Editor’s note: This post originally appeared at Occupy LA.
New York, NY–I ran like a fleeting shadow up a dark New York City street. All about me was the occupation. Not the “take a plane to NY and lounge around Zuccotti Park for the afternoon on the One Year Anniversary of OWS” crowd. This was the night-time Birthday March to Times Square on the night of September 16th, 2012–a hardcore crowd. It was unlike any other occupation experience that I’ve ever had. What is the occupation? Who are you people? Tonight those questions would be answered to me in a more profound way. We’re the glue that holds American society together. The playful spirits who appear, not with violence nor its threat, but with a vision of how the world could be—and act on it. But all around us on this march were dozens and dozens of NYPD cops on foot, in cars, in vans, on motorcycles, etc., to keep, in a sense, Queen Hippolyta’s order. But as Bottom’s head was transformed into an ass—magic was soon to be squeezed into the cops’ and the world’s eyes.
At the head of our column was Puck. That’s not his real name, of course, but still apropos. His delight in playing pranks on these foolish mortals no less than the enchanting sprite. We took off from Zuccotti Park on a trek to Times Square—many, many blocks away—to be there when the figurative ball would drop on our one-year-old world. Night time, long urban march, lines of riot cops, the press nowhere in sight—this is where things get violent quickly. But you wouldn’t know it from observing Puck. It was as if, literally, he was from a different world. He’d wander this way, that way, ahead of the group, behind the group, but he was leading us. Not like the NYPD Commander leading his troops a few feet away. It wasn’t just that the local occupiers would defer to him at key points—an undercover cop could pick up on that—if they could get this close to us.
No, this was different. We weren’t being sucked up a river like in Apocalypse Now. We were being compelled forward, by an unseen energy as if from the shadows, much like what compelled us all to show up in the tents last year. A sense that the order of the world was against the common man and something must be done to change how the people around us see the world. What would Puck squeeze into their eyes? We were about to find out. We were hippies and trouble-makers to many of the cops on this march. Would we make asses of them? We are America. Just as the Tea Party is also, but we’re very proud of our inclusiveness. The Tea Party panders to peoples’ dark side, their fears, intolerance, selfishness, etc. Preaching loudly to their flocks, but then shying away when the mainstream media arrives. At the end, in the glow of Times Square, celebrating the fact that we’re still going strong, even the cops seemed uncomfortable, out of place.
The march came to a pause by Macy’s. “We have to keep moving!” It was Puck’s voice. Suddenly, very much in this world. Our “escort” of motorcycle cops slowed also, sheepishly staring at us from their bikes. BEEP, CRACKLE, WAIL. The strangest sounds will pop out of some of these police vehicles. Occupation marches are like snakes. They coil and contract. Punkish girls with red, white and blue spiked hair, teens with backpacks pockmarked with political and social buttons, glistening young eyes above bandit-strewn bandanas. But NY is very different from LA. Where are the U-Streamers? I could swear that I’m one of the only people taking photos while the group’s moving—still and video. The group “coiled” forward. A chant began: “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” Over and over, echoing throughout the Manhattan canyons. And then–and then–there it was. Glowing in the distance. Times Square. The pace of the march picked up. The cycles dropped off and lines of cops on foot would take over. STOMP, STOMP, STOMP. Puck would be here, then there, then disappear. Closer. Wow! Talk about lights. Story after story of commercial ads packed with models up into the dark sky. It was then that the real symbolism of this march became clear to me. Yes, be where the ball drops at our midnight, but also be at the center of the over-commercialization of American society. We flooded into the center of the square as if from another world, and we are, aren’t we? We speak the truth when your normal world of TV channels and news rags seem morally empty.
A cake appeared, as if by magic. Occupiers delighted in taking a bite, though there were no forks. The police formed rings around us. We ignored them. Our eyes were on the figurative ball in the sky Puck had brought us here to imagine. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, Puck sat down. Others joined him. 5, 4, 3, 2, and then Puck spoke. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard from an occupier before. Why we were still here after a year… What we’d accomplished… But in my mind’s eye I heard: Why the potion had worked that we’d all squeezed into society’s eyes. How people stopped focusing on distractions such as whether or not to raise the debt-ceiling limit, but on the reality of the plight of our very real fellow Americans whom we care about deeply—who have been deceived by the serpent’s tongue of the ultra-rich. After Puck’s speech, the crowd dissipated and even the cops fell away—as if the occupation had been a dream. Puck from NYC, Nowhere Man from Hollywood, all of us “meddling fairies” vanished back into the semi-darkness of Manhattan like shadows who’d overstayed their welcome in the mortal world of driven, but dishonest men. But all of us, Puck included, had one phrase on our minds. “We’ll be back.” We are the pressure in society to make amends.
I’ll let Shakespeare’s Puck (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) have the last word:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck,
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.