There’s A Revolution Brewing, Occupy Wall Street Enters Week Two
(Photo by Adam Lempel)
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Max, a 33 year old activist from upstate New York who’s been camping out here in Zuccotti Park for days. “I’ve been to many protests before, but there’s never been such energy and promise as what I see here today. The revolution has begun.”
Indeed, as Occupy Wall Street enters week two of what will almost certainly be many more to come, the excitement is palpable. Every day there are many new faces and a steady stream of stalwarts. We have live music, with a group of people bangin’ on drums, others playing guitar, and some blaring trumpets. We hold general assemblies, where we all crowd around the middle of the park and listen to each other float propositions for action, repeating what each speaker has to say, word for word. We participate in smaller group sessions, where a dozen or so of us discuss strategies for outreach and craft ideas for demands. Everyone is friendly. There are so many cool and interesting people here from all over America. And it’s easy to start conversations, since we all have something important to say and want to listen to others.
Our courage and determination is unflinching. On Saturday the police arrested over 80 people for exercising their right to peacefully assemble in protest. Hundreds of demonstrators, joined by many onlookers and amassing a presence of roughly 2,000, marched from Wall Street all the way up towards Union Square, where the police brutally intervened. I was not there, but a girl named Rachel, who was arrested, described the scene to me in great detail. She says that as the crowd approached Union Square, the police illegally stormed the protestors and ensnared them in nets, as if they were capturing animals in the jungle. The cops not only unleashed mass arrests but also forced dozens of protestors to lie down, and then they slashed their shirts. They pounced on some people and pepper sprayed others (see footage).
As Democracynow! has reported, one woman named Christina Gonzalez was told to stop filming, and when she refused, a cop yelled “Get her,” and a group of officers surrounded and arrested her. She says, “they all came up behind me. They grabbed me by my wrist. They took their feet and swept it under my feet to try to take my feet from under me. They put the cuffs on really tight. I could not feel my hands. And all I kept doing was screaming, ‘Please get these cuffs off of me! Get these cuffs off of me! I cannot breathe! I’m suffocating! My hands!’
We sat inside one of these police vans, 16 of us, for two-and-a-half hours with the doors closed. We couldn’t breathe in there, and there was a man in there who needed medical attention. He had a big, huge laceration on his eyebrow. There were a couple other brothers who had scrapes on their leg, big cuts into their leg. And everybody was just laughing at us. The cops kept circling around. We asked for water. No water. We had our phones. We were sending pictures; we were making phone calls. We even called 911, and 911 said, ‘You’re with the cops, they’re there to protect you,’ and she hung up the phone on me.”
Rachel says that she was on the sidewalk, trying not to provoke the police in order to avoid arrest. But they came for her too. However, when she was cuffed her cop was supportive of Occupy Wall Street, surreptitiously trying to reassure her that she’ll be released by nighttime. Nevertheless, Rachel, along with a handful of others, was forced to sit in a police van for two and a half hours. It was hot, and there was no water. When she finally got sent to the precinct she was stuffed in a cell with a few others for a bunch of hours. By midnight she was released. She had received a ticket for disorderly conduct, the height of irony considering that it was in fact the police who were being disorderly, and she must appear for a bullshit court session in a month or so.
“How do you feel about your experience?” I ask her at 3 AM that night, back in Zuccotti Park. Her response is indicative of the mentality that pervades Occupy Wall Street. She says it was a great, albeit extremely uncomfortable, experience. She says she now feels more determined than before to continue to resist. Her time in the precinct had enabled her to reflect on just why she came from Philly to protest the corporate state. “If you don’t have a cause that you feel is worth getting arrested for, you should consider reevaluating your priorities,” she proclaims.
There have been many moments when we feared the police would totally decimate the movement by storming Zuccotti Park and arresting everyone. They came close last week Tuesday, when they indiscriminately beat up a few people and made a handful of arrests. The police presence all around the area is forbidding. Wall Street still looks like a warzone, with the Stock Exchange barricaded. And Saturday night, even after the mass arrests earlier that day, roughly a hundred cops surrounded Zuccotti Park, and we braced for the worst.
But their brutality had garnered bad press. At around 10 o’clock that night someone printed out the front page of Sunday morning’s Daily News, which featured a graphic image of the crackdown at Union Square and the headline “Wail Street.” Emboldened, the crowd erupted in cheers. There were no arrests and beat downs by the cops that night. As Rachel says, it’s clear that some officers, such as the one who arrested her, are only following orders. Of course this is no excuse. But it gives us hope to consider that some, if only a few, of our oppressors are at heart on our side—like the guards at Macbeth’s castle in scene V, they “move only in command, Nothing in love.”
What everyone contemplating joining us has to consider is that we feel we are the freest people in America right now. The police may be enforcing draconian measures that naturally accompany the corporate state, they may be pawns doing their masters’ bidding, but we are not afraid. Those who have been arrested, like Rachel, tell me that once you actually get stuck in a cell it’s not as bad as you expected. Occupy Wall Street has a team of lawyers committed to pressuring the police to let protestors out quickly.
The key is, we know the police apparatus that is trying to intimidate us is itself terrified. The corporate elites understand that we are their biggest threat. And it appears they don’t know what to do. They have tried brutality, and that has largely backfired. They have tried to scare us with their sheer numbers, but we remain undeterred. It seems they are just praying that Occupy Wall Street will die out on its own.
But it won’t. The movement is catching fire by the minute. Masses of people have already begun to occupy space near the Federal Reserve Building in Chicago. And Occupy Los Angeles is now getting underway as well. Although the mainstream and progressive media by and large continue to ignore or ridicule us, the internet is abuzz with fervor. The articles I’ve written on Occupy Wall Street have gotten thousands and thousands of page hits. People tell me they’re coming out to join us. And if you talk to anyone at Zuccotti Park, you’ll feel the sense of invincibility permeating the movement.
I urge everyone to come out to Wall Street. We are standing on the cusp of history. I keep reflecting on those images from Tahrir Square a few months ago of normal people empowering themselves, escaping fear, and describing a sense of exuberance brought about by their new collective lease on life. You don’t want to miss this. Believe me, you will want to say that you were at Zuccotti Park when the revolution started. And this is a revolution indeed.
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