the ever tightening barricades. This is another example of the arrogant and poor decision making on the part of the authorities, another sad and ineffective attempt to dispirit this movement.
During the General Assembly meeting, I witnessed their system of spreading the speakers’ words throughout the crowd by having everyone repeat what they heard. All announcements were proceeded with “mic check” and this would be repeated throughout the park. The sound of the repetition reverberating throughout the park provided an empowering feeling. You could feel the energy in the air. This is another example of how the decision to prohibit amplified loudspeakers backfired on the authorities. It seemed that every obstacle that was thrown in the way of these protestors, only seemed to make them stronger and more resolved. My admiration for them just kept growing. Then a large group of additional protestors entered the park and a great cheer went up and resonated throughout the park. You could feel the energy levels were climbing.
It was decided that those who had been assigned specific tasks within the community would stay at the core of the park, with supporters on the perimeter and they would all lock arms together. A vote was asked on how many were willing to get arrested and a sea of hands went up into the air by both the occupiers and their supporters. The speaker warned that anyone remaining inside the park was at risk of arrest and if they were not prepared for that they should leave the park. Anyone willing to stay in the park was asked to find a “buddy” so that there was always someone else who would look out for them when the showdown came. A cry of “solidarity” rand out among the crowd. I was impressed by the concern the Occupy Wall St protestors had for each other and for those who came in support. I was again impressed with the concern they had for those who could not risk arrest.
Then you heard “mic check” being repeated across the park. An announcement from the deputy mayor was read stating that the “clean up” of the park had been cancelled. A great crescendo of cheers from the thousands in the park rang out and echoed between the buildings. The protestors had faced down the authorities.
As I am writing this article, I believe that the authorities had made a wise decision in not confronting this movement’s epicenter. Every single time they moved with force, the movement only got stronger. Breaking up thousands of the supporters with arms locked, and then going after the protestors themselves would have been a total public relations nightmare. The mainstream media was out in force, anticipating the showdown. The independent media was out in force. The entire world was watching. The authorities surely did have the power to accomplish an eviction: they have the combined might of the entire NYPD, state police, national guard and US military at their disposal, all to be used against people committed to peaceful protest. But there would have been a very high cost to such an action.
Should such an eviction have taken place, the international condemnation of the United States would have been strong and broad, similar to the condemnation of the Arab regimes’ repression. There is the probability that the outrage could have fueled hundreds of thousands to converge on NY in anger. At such a point the movement would have reached a critical mass and would have been unstoppable short of total police and/or military suppression. So the showdown was averted, however the movement continues to grow.
Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner from the Polish Solidarity Movement, has announced that he will be visiting with Occupy Wall St. They have stated that he will be warmly welcomed. The movement continues to gain support.
There are those who would criticize the tactics of this movement, but what these protestors have been very successful in is to shine a light on many of the problems in this country. Finally now these problems are being discussed and a national conversation is starting to take place. To all those who are reading this article and/or are following the events on the Internet or even just corporate news, I ask you the following questions:
The bankers on Wall St gambled with other peoples’ money and brought our economy to its knees.
Are you OK with that?
These same bankers then received a taxpayer bailout.
Are you OK with that?
These same bankers then paid themselves huge bonuses for job well done.
Are you OK with that?
We have self serving special interests giving unlimited money ANONYMOUSLY to our corrupt politicians.
Are you OK with that?
If not, what are YOU doing about it?
At least these protestors care enough to do something about it.
This is not a liberal cause, this is not a conservative cause, this is a common cause.
Addendum to this article:
The Oakland Police tried to violently supress the occupation in their city and the numbers of demonstrators grew significantly the next day. The city leadership is under attack by its own people with over 70% of the residents disapproving the mayor’s handling of the situation. (CBS poll)
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