After 6 days of nearly complete media blackout, we finally pushed through. We were on the front page of the NY Daily News, Reddit, AOL, Drudge Report, and numerous others yesterday, and AM New York today. It’s sad that people had to get maced and clubbed for this to happen, but the discussion that we wanted America to have is finally happening.
I worked at the information/greeting booth at the front of the square then at the back of the square for 16 hours yesterday with a short break, talking with people from all walks of life who heard what was happening and almost unfailingly came to offer support, sometimes gushing, sometimes slightly ashamed they hadn’t sooner. I tried my best to make every person who came to the booth feel like I was genuinely listening to and empathizing with their issues (and outside one person who tried to tell me about his “anarchist leader” and “vampire lifestyle” I did.) People in this country, or at the very least the ones who passed by to chat with me, were largely articulate, well-informed, and had genuine problems they wanted to discuss. I, as most of you who know me would attest, am a story junkie. I used to sit in Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga NY for hours and hours just to hear the outlandish whoppers and genuine complaints of whoever cared to talk to me. In working at the information booth, I’ve found my ideal spot-I get to hear stories, debate in real time, and see for myself a broad cross-section of the United States and from around the world who have been affected by the egregious misdeeds performed by those on Wall Street and in Congress.
A great myth was smashed. Nearly every person who I spoke to complained about the ignorance and apathy of the American voting public, yet all of them were well-informed, articulate, courteous, and cared deeply about the awful conditions they’ve seen around this country. The idea of this idiotic public, perpetuated by journalists who wish to feel superior to their subjects and loved by politicians, is just a means of making people feel the political situation is hopeless and that they should disengage to avoid frustration. This is nonsense.
In the square we have fulfilling and interesting jobs for everyone who comes, with more work groups popping up every day. I spoke to a statistics geek at the booth today, an awesome guy with a marble notebook, who, with some of the more mathematically astute members of Anonymous who have been here, worked out a system to get the actual number of protesters in the square at any given time. Yesterday there were, as of 2pm 1700 by his count. He figured out the ideal number of people counting would be 7, and wrote out a guide for how to count the square population in groups of people from one to seven.
Many who were arrested and held overnight came back last night and in a rousing General Assembly (attended by Preacher Billy the anti-capitalist), shared their stories, why they came, what happened with the police, and why almost all of them came back to the square and were out marching in force this morning.
It should be noted that word has spread in the square that the young woman beaten who was on the front page of the Daily News yesterday has been transferred to a mental hospital. This is insane. One woman has been in the hospital with a severe concussion from beating for days.
We don’t blame the blue collar cops. Either Bloomberg, the Police Commissioner, or one of Bloomberg’s aides sent down the direct order to do the mass arrests. Most cops in the square have been courteous if understandably distant.
The demand by the media for coherence and demands shows their (even if sometimes quite well meaning) lack of understanding of what’s occurring here. We are a genuinely Democratic movement. We are representing the needs of all those who would like to participate, and don’t want to marginalize any of them-we share a common ground in that we have all been injured by the unjust financial system and insanely lopsided wealth distribution. We want a plurality who can effect action, who can make the Union Square march look puny, before we can truly say we’re representing the 99% of people. That is what is genuinely scary to the people at the top-that the left is no longer allowing themselves to be compartmentalized. Food Not Bombs, Anonymous, The Granny Peace Brigade, Ron Paul supporters, and out of work journalists, lawyers and college graduates have discovered a common enemy and are taking unified action against them.
I’d like to restate that last point-I have spoken to nearly every person who has been square for more than 2-3 days, and this is perhaps the most over educated group of people I’ve ever met. We jokingly discussed having a great bonfire of degrees in the center of the square. Being so smart, most of them are now questioning, the ones who have children anyway, whether they should tell their kids to go to college. I’ve heard stories of student debt as high as $250,000. These are not ignorant people.
This is the only genuinely inclusive protest I’ve been to, though every protest I’ve ever been to has claimed inclusivity. You don’t get a sign here unless you make it, though supplies are provided. We’ve had so many signs we’ve had to throw swathes out and shift them daily, sometimes more.
The library is 4 times its original size, and eager NYU kids came by in the dead of night eager to start a cataloging system. 3 Citibank employees professed disgust at their colleagues and donated a combined $50 and signed the petition to keep the park.
Though the economic issue is the practical element, what is most importantly being asserted here is genuine democracy-we are the 99%, we represent the 99%, and so should the federal government. Don’t believe the internet messageboards claiming these are “hipsters” in the park. The hipsters are all too chickenshit to touch this with a ten foot pole.
Speaking of which, Anonymous, for all the flack they get, are tough guys, the opposite of chickenshit. They’ve been out in force and at least one has already been arrested twice, only to come back. All the arrested are coming back reinvigorated. A participant in the Madrid protests told me they had shirts which said “No Job. No House. No Pension. No Fear.” I couldn’t put it any better. Get out here if you can. We have spare bedding and plenty of food and stuff to do.