Occupy Wall Street is Here to Stay
(Photo by Adam Lempel)
They keep trying, but they keep failing. The elites are doing everything in their power to crush the revolution. But they will continue to fail. Every time they crack down we just get bigger.
After Bloomberg launched a most vicious, illegal and egregious raid on Liberty Square, we bounced right back. I spent all Tuesday at the park, and at first it was depressing. Seeing the police occupying Zuccotti Park in blatant contempt of a preliminary judicial ruling was tough. But I saw someone holding a sign thanking Bloomberg for being the best propaganda vehicle for our revolution. He was dead silent as he brandished his message, clearly tired, but steadfast in demeanor.
I walked up to him in the hopes of finding inspiration. I introduced myself, saying I appreciate his optimism but cannot find a reason to be optimistic myself; “I’ve been here since day one but feel really down; can you tell me why I should be hopeful?” I asked. A big smile lit his face up, brimming with exuberance and assurance. He said his name is Murdoch.
“Dude, I’m thirty six. I’ve been doing activism for years. But I gave up a while ago. It seemed hopeless. But OWS has brought me back into the fight. You guys give me hope. We can’t fail. You know why? Because we’ve already got people talking. After only two months, we’ve gotten people to start talking about issues they never discuss in ways they never have before—inequality, democracy, empire, etc. It’s not supposed to be easy. The Revolution upon which this country was founded wasn’t easy. Civil rights wasn’t easy. Universal suffrage wasn’t easy. And that’s because change comes through struggle. That’s the only way. But we’re gonna win this man.”
That night, OWS hosted its largest General Assembly yet. Thousands flocked to the park in spite of or perhaps because of the draconian police presence. We had been punched in the gut, but not knocked out. We shared stories from that morning’s horrors. And we moved on, planning our next step as a group, true to our democratic principles.
Thursday was huge. I participated in nearly all the day’s events. In ways Thursday contained the flow of OWS in microcosm. In the morning we locked arms and formed human barricades in an effort to obstruct Wall Street and shut down or delay the morning bell at the Stock Exchange. Of course the cops arrested and beat people up. But that perhaps shouldn’t raise anyone’s eyebrows, since, while the real crimes are being committed in the Stock Exchange, we understand that we were technically breaking the law.
More alarming though, and a harbinger of what was to come later, was the ensuing police brutality. After we disbanded the human barricades the NYPD attempted to intimidate and kick us out of the streets. Bear in mind that these streets typically host very little traffic, so we were not obstructing anything substantive. Nevertheless, the police arrested and indiscriminately beat us up. Even those who were careful, like me, faced excessive measures—at one point a cop shoved me and a group of people even though we were clearly obeying their orders and standing on the sidewalk. I have this indelible image in my mind of one fat officer marching down the street and needlessly throwing a kid standing right by the sidewalk with a camera a good five feet. It was so egregious, unjustified and thuggish. Some courageous protestors defied authority, sat down in the middle of the road and got arrested.
After an hour or so we headed back to Liberty Square, where we were greeted by hundreds of cops. The park was completely sealed off with metal barricades, leaving only one small entrance and making a complete mockery of Bloomberg’s pledge to reopen the park for peaceful protest after the raid. I walked up to one officer and said, “I thought we’re allowed to come back into the park now. Why is it sealed off like this?” His response? “Keep walking sir.”
When I finally did enter the park, in the pouring rain and freezing cold, I witnessed things that should concern all Americans. On multiple occasions, the police stormed the park unprovoked and beat the shit out of people. The attacks were frightening. I repeatedly saw a sea of protestors fleeing in fear. The sight of cops running after demonstrators was terrifying. It was like watching the school bully chase the weakest nerd; only here, the supposed authorities, those who should be stopping the bullies, were doing the chasing. It looked like they were gonna murder somebody. Afterwards I saw blood all over the scene of the assaults.
But amidst the despair I found reason to be hopeful. During one such raid I stood atop one of the platforms on the outskirts of Zuccotti Park to watch the horror unfold. A cop, a Hispanic man, came over to tell me to step down. I said, “why? What am I doing wrong?” He replied, “please, do me a favor and step down.” I said, “but I want to see what’s going on.” “There’s nothing to see here,” he responded. “Come on now, there’s clearly something going on. I don’t want to give you a hard time, but I have a right to stand here if I want.” The officer looked me in the eyes. And in his eyes I could tell that he meant every word he was about to say: “look man, I’m just following orders, I don’t want to make you leave, but I gotta do my job. Please just do me this favor.”
I stepped down. And I felt good. That’s all it took. Just a little respect, a little decency.
But more important, the officers’ eyes showed me his heart was not in what he was being forced to do. True, there may be many scumbags in the NYPD who relish abusing power. But many of them hate following their orders.
Shortly thereafter, we marched to Union Square, and there the fun began. A day that had been largely marked by frustration and anxiety turned into a huge victory and celebration.
Thousands of us marched to Foley Square. This was the most electrifying moment of the revolution for me thus far. Our presence was huge, and we essentially shut down 6th Avenue. On every street, most cars honked like crazy in support of us, drivers pumped their fists and gave us the peace sign. Some got out from their cars to salute us. And, much to my initial surprise, nobody, as far as I could see, expressed anger towards us—no one flipped us off or booed.
Dozens and dozens of cab drivers, truck drivers and bus drivers in particular were enthralled. They have been screwed by the system, and they know who we are fighting and what we are fighting for. To lighten their day a little, to give them hope, was exhilarating. The joy on their faces, the enthusiasm with which they honked their horns and banged on the ceilings of their cars, made every act of resistance in which I’ve participated worthwhile. Because they know we are trying to help them break free of their cages. Because they know we’re trying to create a world in which they will be treated right, with access to fair wages, benefits and unions. I am not one who usually chants with crowds. But never before have I chanted with such passion when I shouted, “we are the 99%,” and “show me what democracy looks like; this is what democracy looks like.” Taking 6th Avenue felt extremely empowering.
And then, when we arrived at Foley Square, we were joined by tens of thousands of people. The music and speeches were inspiring. And when we marched on Brooklyn Bridge, I walked next to a 73 year old lady named Joni who braved the freezing cold and marched many miles to show solidarity. While waiting to enter the bridge, we asked one of the officers what was taking so long, as we feared the NYPD may have started arresting people in front. “Trust me, nobody know what’s goin on,” he said, laughing. He was very friendly. We joked around with him, and Joni even took a picture with him. I could feel, as with the other officer at Liberty Square earlier, that he is part of the 99 percent. If OWS becomes big enough, if the middle class and majority of Americans join us, many police officers will refuse their orders, and we will take down the corporate state.
I kept looking around, and at the sight of tens of thousands of fellow protestors I couldn’t contain my smile, which was ear to ear. It was like the first time I ever hooked up with a girl. Who would have thought, just two months ago, when I and a small group of idealistic youngsters first occupied Zuccotti Park, that our efforts would blossom into a global revolution? Although Bloomberg and the Power Elite will fight with all they got, it is impossible to defeat an idea whose time has come.
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Filed under: Occupy Wall Street
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