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Zuccotti Park | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "zuccotti park"

Zuccotti Park: The Revolution of an Idea


NEW YORK, NY –

Although the Zuccotti Park occupation was forced to end Tuesday (November 15th), the idea of it is far from over. In the minds of many, that idea has just shifted. This holds true for the occupations in Portland, Oregon, shut down Sunday, and the one in Oakland, California, which was also forced to come to an end.

During my first visit to Zuccotti Park, the site of the Occupy Wall Street occupation, in mid-October, I was given a shirt on which was stenciled a powerful message: “You can’t arrest an idea.”

That is true. But you can occupy it, which is what hundreds of people with disparate backgrounds and political beliefs chose to do when they took over Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011: occupy the notion that people, that is the 99 percent who have been suffering injustices at the hands of greedy corporations and government, have a right to demand change, call for justice, and shape a better world.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement in Zuccotti Park was modeled on the occupations that rocked Europe and the Arab world this summer and repeated in cities around the country. The movement, decentralized and leaderless, is far from rudderless. Its aim, to raise consciousness, harks back to the feminist and gay movements of the 1960s. In those movements too, the personal was political.

“We are all in this together,” its participants seem to say. In truth, every area, even the most affluent, even Fort Lee, has suffered in the economic downturn. Stores have closed; unemployment lines are growing. During the last three years, my household alone offered temporary shelter to three homeless women, two of whom are acquaintances. Last week, a homeless person was discovered sleeping on a bench in front of the Fort Lee Historical Society. As long as one person is affected by poverty and economic deprivation, we are all affected. And, as we all know this, the phenomenon of protest in Zuccotti Park was something that attracted many – those wanting to participate in the change and those wanting to witness it.

In October, a friend, Linda from Fort Lee, and I met up with two more Bergen County friends – Peggy from Fort Lee, who actually works on Wall Street and is supportive of the movement, and Patrick, an artist and activist from Hackensack, who rode his bike to and from Zuccotti Park to join the protests every day. We were struck by the attention to what is important – a library with books that helped to explain why the OWS even exists; an altar with tokens from every religion.

The messages on signs held up by Zuccotti Park protestors and by activists around the country—Tax the rich; End corruption; Greed is a family value—are deeply felt, personal and political. They don’t represent abstract ideas. Protestors are a diverse lot, and they are sharing their stories of loss, deprivation and injustice; they are individuals fighting foreclosures, looking for jobs, struggling to pay back loans, and just wanting to make a difference or help out a neighbor.

Christine, a young woman who volunteered to help provide blankets to occupiers in Zuccotti Park, said her life felt empty as an artist, working alone. She wants to make a difference. She is one of many students I encountered at Zuccotti Park who can’t repay their college loans.

Intelligent, hungry for a change, she, like so many there, appears as intent on protest as on offering herself up to benefit the cause of peace and social justice. Kristle, one of several kitchen volunteers, said she helped to feed vegan meals to approximately 800 people at the park every day. Artists, musicians, chefs, techies, medical students, union workers, the unemployed and just plain sick and tired helped to create a small, peaceful community in Zuccotti Park, modeling for the rest of the country, perhaps what could be.

It was a hopeful sign that support for the protestors was also unprecedented. Friends came from near and far, including the Bergen County contingent, to stand with activists and offer support. A network of truth, support and justice will go on and the Occupy Wall Street Movement will manifest itself in new ways.

For many activists, the Occupy Movement became a success the moment government officials and the media took notice. One thing is certain, the 99 percent in this country who “have not,” who have lost homes and jobs, who can’t repay loans, who are tired of corruption in government and oppression by a system that has failed to live up to its promises, will no longer remain invisible and silent.

© 2012 Arya F. Jenkins.

——-

From the anthology, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality – prose & poetry  www.allbook-books.com

 

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#M24: Let Freedom Spring


Occupiers assembled last Saturday in solidarity with victims of police brutality. A group of hundreds that included city council members marched for hours from Liberty Plaza to join hundreds more at Union Square. On the way, they shared messages on the right to assemble with evocative banners, chanting, and performance art. Photographer Rose Magno documents this expressive and coherent culture of a civil society coming together in peaceful protest.

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#M17: Occupy Reignited


I boarded the World Trade Center-bound E train on March 17th (M17) not knowing what to expect when I got out on the other side, a few blocks away from the now infamous Zuccotti Park. It’s been a long winter for Occupy Wall Street. The past few months have seen the movement deal with increasingly violent repression and evictions nationwide, as well as – at least in New York City – a lot of internal bickering and debate on everything from nonviolence to funding sources to housing of occupiers. Many occupiers have been referring to winter as an “incubation” period. The mainstream media pretty much considers the movement dead. Whatever it is, it is vastly different than the Occupy Wall Street of 6 months ago. Or at least it was until M17, the movement’s six-month anniversary.

I spent most of the train ride to Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti’s reclaimed name) conjuring the many nights of elation and frustration I have had in that park – the countless general assemblies, free meals, cigarettes, stimulating conversations, rain storms, arguments, marches and finally, the brutal eviction that brought it all to a screeching halt. Since the eviction, the park had been empty. Or maybe barren is a better word. A cold (literally), lifeless slab of concrete in the valley of the gargantuan buildings surrounding  it. Whatever vitality we brought to that place had long been replaced with barricades, security guards, and an eerie stillness.

When I emerged in Lower Manhattan, I was hit by a wave of déjà vu. I could hear the drums and chants inside the park reverberating throughout the neighborhood. I realized that even the sound of the neighborhood had changed since the eviction. A flash flood of warm familiarity washed over me. On the six-month anniversary of our movement, I was transported back to its beginning. I picked up the pace and almost sprinted to the park. When I arrived, I found it once again brimming over with occupiers and police.

 It was wonderful to see the park electrified with people power again. That powerful feeling of remembrance and recognition continued to surge through my body like a kind of muscle memory being reawakened.

As soon I walked into the park, I witnessed someone being arrested by the NYPD. The mood was tense and rowdy. I was surprised by the number of police, all with a dozen or so zip-tie handcuffs hanging from their belts. I saw a few old friends and gave and received many hugs. We talked about the insane tug-of-war in which we are constantly engaged with the NYPD. They show up with batons, handcuffs, guns, and riot gear and raise the tension level in the park, then put the onus on us to deescalate. There were a few other arrests, and the police shouted at us where we could and couldn’t stand and what we couldn’t bring into the park.

Throughout the day, different marches left the plaza and came back to cheers and raised fists. It was as if we were in the midst of a mighty stretch after a long slumber. As afternoon turned to evening, the overall mood of the park shifted and the police presence seemed to taper off a bit. The chants going around and the drum circle in full swing filled the park with that familiar cacophonous buzz. There is something amazing about chanting and dancing around with complete strangers. One of the more popular chants of the day was taken from the Spanish Indignados and proclaims simply and rhythmically: “Anti-capitalista!” It was refreshing to hear so many chant that radical declaration. Even through the winter, we had kept our radical roots.

At 7pm, as customary, we had our general assembly (GA). This was my first time attending a GA in a good while, and by the time it was over I was re-enamored with direct democracy and twinkling fingers. There were hundreds in attendance – probably our biggest GA of the year. It was also surprisingly lacking in rancor or squabbling, except for the traditional begging of the drum circle to keep it down or move away from GA. We consensed on signing on to a letter calling for a federal investigation of the NYPD for spying in Muslim communities and broke out into discussion groups to talk about our ideas for May Day. There was a palpable spirit of camaraderie and solidarity in the air, and many OWS veterans commented to me that they felt truly transported to “the good ol’ days” before the eviction and even before the tents went up at Zuccotti, fighting with drummers and all.

After GA a large march which included Michael Moore and Dr. Cornel West arrived from the Left Forum. Suddenly there were over a thousand people communing in the park, some playing games, some doing interviews or making media, others just talking and smoking. There was a Capoeira circle, a mic-check speak out, and of course plenty of drums and dancing. The mood was jovial in spite of everyone’s noticing that the police presence seemed to be increasing as the night went on. At one point, a barrage of bag pipes could be heard on the southwestern corner of the park. This being St. Patrick’s Day, a small Irish marching band had either purposely or by coincidence found its way to Liberty Plaza, equipped with bag pipes and snare drums. The crowd in the park erupted with cheers and applause and ran to the park’s northern perimeter to greet the band. In a confused scuffle (at least from my vantage point) the police moved in, forced the band to stop playing and moved them to the other side of the street. One officer told me they feared the band would “cause a riot.”

Suddenly an orange net appeared. Usually, this means that you have been kettled by the police and are about to go to jail. But this orange net had the words “Occupy” and “99%” stenciled on it. A group of protesters were extending the net and creating a barrier between the police and the occupiers. I admit, being surrounded by that net gave me a creepy feeling , even though I knew it was ‘on our side.’ Yellow OWS caution tape started to go up all over the park too, tied on the trees and cutting through the crowd in odd angles. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I could almost sense the tension in the park boiling over. An exorbitant number of police were amassing on the northern side of the park. I stood on one of the benches in the park to try to get some perspective, and I saw what all the fuss was about. A group of occupiers were erecting tents in the center of the park. The net, the tape, all of it, was to protect the tents. A light came on inside the first tent and the words stenciled on its side became visible: “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”

I watched as the tent was hoisted into the air and cheered with the crowd, but I knew that what had been a glorious and rejuvenating day would have an ugly ending. We paraded around with two tents for a bit, all of us enjoying what we knew were the last exquisite moments of our resurrection. Then, as if someone hit a fast forward button, we jumped from reliving those first amazing months of Occupy to November 15 – eviction day. Much like that night, the police lined up on the Broadway stairs and announced that the park was closed. They told us that being in the park was now an arrestable offense. And so those who were willing to risk arrest moved to create a human wall on the eastern end of the park, a few meters from the line of police officers. I moved toward the middle of the park and stood on a bench to see the NYPD march in and start arresting people. After about half an hour they had moved everyone out of the park and began erecting barricades around the park’s perimeter. After being pushed and shoved out of the park, those of us who remained stood on the sidewalk, most of us bewildered by the brute force we had just witnessed. We were on the western end of park, isolated from the far greater brutality happening on the eastern side. In the background I could hear people calling for a march.

By this point, I was both mentally and physically exhausted from this behemoth roller-coaster of a day, but I just couldn’t tear away. I ran through the gamut of emotions and questions we all ask ourselves in moments like these, trying to balance my sense of duty and solidarity with the sheer terror of the situation at hand and its possible outcomes. Do I want to get arrested? Or beat up? Is it worth it this time? In truth, I had to fight off the urge to wave the white flag and go home. But I was angry, dejected, and so was everyone else. In the end, I decided to march with my comrades.

A few hundred of us wound our way through Lower Manhattan, flanked all the while by police in scooters and squad cars. We turned sharply down side streets a few times, which seemed to confuse the police, but definitely caused confusion amongst the marchers. I found myself running down the sidewalks and streets with large groups of other occupiers just to keep up. This, plus the sheer volume of the police response, made for some moments of pandemonium. We took the streets several times throughout, prompting arrests and batons. Police smashed an occupier’s head against a glass door. We passed a least one broken store window (though it was unclear if it was broken by Occupy) and at one point on a side-street in the Village, some protesters emptied several trash receptacles into the streets to block the police. It worked, to everyone’s excitement. I saw several police scooters with trash and plastic bags caught in their wheel wells.

When the march reached E. Houston shortly after that, I decided to hop on the nearby F train and make the trip back to Queens. I wanted to stay, continue the march, be with my comrades, express my anger and my joy – but I just had to break away. I knew that things would only get uglier, and I was already delirious with a cogent mix of exhaustion, frustration, and the high of marching through the streets. It felt as if I had lived the whole history of occupy in the span of 10 hours. On the train ride home, I found myself thinking that despite its dystopian ending, M17 had been a success. It was a re-ignition of our imaginations; a reminder of all the beautiful things we built from scratch in that small park, and all the hardships that came with them, and how easily it can be wiped away.

Spring has definitely sprung at OWS, and it’s only the beginning.

– Danny Valdes –
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March to Freedom


New York, NY–My Mom and I live in a first floor apartment down on 9th Street, not far from the YMCA.  She works at the local grocery store a few days a week, which helps towards the rent, and I take the B61 bus every day down to Brooklyn where I work as a class assistant in the catholic high school.  Dad left us when I was 13.  I used to think it was my fault he left because I was horrible to him, but Mom told me later that he had been seeing the waitress at the diner on the next block for months before he moved out.  I don’t know whether I felt better that he didn’t leave because of me, or worse because I thought Mom must have been really hurt.  She doesn’t smile much anymore anyway.

Life is pretty boring for both of us I guess.  Mom spends her time in the apartment.  She only leaves to go to work or shop and then come home again.  I never go anywhere much because money is tight these days and I am studying from home to get more qualified.  I hope that I will be able to train to be a teacher in a year or so from now, but I need to graduate first so I can get on the training course.  We weren’t doing too badly when Dad first left.  I guess he felt guilty enough about walking out to help out with money for a while.  Eventually the money stopped though and he didn’t drop by to see me anymore.  I found out from an old school friend, whose dad knew him, that he and his new girlfriend had had a baby.  Sometimes I wondered if he would walk out on her too, but I never heard any more about him after that.  Anyway, things got pretty tight then.  I was still at school and Mom couldn’t manage very well on the money she was earning.  I wasn’t far off from graduation when I came home one day to find Mom looking the happiest I’d seen her in a long time.  She’d been talking to one of the regular customers who came in the store and they had told her about a company that was almost literally handing out loans.  She had put in an application for a loan and been accepted.  The money had hit her account that day and she had been out and filled the larder.  Not only that, but there were new clothes for both of us, which Lord knows we had needed, and she had bought a few things for the apartment too.  It felt like a birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mom had trouble meeting the repayments and things started getting behind little by little.  In the end I left school before graduation and took a job waitressing to help out.  Between us, we could manage just fine, but that was the end of my education for more than a few years.  That’s why I study from home now, so that I can try to catch up on what I missed by leaving early.

I guess all this is why I feel so strongly about the Occupy movement.  Strongly enough to have joined the OWS guys in the early days of Zuccotti Park.  I had heard about the New York General Assembly from one of the other staff at school who was crossing the bridge from Brooklyn to attend the meetings in Washington Square Park and Liberty Park.

Like most people who struggle to make ends meet and sit on the sidelines watching the rich get richer, I feel angry and frustrated at the blatant inequality of so called democracy.  I despise the system that promises fairness and opportunity for all, but then undermines any attempt to better yourself.  I started to join my work colleague at the meetings.  It wasn’t long before I was signing petitions, helping stop foreclosures on families threatened with the loss of their homes and joining any protest that didn’t clash with my work.  Home became a place I went to lay my head, grab a bath and some fresh clothes before dashing off again and I did the bare minimum of studying needed to make the grade.  I could see the worry in Mom’s face.  She didn’t hold with upsetting the status quo,  but I couldn’t find the words to tell her that none of us had any choice any more.  It was time to stand up and be counted.  I would kiss her and hurry out the door.

* * *

On March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, I crossed the bridge and made my way to Zuccotti Park.  It was the 6 month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and I was determined to be there.  I arrived early in the day, maybe about 8:30am, and people were just beginning to gather in small groups.  The mood was good – we were all on a high and I could hear plenty of chatter and laughter across the open space.  Someone was doing face painting and not far away from them, another girl was painting henna tattoos on the arms of a blonde haired guy.  Everyone was sharing breakfast – some people had brought bags of bagels or donuts and coffee – no one was going hungry.

As the day went on, the crowd grew and we started chanting.  One or two tents were being put up in available spaces and a few people were catching some sleep, curled up in camping bags and oblivious to the noise and movement around them.  The cops were on the sidelines, just watching.  Occasionally a protester would wander over, say something to one of them and move away again.

The evening came and dark arrived.  I heard from someone that Brookfield, who owned the Park, were getting edgy about us all being there and they finally asked the cops to clear us all out of the area.  That’s when it started getting nasty.  We were being pushed – herded – towards the edges of the park and were resisting the movement.  Then I heard someone yell.  I couldn’t see what was happening, but then the action moved closer to where I was standing – a line of cops pushing forward, swinging their batons at anyone who was in the way.  People started falling back.  I saw a girl not far away from me catch a baton across her chest and she crumpled.  A couple of guys close to her started shouting at the cops.  They ignored them and the guys lifted the girl up and beat a quick retreat.  I saw someone else with blood running down their face from a gash on their forehead.  Suddenly I was being pushed roughly backwards.  I stumbled, almost lost my balance and fell, but managed to steady myself at the last moment.  I protested at the grim, set face of the cop in front of me.  He just gave me the hardest stare I’ve ever seen and told me to get lost before he took me in.  I almost felt, rather than saw, movement to one side of me and that was the last thing I remember.

I came round in New York downtown hospital.   My mom was there looking as though she’d been crying for hours.  My head hurt so bad I almost felt that it would split open if I moved.  I lifted a hand to reach for Mom and she shushed me quickly, told me that I had been knocked out and had a concussion.  They’d X-rayed my skull to check for damage, but it seems I got away with that one, and I was being kept in overnight for observation.

I heard later that they’d arrested dozens of protesters that night and that I wasn’t the only one to have landed up in hospital, although I was luckier than some – apparently one girl had had a seizure or something.  They let me out to go home the next day.  Mom had stayed overnight in my room, sleeping in a chair, and we caught the bus together.  Walking down 9th Street to our apartment was kind of weird.  Everything looked the same as it had been all my life but somehow it was different.   Or I was different perhaps.

– Beth Harrington –

Beth Harrington no longer writes politics using her real name, although she hopes that one day the powerful forces that oppress us all will fall just as they always have throughout history and the people will be able to live in peace. She now lives in the UK which has its own set of problems.

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Eviction: A Medic’s Perspective


It was a particularly warm night, and I decided to go down to Zuccotti Park after my shift was over. I arrived at about 11pm and as usual the place was still pretty alive. We just got our bicycle powered generator for our lights, and we had a volunteer riding the stationary bike. At about 1am things seemed to be winding down, there were a few of us in the tent…we heard the megaphones (obviously outsiders, we weren’t allowed to use them) and saw the blue flashing lights. A surly policeman came into the medical tent and handed us a piece of paper. It was an eviction notice, telling us that we had 30 minutes to pack up and get out. It was chaotic. People outside were yelling. I stayed in the tent, fiercely wanting to defend it. We had become a community health center.

People not involved with OWS were coming to us for services. We had doctors and nurses, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, reike practitioners, EMTS, paramedics and street medics. We had an entire social work department! We gave out flu shots! We made rounds in the park and went out on marches, we not only helped those who sought us out, we sought out those who needed our help. All of our services were free! The community stepped up and donated every supply we could think of. We never ran out of anything. We were the most amazing clinic I’ve ever worked in! It was inconceivable that the police would be throwing us out, but they were. At this point there were 3 of us in the tent – doctor, our volunteer bike rider and myself. None of us wanted to leave.

I called our lawyer to let him know what was going on. As I did this the police came in with their cameras and yelled at us to get out. I saw a knife slash into the tent and then make a long tear. I tried to cover the opening they made with a piece of cloth, but that was ripped down, then another knife slash, the were ripping the tent down with us in it. The doctor and I tried to reason with the police, but they wouldn’t hear it. They lied to us and told us that they would pack up all of our supplies and that we could pick them up at the department of sanitation the next day. Finally I grabbed what I could, a box of herbal supplies, some medical equipment, a grapefruit and a stuffed elephant. (I can’t tell you what exactly I was thinking at the time). An angry cop grabbed my arm and thrust me out of the tent and out of the park, I wasn’t even allowed to stand on the sidewalk.

We watched the police throw the remains of our medical tent into a garbage truck and then compact it. We were holding medications for young occupiers, he had expensive defibrillators, we kept records of our patient’s conditions, we had ace bandages, and gauze bandages, foot care products, and lots more. It all got destroyed. It was that night when I decided I was in, I was an occupier, this was a cause worth fighting for. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD kicked a hornet’s nest!!!! We are not gone and we are stronger than ever….we will win, we have to, all we are asking for is a world worth living in for everyone. People maybe fighting against us, but they will wake up someday and realize we are on the same side.

– Nurse Janet

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First Night in Liberty Plaza


When I arrived at Liberty Plaza last night, a little lost, trying to find my way around the Occupy Wall Street camp, the first thing I did was find the line for dinner. I was hungry. I had worked 13 hours that day, and needed to eat. I had heard that brilliant local chefs have volunteered to cook these fantastic meals for the protesters at the communal kitchen, so I lined up behind a guy who looked almost exactly like me: lost, a backback loaded up, a peaceful, accepting look on his face. And as we turned the corner, edging forward, we got our paper plates loaded with rice and lentils, soup bowls loaded up with a brilliant spicy stew, bread pudding, and apple sauce. All donated by supporters.

Our supporters.

Eating, sitting on a curb in the park, I got to talking with the guy next to me; “Its my first night here. Where do you throw trash?” “You sleeping here?” “Yes,” I said, admitting I hadn’t brought a sleeping bag, not knowing how things were.

“Welcome brother.” A handshake. We kept eating. Everyone’s eyes said the same thing, “welcome brother,” not in a creepy cultish way but in that way people who have gathered together to change things say it with their eyes. Walking around the camp, my next step was to see if they had at least a pillow for me to use; at a distribution center for donated clothes and blankets, they handed me a fleece, rolled it up, and said, “This could make a good pillow, don’t you think?” It did, and it would.

I walked around, I joined in the people’s assembly discussions about representation; I browsed in the provisional library, set up in plastic bins–in which The Beat Reader and Noam Chomsky were marked as REFERENCE. Reference indeed–next to Whitman, as well. In a spontaneously gathered group on the steps, I sang Bob Dylan in a crowd with a famous singer who showed up to help out; more folk music flowed from his guitar. Everybody, it seems, had a guitar.

I found a shining granite bench to sleep on; I was getting tired, and almost all the ground-space was taken up by people camped in tents or under tarps. The wind was blowing. It was getting colder, but I needed sleep; so I set up my “pillow,” put on an extra layer under my jacket, put my gloves on, put my hood up, and curled up on the bench.

Nearly asleep, back turned on the “path” between other sleepers and protesters, I suddenly felt a blanket being placed over me. I looked up, gave a thumbs up and thanks, and she said, “Keep warm dude.” That thick donated blanket would keep me warm through the windy, 45 degree night. I’d awake in the morning to donated bagels, a cup of coffee, friendly directions to the subway, so I could get to work on time.

My night at the protest glows in my memory, sustains me; we were all cooperating; we were all, remarkably. generously supported by each other, and by all the unseen anonymous supporters who gave us food, blankets, books, time. A thousand strings of support seemed to stretch out from every moment I occupied the park. I think of my fellow protesters down there tonight, as it gets colder–as “family night” goes forward (kids are invited tonight to the camp).

As the sign says: no protest, this occupation is an affirmation of all that we can do for each other, an affirmation of the way things can be. You see somebody sleeping without a blanket; you find them one. You put it on them. You keep them warm. That’s how you occupy privatized public space, take it back.

When I return to do another night there, I’ll bring books, food, and some pillows for the next person who needs one.

– Spurgeon Thompson

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My OWS Story


NEW YORK -Let me start off by saying I had no idea what to expect from this visit to New York. An acquaintance of mine that I had met through the college I currently attend told me she was going to Zuccotti Park in Manhattan to see what was going on with the protesting. She was leaving 8am Friday morning (it was already 11pm Thursday night). Being an amateur photographer and long time insubordinate I was immediately attracted to the idea of getting out of our small college town for our 4 day weekend and soaking in some of NYC’s lively atmosphere. It had seemed as an opportunity to catch some great event photos and a call to arms had found me. I thought about it for roughly 5 short minutes, charged the battery for my Nikon D80, grabbed 2 lenses, packed 4 days worth of clothes and the next day, got my ass to Manhattan. This is what I saw.

The drum circle was audible for at least 10 blocks. There were people playing music everywhere. People were shouting about why they were there. They wanted to be heard.

People of all ages. All races, genders, people of all faiths. Some tired of the same old system we’ve been living with. Some there just for the company of a warm welcoming environment, which for many native New Yorkers is a spectacle in itself.

At first I thought it was just a mob of people babbling on about our economy, the war, justice system, politics, anything they could complain about. Yeah, that’s pretty much what it is. A melting pot of every protest you’ve ever seen or heard about. But that’s just it. This isn’t like the rest. The sheer magnitude and media attention this thing was getting is hard to describe. It’s the people’s megaphone. They, or WE were there to be heard and we weren’t going to leave until something gave. That was it for me. I spent my first night in Zuccotti park. I was in and I wasn’t going anywhere.

Day 2

I was tired and sore. I slept maybe 2 hours on the hard concrete that the city had provided us for our stay. There were no fresh towels here. I spent a few hours getting some free coffee and breakfast  (which was all gourmet and delicious by the way!) and reflecting on the first day. To say the least, I was still unsure of my surroundings. I noticed some sketchy characters lurking in the night. I later found we would all eventually become one of those people. Showerless, exhausted and wearing the same dirty pants for days. Walking down a nearby city block, it was easy to separate the occupiers from the observers. People were tagged with all sorts of clever attire and make shift signs.

My second day there I started to pick up on the whole purpose of the occupation and got to see some  inner workings which showed me how organized everything really is. There was energy everywhere, as always.

People helping.

People dancing, playing music.

Groups coordinating.

People protesting.

Making friends.

Sharing ideas.

 Mic Check!

A lot of parents brought their children. It was really wonderful to see that people trusted the movement. It’s a lot to ask of a parent to bring their child to such a seemingly chaotic environment.That didn’t stop most.

The faces of fallen soldiers were among the living.

As well as those who still speak for us every day. It was inspiring to see the amount of love and support for the cause from even the most unsuspecting celebrities.

I slept well that night in a sleeping bag given to me by the comfort center work group. A vital asset to the occupied community. I’d also like to shout out to the sanitation work group who kept our living space cleanliness to a tolerable level. Without those working groups, there would be no community.

Day 3.

I experienced my first march.

It was loud, courageous, chaotic behavior that left police feeling threatened by unarmed protesters. Why would police be afraid of unarmed civilians? Because there were a freakin’ lot of us and we all wanted a piece of the media. All it took was one stunt to set off a chain reaction of angry protesters willing to go to jail for the cause. These non-violent direct actions are the lock stock and barrel of the movement. It’s an ongoing battle of legalities and loop holes. I attended an entire class describing direct action right in battery park! I learned a whole lot about non-violent demonstrations.

Day 4.

I walked right into the belly of the beast. What had started as a covert surveillance mission to find an appropriate point of entry to the golden streets, had turned into just getting a few good shots of life in a day on wall street. Prestigious golden towers hung way above the heads of those who live without worry. No financial struggles, just the comfort of their fortune. Pigs rolling in mud. It was sickening. I didn’t belong there. I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out a way to bring down wall street.

Day 5.

Things were calming down. Less Marching, less protesting, more coordination and more building of the community.Unfortunately, I had to return to my home in upstate New York to attend classes. It wouldn’t make sense to fight against loans I’m not going to make use of ;P

I returned home, eager to get back to the park. I was obligated to go to my classes and to finish what I started. 3 short days later, I went right back to the park.

Day 6.

The energy was still flourishing. Drums drumming, crowds crowding, protesters protesting. I felt back at home.

I  felt stronger, I wanted to do something! I was piss drunk on helping the cause, I started going to meetings, writing down ideas, interviewing people. I didn’t care about the photos anymore. I just wanted in. I helped coordinate a march! (which later turned out to fall through the cracks after discussing the idea with some more experienced protesters.) It taught me something. There was no room for leadership here. All decisions were made based on a general consensus of the community’s population. A true democracy. My work had already been done long before I got there. The start of a new political party owned by the people, not corporate interest.

Zuccotti park was occupied. And no one was leaving until something changed.

My journey ended on day 7. I had been occupying for a week now. I felt a sense of accomplishment, enlightenment, relief, confidence, hope…really just a combination of emotions that equate to a plain good feeling. Most of all I was smelly and tired. I am one of the fortunate souls that has the comfort of a place to call home outside of the park. I felt I had done my due diligence. Something is being done out there, and with occupations spreading, this movement’s goal is starting to seem more and more plausible. I miss my people at Zuccotti park, and I wish you all the best of luck and sincere gratitude. My hopes are to return as soon as I can WITHOUT an expensive camera to worry about losing, so I can focus on occupying wall street!

-Mike Cosentino –

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