Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Other 99%: Our Day at the Occupy Wall Street Protest, Saturday, October 1

My wife and I heeded Anonymous' call to action and went up to the protest yesterday to bring more web attention to it. We arrived at the Wall Street subway stop about 10:40 in the morning. As we exit the stop onto the street, I overhear a snippet of conversation behind me – “…sitting on two hundred and fifty thousand…” – guess this is the place all right. The first thing we notice is that all the streets are closed to traffic – metal gates everywhere, confining foot traffic to the sidewalks. Why? Protection? A party? – I see what might be an empty bandshell. Has this been reported anywhere? Has this been going on since 9/11/01? As we pass the NY Stock Exchange and exit the area, I get my answer – a bunch of cops standing around a sign which says “All bags subject to inspection” – protection. Signs on the cop cars say “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect.” Cops are everywhere, in 1s, 2s, and 3s. As we walk around looking for the protest, a big black stretch limo slowly comes around a corner and passes in front of us. Plates are “US xx” with the xx being two numbers I don’t quite catch. Looks official (and serious).

After a little stumbling around we suddenly find we are at the protest. It’s in a small block which is a park and there are about 300-400 people milling about. Of course we right away come across the signs – a few samples – “let’s rip down the Wall and make it just a street” – “Wake Up” – “Individually we are drops of water, together we form oceans.” I see a guy with dreadlocks and decide to start counting: the Dreadlock Count* (DC) is now 1. As we walk around the block I hear a guy standing amid a circle of people giving some kind of rally – can’t hear what he’s saying even when we get closer. Lots of signs of camping out, sleeping bags, tote bags, milk crates. Later we would find out that certain areas were designated for certain functions – sleeping, eating, laundry, which they must send out somewhere. These people really are living here. A girl has a paper – “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” – which they just printed today and are handing out.
You are mortgaging her future, you bastards.

A guy with marijuana leaves on his glasses walks around saying to everybody very rapidly “where’s my skateboard?” I see a guy that looks enough like Chaz Bono that I stare at him for a few seconds before being sure it’s not him after all. On one side of the plaza are 10 police cars and vans with lots of police hanging out everywhere. There’s even a raised police platform, about two stories tall, overlooking the protest. Everywhere are giant tarps and sheets of plastic, to protect things from the rain. I see two more dreadheads, so the DC is now 3. On the same side of the plaza as the police are several dozen signs, all laid out on the ground. Looking closely, we realize that many of them are written on empty pizza boxes. “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” – “Welcome to the media blackout – this isn’t happening” – “My derivatives are underwater.” We see a young lady being interviewed by a guy with a microphone and a cameraman. Looks too small to be TV and I don’t see any logos on the equipment. Blogger? Indy press? A young man interrupts the interview to say his piece, but I can’t hear what he’s saying. I see a cop standing about 10 feet away, cuffs dangling from a belt loop. He smiles as two attractive older women come up to talk to him.

We pass by the Blogging area, with four young people furiously typing on computers. There’s also a place to charge your phones and electronic devices. We come to the Hospital, 3 mattresses laid out on the concrete. No patients at this point. As we come to the other side of the plaza, we see a Wikileaks truck. Who knew they had a van! “Jail bankers, not protesters” – Looking at the posters and talking with a guy from Queens for about 5 minutes – his philosophy seems to be “we should all live and let live” – I hear somebody playing a tambourine and think: “nobody ever accomplished anything with a tambourine.” A gaggle of dreads takes the DC up to 7. Lots of people wearing those floppy “grunge rock” knitted hats (if they have a name, I don’t know what it is). We walk over to the Wikileaks Mobile Information Collection Unit (really, that’s how it’s labeled) and my wife asks the guy in the back of the truck if they have any secrets to share. He says “not yet.”

As we walk out of the square looking for lunch, I reflect on the gates and empty streets of Wall Street – it literally has become a gated community, perhaps the richest gated community in the world.
Newt Gingrich can still get to Tiffany's.  That's all that matters, right?

One block away it is strangely silent. You wouldn’t know a protest was taking place around the corner. We pass a church that’s got “Wonderful Wall Street Wednesday” on their schedule. What the hell could that be? 4 blocks away we eat a cheap lunch at a Korean place. A sign on the wall says that they no longer accept $50s and $100s. Did they get tired of rich people paying for a $6 sandwich with large bills? On the back wall are large pictures of Wall Street, the Bull and other tributes to the area.

We pick up 2 bunches of bananas at a grocery and walk back to the protest. It’s gotten bigger, there might be as many as 500 people now. We walk past a bunch of Ron Paul supporters handing out pamphlets into the open-air Library, where there are all sorts of books in boxes, on benches and piled on the ground. Recent books about America’s financial crisis are a common theme. Tourist busses pass by every couple of minutes. Some people wave sympathetically towards the protesters, most take pictures. DC total for the day = 10.

A young man is walking around with a sign that says “Ask me about sanitation” – I guess he’s the garbage man of the group? We drop off the bananas at the kitchen and head back to the metro. As we go through Wall Street I ask a cop how long the gates have been there, half expecting he would say since 9/11 or at least since the 2008 crash. But he says they have been there only since the protest. It says something to me: those bankers are afraid of these protesters. Wow!

As we left town, it started raining heavily and I imagined all those tarps and plastic sheets being pulled over the Library, Blog Station, Hospital, etc. Later, the protesters would march on the Brooklyn Bridge and 500-700 would be arrested. What will happen next? We at least know that today the sun is shining on them.

Posted by: GMan with photos by Laurie B. - aka: The Drivel Lady

*Please note: We at Unsolicited Drivel are not the ones opposed to Dreadlocks as a hairstyle or tie-dye shirts as a fashion choice. It’s the establishment and the media who do not take the Dread wearers seriously.  In fact, there was a popular post on Reddit last week suggesting to protestors that they should avoid that particular hairstyle and stick to wearing polo shirts and khakis for the cameras.

You can view our entire Picassa web album here.

5 comments so far :

Courtney said...

Loved it!

But basically it makes my point clearer yet that they have nor real clear message or derivative. It a shame really. All that time and nothing to show for it.

Laurie B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie B. said...

Thanks!! I think things will become clearer as this next week goes on, but only time will tell. I'm very interested to see what happens in DC on Thursday.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

"There's no clear message" is just a cheap excuse for lazy Americans to justify sitting their fat asses on the couch. As soon as a message appears, it won't be short or simple enough. And then it won't count because some kids have dreadlocks. And then it won't count because American Idol is coming on, and Mr. and Mrs. Beached Whale can't move off the couch. Ignore them. They're losers and they enjoy being babies and peasants.

Laurie B. said...

@Daniel - You make some excellent points. Thank you. I really hope it's different this time around. Personally, I've never felt like my country was in bigger trouble. But for too many folks that doesn't compare to Nancy Grace having a nip slip. Do check back with us after we go to the protest in Washington on 10/6.


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