Occupy Wall Street, Day 5

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So this guy comes up to me, he’s fat right? and he’s got this hideous face, the kind where he shaved his head so there’d be less of it and he’s in a button down slacks and a tie and he says:

“You one of those fuckin’ tree huggers?”

“Umm…no?”

“You are, stop lying to me asshole.”

He’s smiling with that odd arrogance that comes from knowing one will never get by on their own merits, the arrogance of a social desperation, recused by necessity.

“Where’s the tits?”

“The topless woman?”

“Yeah.”

“She left to go get a shower.” I lied. I shouldn’t have, should’ve let him just see the tits, they looked like pancakes when you tilted the griddle wrong.

And so it went, having placed myself at the perimeter of the protest today so as to explain it in a calm reasonable tone to anyone passing by with an interest. Most of them were very reasonable and respectful. One guy with big eyes that seemed distanced from each other as though by an argument asked what the protest offered him. He explained he had a Holistic Healing business and since his seminars were all $200+ a day affairs his clientele was largely of the 1%, for the 1% etc etc. I told him maybe he wasn’t his protest, I don’t think any of us were expected the Yacht Builders Union to show up either.

People who come in curious and ask me what’s happening in the square can be divided by the passover 4-questions dividing lines, with most being very courteous, genuinely curious, and very few people trying to stir up problems. In fact, most problems come from people taking on the cause too zealously and working out anger issues on the torn up pizza boxes. (The genuine letterhead of the revolution, accept no substitutes, proletarian is the pizza!) One guy showed up in a button down and tie, we were suspicious, his fists up in the air all Charlie Sheen winning, and he’s screaming “OBAMA! HOPE! CHANGE!” It turned out that, among the things he was on was our side. He left and some protesters wished him well.

Stories of ethically troubled Wall Street workers pouring out their souls in clandestine 2am rendezvous with the protesters are mentioned frequently in passing, and the image is too lovely to shake, true or not.

Around 300 people have been in the square/marching throughout the day, though numbers ballooned temporarily when people from the PSC and the concurrent Troy Davis protest stopped by to show solidarity. The number also fluctuates wildly depending on when people have work or the weather shifts. Haven’t gotten to see much media coverage of it so I can’t specifically prove/disprove anything, and any details about numbers are of course really fuzzy in a situation like this.

The people are all very peaceful and are exceptionally musical for protesters-the marching calls got very jazzy and there is a constant drum circle outside Liberty Square. There are also some people with horns and trumpets doing mostly calls or brief 3 note things, though while marching today one of them snuck in the riff from “Crazy in Love”. Tourists are flocked around the protest area and any march constantly and in fairly substantial numbers-usually around 100 around the square when the sun’s out, less at night obviously.

All the marchers do slow wiggles, dancing so they can cover the street as slowly as possible without being arrested, there is a horn and marching drummers who can sometimes number 8 or more, the chanting has been repeated to the point of jazzy reinterpretation, syncopation, odd atonal harmonies and phrasings. We march 2-3 times a day up and down Wall Street, which is barricaded off except a narrow sliver of sidewalk. Even the larger open spaces on the sidewalk are barricaded. We march the sidestreets as well. The people in the luxury apartments are alternately smiling, taping or exasperated anyone would disturb their routine. A woman who looked like Paris Hilton might if sketched on a napkin berated marchers as she was trying to get out of Trump Towers to walk her two hand-bag serving dogs. It’s too cliche for me to write it without shame if it weren’t true. The latinos working in the Pizza places on the side streets offer fist-pounds of solidarity regularly.

I saw Baruch graduates while marching. As I said to a fellow Baruch journalism student looking to start a “spirituality” group in the college: “How are you gonna do that? Most of these business students don’t have souls-they can occupy Wall Street without police interference!”

The cops are so tightly packed they look like marchers, and they have multiple people posted video-taping everything. Security is so tight the Burger King across the street has four guards in suits and ties, Isaac Hayes’ dour doppelgangers, who make sure no one uses the BK bathroom without buying something, who govern the BK restrooms like they were the world’s most exclusive nightclub. My first painted sign had an arrow to the place and said “Down With Burger King Bathroom Gestapo!”

The NYCLU has been giving people their direct line and the marchers write it on their arms. People arrested who didn’t require hospitalization, a number I got as 17 (+3 who required hospitalization) at 6 pm yesterday from Thorin Caristo, have been getting bailed out by the movement and back on the square within 5 hours generally.

There’s even a small open library that popped up. I assumed head librarian duties for a bit while I was there. Brought a bunch of paperbacks there yesterday. Currently it’s stocked with outdated law bibliographies from the NYCLU offices, some William Gibson novel, and paperbacks of “Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “We Were Kids”. There’s an art area for making signs, and they reuse the boxes from all the donated pizza (there was a ton of it, coming at regular intervals, and frequently with messages written on it in sauce.)

A couple oddball opportunists came through, but they were so strange they just added to the whole experience; one guy promoting a film about Paul Goodman, another guy with a mustache handing out lobby cards for a musical he wrote with his brother about a banker who loves foreclosing on people but falls in love with a woman he’s about to foreclose upon (not sure if there are enough “off”‘s in the world to describe that musical’s relationship to broadway).

Oh, and overnighters…there are a lot of people just staying overnight but not sleeping. As for people actually sleeping, I wouldn’t say more than 50-75. The people not sleeping there are coming back daily when their commitments allow for the most part. It’s invigorating to be here.

Chants are what you’d expect, “Tell me what democracy looks like?! This is what democracy looks like!!”, “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!”, “We are the 99%”, “Whose streets? Our streets!”, and the like, though one woman who has been topless in sandals for the full 6 days and counting once led a chant of “I can’t afford a shirt!!” It’s a genuinely collective act, and who leads the chants can change any moment.

Advertisements on passing buses seem especially loaded with meaning, and frivolous things seem much more frivolous. Taglines I actually saw, and mean something a lot different when you’ve been staring at motorcycle cops for 12 hours:
“Have you ever felt like you were being watched?”
“How could a country founded on rights go so wrong?”
In the square there are work stations, a legal counsel table, a library (probably shouldn’t be so high up, but I’m biased), a childcare station, a medic unit, a fully equipped sign painting station, a media station with 4-5 people constantly on blogs, twitter, updating foreign journalists online, etc. I spoke to an Italian journalist today and there are apparently many other nationalities represented. Everywhere has picked this up except the US.*

I met a guy who hitch-hiked half the country to get here, who had a lucky gnome which he perched over the library and took everywhere with him. It’s in a baroque crouch, like a man surfing the height of a wave.

The tone seems to be shifting. I saw a bunch of people casually chatting with the night shift perimeter cops as they ate gyros. Don’t ever forget the NYPD are part of the 99% too. At the same time there was a slight air of paranoia growing, crabbiness. Maybe not unwarranted. A big black van with tinted windows that just says “Custom Coach” above it has been making regular stops, and guys in black suits come out, look around, and then leave.

More tomorrow.

*Exceptions made for The Nation, Democracy Now, and The Colbert Report, all fine journalistic institutions. Kudos to them.

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One Response to Occupy Wall Street, Day 5

  1. Melyssa says:

    Good stuff, I really appreciate this post. Maybe I can get my mom to go with me tomorrow! She’s got some rebellious spirit in her still!

    VIVA LA RESISTANCE!!! (I always wanted to say that)

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