Below are a few of my reflections from Occupy Wall Street – in chronological order
The Occupation began on September 17th 2011 in Zucotti Park, later renamed Liberty Plaza
September 21st 2011
Another amazing day in the Plaza.
Today is day five of the occupation. Many people did not think it
would last this long (myself included). Well, I should restate that,
many people, often with lots of political experience in New York,
thought it would not last. New people, people whose imaginations were totally free, people who are angry and simultaneously dreaming of a new world and who cannot image restrictions to that new world, believed that absolutely we would occupy the park, and continue to not only believe it, but feel it will get bigger and broader.
What is this based on? I am not sure. But so far, they are right.
Today, day five, the group in the park, which really is a core group of a few hundred and many many hundred more who flow in and out, is much more diverse than the first day and days. There are people from more diverse backgrounds racially, more diverse age groups, including not just a few children there with their parents, and a number of
working people from the area. In particular, some of the security guards from the 9.11 memorial, a block away have been coming by for lunch and chatting with people, as has a local group of construction workers. One of the 9.11 security workers I met is from Spain and he hopes the group continues and expands, as they are in Spain.
As far as what a day looks like, there are workshops, information sharing, trainings, a mid day and evening general assembly and at least two marches.
Today the marches were rallies for Troy Davis. After a spirited march this evening the group came back into the Plaza
for the general assembly and then got word that there was the stay of execution for Troy Davis. People were exuberant. There was another march, and when the general assembly finally began, it began with a song. A young woman from Boston, who has been camping in the Plaza since Saturday, taught many other young people the words – stanza by stanza
- to ‘We Shall Overcome’. There were many white beards also in the crowd who were singing in loud passionate voices. Reflecting again the crowd getting more – not less – diverse. When it came to “We Shall All Be Free” I got teary. It was the song, it was the stay of execution, and it was the community being built.
With inspiration and freedom,
September 30th 2011
As some of you know, when I am so moved, moved beyond words,
I begin things with imagine …
So, imagine a few thousand people, no … more than a few, 6 or 7
thousand people. So many people that a large Plaza near Wall Street
cannot fit them so they have to overflow onto the corners and
sidewalks of the entire perimeter, and corners and sidewalks across
the street on every side. Imagine that all of these people are there because they are fed up and angry with something related to the economic crisis and Wall Street. Why are they there now? Why on this Friday afternoon at 3pm? Maybe some are there because they heard on the Occupy Wall Street website that Radiohead was doing a concert. Maybe. Or maybe they came because they are members of the Transportation Workers Union, a union of 38,000 that voted unanimously the night before to support the Occupation of Wall Street. Maybe. Or maybe they were from the Professional Staff Congress, the Union of teachers, adjuncts and graduate students from the City University System who also voted the night before to support the Occupation. Maybe. Or, maybe it was people from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement,
who were part of organizing the later demonstration against police brutality – a demonstration that left from the Plaza 5 thousand strong. Maybe. Or maybe they heard from a friend, neighbor, or the media that something has been happening near Wall Street. And maybe, it was all of these people. And more.Imagine your neighbor was there.
She might have been.
Tonight was the largest and by far most diverse crowd the Plaza has ever seen. There were pregnant women, babies and children, along with grannies and white beards, and everyone in the middle. There were at least four wheelchairs, and all sorts of differently abled people. There were people from all over the world and a variety of races and backgrounds. No question the unions and students were there.
Can you now imagine this group having a democratic discussion. Imagine the People’s Mic – as described in an earlier email, where people speak in short phrases and the group repeats it so all can hear. In the first week, up until tonight, the people’s mic worked for a few hundred people – not ideally, but one can hear. With thousands the people’s mic has to be repeated not one time, not two times, but three. Each wave of sound representing another mass of people hearing
the voice of the person speaking. Each wave of sound representing people actively listening by repeating. The facilitators (a team at this point) helps remind the person speaking, by gently touching their arm, that they have to wait for each wave to finish before the next phrase is spoken.
Imagine the quiet of people listening, and the sound of the repetition of the words of the person speaking. Imagine the power of direct democracy moving through your body, as with thousands around you. I have chills writing this. I was moved beyond words this evening.
At this point, we, whoever we are, are too big for the Plaza. We need to take over more parks, squares and plazas and facilitate more horizontal discussions about what we want and desire. About the crisis and our alternatives. For me, our demand should be, let us meet. Leave us alone so we can gather in our plazas, parks and squares, in our union halls, schools, universities, churches, synagogues and mosques, and leave us alone so we can find horizontal democratic ways to discuss the crisis of our times and the many alternatives. Together.
With the chills of real democracy,
The most beautiful sort of tears.
Tears of inspiration – created by popular power.
The tears began at 6am at Liberty Plaza, or, better said, with the
thousands in and around Liberty Plaza. The outpouring of solidarity
quite literally filled the Plaza beyond overflowing. I am exhausted,
and overwhelmed with emotion.
I did not know that popular power could have such an overwhelming
sensation. It is a chill … a tremble that is both incredibly powerful – feeling ones power with others – and also a little scary - feeling how much power we can actually have together, side by side.
As I slowly weaved my way through the masses of people, many who began arriving at midnight, I walked with my tears and my chills. I was weaving through groups of very young people, easily in their teens and early twenties, many people with piercings, and others clearly going to work soon, some even in jackets. There were older people, grandparents, and so many of us in between. All differently dressed and of many different races and ethnicities. Some groups came together, but most it seemed came as individuals, or with a friend or two. There were many union members there, I could tell by their shirts and hats, though they did not seem to have been “mobilized” but rather were coming on their own, as many rank and file workers have been doing everyday.
I saw lots of old friends and compañeros, sort of like a reunion … only we were all there to use our bodies to prevent the eviction of our Plaza.
Our Plaza. A place that has now been claimed by tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and people across the country. A Plaza that is organized with direct democracy and assembly forms of decision making. A Plaza that we have held and opened to people for three weeks today.
As I wandered on the outside of the Plaza, the inside being impossible to enter, overflowing with people as it was, I would on and off listen to the general assembly. There were a few opportunities since the people’s mic was now on four and even five waves. The number of waves (times phrases are repeated) indicates just how large the group is. Most nights we have two waves, which is around 500 people. Three waves is more like a thousand. And four waves, at least 1500 …
This morning, the waves of people repeated the invitation from the direct action working group to join them in linking arms and keeping the Plaza. The response was resounding applause. There was no discussion, debate or hesitation. Not only did people agree with shouts, whistles, and their fingers twinkling in the air, but with their bodies. As 7am approached, the time the Mayor and Brookfield Properties said they would come into the Plaza with the police and
move people out, people did not move.
There, with at least 5000 other people, we waited to see what would happen. We were ready for whatever that might mean. But what was clear was that our bodies were talking. People stayed in the Plaza. People stayed around the Plaza. Our Plaza.
And then, with the people’s mic, five waves extending, just before 7am, the announcement came.
They backed down.
October 28th 7pm General Assembly
“This is What Democracy Looks Like!”