Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupying Wall Street

I got a ride from Coldfoot to Fairbanks -- stayed with my friend Josh Spice for two days -- flew to New Jersey -- dropped off my laptop and other unnecessaries at an acquaintance's apartment in Manhattan -- and then moved into Zuccotti Park, just a few blocks away from Wall Street.

I'm writing this from Staten Island in a public library. The computers, unfortunately, do not have memory card adapters, making it impossible for me to include pictures.

I've slept in my sleeping bag in the park the last two nights. I'll do a bigger post when I have more time and better technology, but for now, I thought I'd share some quick observations:

-The park place is packed. We are literally sleeping shoulder to shoulder. On one side of me was a lesbian in high school, and on the other, I think, was a transvestite. Both were very nice.

-There are"freaks" here (not that there's anything wrong with being a freak), but there are far more people who we'd consider "normal." I point this out because whenever some insane anti-semite starts sqwaking, all the cameras get in his face. The media coverage, then, is probably giving the public the impression that Zuccotti is occupied only by dread-headed, acid-dropping nihilists. That's not the case. There are old people and young people. Blacks, latinos, Asians, and Native Americans. Last night, "Parents for Occupy Wall Street" held a sleepover for kids. (There were probably 30-50 kids camping out in their own section of the park.)

 -There are cops. Everywhere.

-Last night--Friday night--it felt especially packed. It seems the park is populated by 30% inhabitants and 70% visitors. It has a festival-like atmosphere. Very caring and giving. Positive vibes. Many of the visitors have thanked the occupiers for their presence. Last night, I broke bread with three Jewish visitors.

-Food is free, almost 24-hours a day. There have been tons of donated supplies: food, camping gear, brooms, medical supplies.

-There are various "working groups": sanitation, cooking, dishwashing, medical, library. This place seems VERY organized, and while I've heard that there've been sanitation problems, things are actually pretty neat and orderly given the circumstances.

-The occupiers do seem to be, as they're portrayed, fractured and unfocused. At one point yesterday, there were three ongoing speeches at different ares of the park: one on corporate greed at Wal-Mart, another on the evils of fracking, and another on unjust use of police force on blacks and latinos, who are being stopped and frisked in record numbers. Another group went to "occupy" a nearby museum. Some sort of unified message/agenda would do some good, I think.

-No one here wants handouts. While I'm sure some want it, I haven't even heard anyting about "student loan forgiveness." Ultimately, I think everyone's just disillusioned with the state of our democracy. The one prevalent theme seems to be a disgust for corporate power, and corporate America's ownership of our democracy. This protest is happening, I think, because voting is no longer a means of affecting positive change, as politicians are beholden to the corporate interests in power.

-Yesterday, I witnessed my first act of civil disobedience when Cornell West, Carl Dix, some religious leaders, and members of Occupy Wall Street were arrested when they linked arms in front of a police building to protest the NYPD's outrageous "stopping and frisking" numbers. Good stuff.

-Despite being a nature-loving introvert now surrounded by pigeons and people and police, I'm enjoying my time here. Not sure how long I'll be here, but I'll put up photos and share more impressions when I can!

5 comments:

Bob said...

I look forward to your first person account of this historic event. Hopefully this will return the government back to the "Little People". (Leona Helmsley)
Glad there's a real writer on the scene.

Bob

Anonymous said...

Think Salon would be interested in an article?

Constant Writer said...

One day you're in Alaska and a couple days later you're in NYC checking out the protest! I look forward to reading your perspective on this event, not because I don't trust the media, but because I know they're not participating or getting too close to any of it. Great post!

Trish said...

I read in the NY Times how restaurants near the occupy areas are getting calls from people who want to pay for food for the participants. That is so cool! Man I would have been part of a cheering squad for the greedy Walmart speech.

brotherdoc said...

Ken,
First found out about you by reading the Into the Woods blog, then threw a few $ itnto your scholarship call last year. Anyway, I just wanted to commend you for this latest adventure in your life and am with you in spirit. If you need anything (besides your next job?!) let us know. It was great hearing about your time in Alaska but it sounds like it was about time to leave as it was. Best wishes.