(Zucotti Park, September 15, 2012)
Here’s what happened:
I went into Washington Square Park around 6 tonight with no particular plan until 7.30, when I was planning on going to the the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual Book Launch at Judson Memorial Church.There was a march leaving, I don’t know if it was permitted or not (I still don’t know), which was supposed to be half an hour long and headed who knows where. And so, I followed the march up Broadway.
There is just so much fucking intoxication in marching. I always forget and then when I’m in the middle of it, I remember and I just want to run through the streets and yell, which is what I do. There were a number of sobering moments, though, which reminded me how totally scared I am of police and made me even more angry that the police have been so needlessly aggressive about arresting people and scaring us out of the streets. (Hey, cops? It’s not working. We’re still going to be in the streets.)
I wasn’t close enough the front to see the first of the arrests happen, but at one point, people stopped and pulled out their cameras and started yelling and some turned around and ran. My instinct was also to run, and to try not to get trampled, but the running ended almost as quickly and then people were taking pictures of the cops putting folks into vans. They had one man down on the ground, handcuffing him, and he turned his face to us. People were asking those getting arrested their names and someone was yelling, “National Lawyers Guild!” (There were National Lawyers Guild observers among the marchers, they wear bright green stickers that identify them.)
And then we started marching again. There’s a lot of protocol, apparently, about how to get arrested and how to avoid getting arrested, and what to do if you see someone getting arrested, and it’s all terribly important stuff that I wish I’d known, because it probably would help me be less afraid of the cops and feel more powerful. Civil disobedience is only some of the work of social justice movements, and not everyone can do it.
Throughout, I tried to record and take pictures of as much as possible, but eventually my camera ran out of charge and the fact that I’m short probably hindered some of the photography.
My favorite chants: “Shit’s fucked up. Shit’s fucked up and bullshit.” “1-2-3-4 Wells Fargo Fuck You!” (Inspired by the guy with the shirt that says “Stand with the 99%” taking money out of a Wells Fargo ATM.)
There was another police situation later on, although I don’t think the person, who was possibly female, actually got arrested. One of the (taller) people behind me said that the cop had basically rushed someone in the front, and we started chanting, “This is a peaceful protest.” People cheered, and someone said that they though the arrest hadn’t happened.
The end of the march was Wall Street. Before we got there, people started linking arms,which made me really nervous. It was probably not an awesome idea for me to be alone, but to be honest, it didn’t occur to me that I was alone. I’m not sure that the people linking arms knew each other. As we got closer to Wall Street, someone behind me said, “They’re gearing up to do something,” gesturing at the cops. I thought about turning around, but not seriously. I just kept going, though. Up ahead, someone yelled, “Welcome home!”
I’m forgetting a lot of things, probably. As we walked into Zucotti, I got really nervous again, suspecting that the cops were just waiting to get us all in there and throw nets over us, for, you know, being in the park or something. It didn’t happen (yet), and it was a weird kind of joy to be there. On one hand, I was with people who had spent the entirety of the physical occupation there, and who felt like it was home. On the other hand, it makes me SO MAD when people think that the whole Occupy movement is about physical occupation. Those signs that say “You can’t evict an idea”? That’s what they mean.
Anyway, there were some announcements in the park, including that Trinity Church would be taking in folks if there was an eviction, jail support was needed (10 people had been arrested on the march), and the cops were particularly interested in messing with people who looked like they might be trying to spend the night in the park (people who had backpacks, which I had). And so I left, to write this up and to avoid any shit that might start.
I just got so tired, you guys.
This morning I was arguing with myself about what to do about the fact that Occupy’s first birthday and Rosh Hashanah are literally at the same time, and maybe I’d go to shul, but where? (Last year, I solved this problem by ignoring the holidays all together.) And then I thought that for me, there’s no discussion. It will be Occupy Rosh Hashanah and then it will be the streets.
So in the end, I realized what I think I already knew- there is deep comfort and power in what’s happening, as well as adrenaline and fear and frustration. A little of each is needed to continue.
If you’re in New York City, there will be Occupy events all weekend, you can find them here. On Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #s17, as well as @allisonkilkenny, @jamiekilstein, @OccupyWallStreet.