Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My First Taste of the Revolution, October 5, a personal account.

Before my first chance to attend, I was actively following the movement from afar. My parents and my Aunt had attended on the day 700 peaceful protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. My relatives were on the pedestrian walkway, watching the unfortunate crowd below. My mom sent me a picture message of my dad's arm. His round, mandala-like tattoo that includes the words "EQUAL RIGHTS AND JUSTICE" was visible along with the phone number for the National Lawyer's Guild, written in sharpie on his arm, in case of his own arrest.

 I love the family I was born into, so much.

being the change
My aunt is an out-of-work high school science teacher, with a disabled husband and a huge mortgage. I haven't seen her smile like this in a long time. Someone had a sign, "LOST MY JOB, FOUND AN OCCUPATION." Yes.

My own first taste was at the march held on Wednesday, October 5, with a LOT of union workers and student groups and all kinds of people, together, meeting in Foley Square, which is dominated by two huge courthouses and punctuated in the center by a sculpture called Triumph of the Human Spirit.

 some great photos of that day can be found here

On the way, I met some cool girls, I think they were Law students, I can't remember now. They were carrying Nurse's Union signs that someone had given them. It was my first of so many encounters with people, where all the normal awkwardness of breaking the silence between strangers was absent. This movement can remove the barriers of alienation. In standing together, we already know each other. We know we share this truth, we want real change. In the crowd, I saw so many photographers and videographers. I was interviewed by a lot of students who were planning to use this experience in their coursework. That was the beginning of my realization that, if you attend, you become a spokesperson. Your voice becomes aplified. To exactly whom, and how, one may never know, but the discourse will happen. People want to know, "why are YOU here?" and in sharing personal reasons, we all find the universal cause.

I went alone, but found familiars everywhere. A woman I knew from an old job, a friend of friends from Chicago, etc. It was easy to speak to people, and I found random things in common with so many around me. During the march, I walked near the tail end with a marching band and members of the Musicians Union. The drums made it more fun! Someone ahead of me had a flag with a satellite picture of the earth. Everyone was smiling. I caught some police officers looking pleased. Later I would have conversations with plenty of officers around Liberty Plaza, who tried to maintain the professional attitude of "no comment," but were easily readable as supportive. One even told me, and I'm not quoting word-for-word as I just remember the gist, "Listen. Work is hard to find out there. This is my job, I have to pay my bills. You have a job to do, too. Keep it up, ok?" This was not my only conversation along these lines. (check this out! Occupy Police)

Later, as the crowd from the march reached the main Occupation, relations with police did become intense. I squirreled my way into the park, but it wasn't easy to do. It was very confusing trying to obey police who told everyone to "keep moving" when there was no direction in which to move. Thousands of people had marched and were intending to continue until Wall Street and just BE there for awhile, but Wall Street was barricaded, off-limits, and so all these bodies had no place to move into. A lot of people lined the sidewalks all around Liberty Plaza, and the chaos was too much for the authorities, who were trying to maintain the normal flow of vehicular traffic. There was a sense of being penned in, to whichever space a person had found themselves in.

Certain agent provocateurs in the crowd wanted us all to rush the streets. The momentum was there, the chant of "Whose Streets?! OUR STREETS!" erupted many many times. I think, though, everyone knew that a move like that would result in violent chaos. I was very close to the incident where people were bludgeoned by police, but I couldn't see it happen. I just saw police and civilians moving about frantically, and then an activist being dragged past the crowd with his hands in cuffs. Soon after, one person started knocking down the metal barricades and inciting people to take the street. Chants of "PEACEFUL PROTEST!" spread, and everyone on that front line to the street took a slow step back. I think this is a collective feeling of the movement, not wanting to be aggressive or violent, not to initiate any law-breaking or incite authoritarian backlash. This way, when the police act irresponsibly, violently, especially disproportionate to what they are up against, it only reflects on them.

That first night for me at the Occupation ended early because of other comittments, so I didn't get to see how it all played out in the end. It seemed that police and occupiers were at a stand-still, an agree-to-disagree moment, and just trying to figure out the flow of traffic from that moment on. I took a quick walk through Liberty Plaza and knew I would need to come back the next day to get the full flavor of what was/is brewing there.

What is brewing there is what, I believe, most of us have been dreaming about, maybe for our whole lives. A community in which everyone is taken care of, and where everyone has a voice. Food and medicine, warm clothes, blankets, and places to sleep are all available, to everyone. There is music and dancing, workshops, prayer and meditation. Information freely available, at info booths and in the Library. People taking initiative to maintain working order, to pitch in wherever one might be useful. People helping and being helped by fellow people. Honestly, seriously, the revolution is beautiful. The revolution is for you.

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