NEW YORK – I feel that you may shy away from posting this. I can understand that a message like this may not have been your intention, but we all have some serious problems on our hands.
I’ve spent a large part of my life actively protesting against injustice. I can say that I’ve spent more time doing so in my life than I haven’t, and I’m only 28 years old. At a young age I was exposed to more than the average kid and throughout adulthood, I’ve applied the experience in my attempts to build awareness, and create a better life for those around me, near and far.
I can speak about what brought me into the OWS movement and what had kept me there. I’ve told the story, verbally, upwards of a thousand times. I can share my experiences with police abuse and kettling, unlawful detainments, and all of the other external injustices. After all, that was my occupy story for what feels like a great deal of time, when in reality, it was just the first 4 weeks of the occupation.
The implementation of the tents initially sparked my concern. With tents comes a great risk to our personal security. Steps were not taken to ensure the safety of our fellow occupiers. When attempts were made to raise concern, they were quickly shot down. Why? Because these tents are a victory! We must be excited about this! This is progress! This is also an open invitation to every creep in the park.
Can we all say that after these tents were erected, the police presence had taken a few steps back? Their violence has been suppressed? With the exception of the removal of our generators, we have not heard of any police misconduct. Why do you think that is? It’s simple. They’re leaving us to our own devices. It’s a common method used to control people.
When government authorities interfered with our rights, we remained passionate! Our message was clear and important! I felt genuine love for the person marching beside me. I haven’t felt that way in 2 ½ weeks. In those 2 ½ weeks I see boredom and ambivalence. I hear reports of rape and other assaults. I see, with my own eyes, syringes and crack pipes. More importantly, I see people perpetuating all of what we claim to fight against!
You can say that I’m making sweeping generalizations and that the small group of bad apples should not deter how I feel about the movement. But what happens when there seems to be more rotten than ripe? Don’t get me wrong, I do have many allies there, but they’re dropping in numbers. I often find myself looking out for a familiar and friendly face and cannot seem to locate as many as I would’ve been able to just 2-3 weeks ago.
This wonderful Women’s Tent gave me a lot of hope. Great idea! Maybe, through strength in numbers, women occupying can prevent sexual assaults from happening. If they cannot, at least there’s a safe place for them to rest. I was very excited by the idea. I found my way to the tent on the Friday night it was put up, a miserable night weather-wise. Organization was a bit off but the tent was full and that’s all that mattered to me. This truly felt like a success. On the next night, I took a shift guarding the tent from 2am to 4am (with it being ‘spring ahead’ weekend it was actually a 3 hour shift). Things went well. All of the women seemed to sleep well and my relief took over right on time. I came away from that experience with positive vibes.
Fast forward to Tuesday, just four nights after the tent was put up, and vibes are not so positive anymore. A woman seems to have hijacked the tent, claiming it as her own, verbally assaulting anyone who questions her. It has now been turned into a working group, that is not very inclusive to women that are from other female working groups. She spends a great deal of time speaking about how hard she worked to put a tent in place yet she is downright rude to anyone who speaks to her, turning what should be a welcoming place into a very ugly idea. I wanted to know more about her intentions so I signed up for a 2 hour shift at the tent. In those two hours I listened to her berate me about working groups I affiliate myself with, and accuse us for things that I can say with most certainty are not true. At one point I realized that she wasn’t working with a full deck of cards, but did what I could to assure her that no one wanted to hurt her in any way. While I was doing this I was also trying to assure those that were inquiring about the tent (many were new to the occupation entirely) that it would be alright for them to stay in the tent. She was very paranoid, fearing that the tent would be taken away from her, and wanted to control those staying inside of the tent.
I stayed longer than two hours. It didn’t feel right to leave this idea behind. Then when the woman turned to me to let me know that a friend of hers would be coming back to the table with a few bottles of vodka, I knew it was my time to walk away.
I’m not sure if I will be returning, to the tent, or to the park at all. It seems that the occupation of Zuccotti has fallen out of the hands of the remarkable people it sprung from, and is now in the care of those who have lost the will to treat one another with respect. I truly hope I can be proven wrong, though I don’t think I have the strength to make it right.