After hearing about the growing Occupy Wall Street movement for some time now, I realized this would not simply be a flash in the pan like so many other protests I have witnessed. I lost faith in politics pretty late in life, I’ve always felt that my optimism has been my biggest flaw when dealing with reality in general. I live in my own world the majority of the time only dipping out to taste reality when it suites me. Watching the protests in Dublin last year and how little they achieved after the government oversaw the largest economic collapse in the western world deeply troubled me, I simply gave up. Close friends mocked my late coming to the table of the jaded and it was truly a depressing time for me to be honest. I don’t like seeing friends and family struggle, just because I’m doing okay now does not mean I can forget times when I was broke and feeling depressed, useless, trapped, insecure, irrelevant and at best simply embarrassed. In recent times I’ve seen rational people turn to opposing political parties in desperation regardless of what they stood for. The I don’t like these guys so I’m voting for those guys mentality. At home i’ve even heard close friends unload on immigrants forgetting that I am one elsewhere.
The biggest hurdle is often a person’s own perception of themselves. Today I really felt that the folk banging drums and chanting believed that they deserve better. Void of aggression and cheap slogans I found them to be intelligent and genuinely, well, pissed off. I met Two Sanitation workers protesting against Fracking
because they simply cared about having clean drinking water in the New York and Pennsylvania area. There was no shouting or red faced screaming, just two middle aged guys willing to spend their day off talking calmly to all who passed by including me.
A local fifty something white haired tattooed building supervisor explained to me how the local pizza parlor Majestic
was funded by a European business man to provide $10,000.00 worth of Pizza each day to the protesters. “It’s about fucking time New Yorkers woke up like we did to these dick heads in Wall Street they keep saying” he said referring to this faceless European pizza funder. He explained how his fiance was related to the owner’s sister hence how he knew about it. “Ten Thousand Dollars is not a lot of money when you think about it” someone else chimed in. It doesn’t, not when you realize not only what is at stake but that most people have had a crash course on economics using billions and trillions as units. Ten grand is
I decided to walk right into the middle of the protest to see for myself what these people were like. Unfortunately my camera-phone battery began to die hence the lack of photographs. The police stood nearby watching everything, they were relaxed and courteous. The protesters were also calm and friendly, willing to talk with anyone about their various causes. Some seemed to be on first name terms with each other after what I suspect was due to recently shared experiences while most gave each other a familiar nod and smile. Placards were held high. How about a maximum wage? Imagine what we can do if we stick together? Never, never, never, ever vote republican? Not sure I actually agree with any of that myself – I’d vote McCain 2000 over Kerry 2004 any day.
I heard surprisingly few local accents, and a lot seemed like professional and seasoned protesters. I seen at least two genuine long haired doped up hippie types which other protesters appeared to tolerate if nothing else. Most fell between the 18-35 age bracket. Some still slept in their sleeping bags, free food was on offer, a large chalkboard schedule of marches and events rested beside a stand giving away free DVD’s on the current crises. Donations welcome.
At the perimeter I could not help but notice the difficult job the NYPD must have had. Police officers observed the protest, helped in traffic issues and kept people from spilling onto the street due to the bulky barricades all the while acting as unofficial tour guides to the local area. Some even giving the Euro trash a brief run down on 9-11 and it’s current rebuilding progress.
|Everyone & Everybody
These guys below later fronted a parade along with a catholic priest carrying a golden bull on a platform. You worship a false god – painted on its side. Every religion was represented and it was the first time I ever seen so many people from so many backgrounds in a supportive roll together. “We are all gathered here today under many gods” shouted the woman speaker. “Under ONE god” a person in the crowd shouted back. “Mic check, mic check” – they chanted and she corrected herself and begun again. Not having a microphone a person would say a sentence at a time and everybody would chant it. It was an effective way to get the message out.
|Drummers before the march
Wall street itself was empty. Tourists waved at the horse mounted cops and they waved back. Tours continued and several people had their picture taken in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
|Empty Wall Street
At the center of the protest a large group had gathered to sing and give speeches. The speeches mostly consisted of leaders from many churches and organizations from around America showing solidarity. In the video below they were singing an old classic.
In the video below I managed to capture the very impressive way in which they got their message out without the use of a PA system. It reminded me of being at church when I was younger and how powerful it was to hear what the priest had just said chanted back to him.
After I circled the whole area I moved to the subway and took it back to Astoria. I was glad I made the trip out. I’ve heard wildly different things about the protest from both sides and I thought it would be educational at least to go visit it myself in person. The protesters are not the bad guys and neither are the police, both were behaving responsibly and treated each other with respect. Seeing so many young females involved was a relief. They bring common sense and besides, men in large numbers are idiots.
I’m not sure it’s all good and I could see how a minority could infiltrate and cause trouble. I spoke to one guy who said the reason I heard so few native accents was because a company was shipping in young white unemployed protesters from California. A left wing funded venture was scooping up unemployed disenfranchised males from the west cost and paying for their stay at New York? How true is this? It was a security guard at a Wall Street barricade and just some guy I suppose. Although American, a substantial number of the protester’s accents were definitely were not local. After many years of living here I still have trouble placing them, well except a Boston accent because they all sound like pirates.
TV cameras, radio interviews and several guys with microphones interviewing anybody and everybody littered the whole area. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the excitement. Photographers were having a field day and I don’t blame them. I was pissed that my camera phone had died. There was a lot to see.
So, that was that. After hearing all sorts about this protest I decided to take the 20 minute subway ride to check it out for myself and I’m glad I did. I’ll be honest, I went with half a mind to mock it. Would I see something funny or ridiculous? Would their demands and placards be as over the top as the right wing? No, it was just a meeting of like minded people from a multitude of backgrounds and faiths with various causes that all fell under the same umbrella.
– We want things to be fair and better than they are now and we are frustrated and we feel powerless.
They were genuine and sincere. It’s hard to argue against that. I took a break from day dreaming in my own little world and experienced a little reality on a sunday afternoon. I feel like I’m a little better because of it too.
On the way home I thought about my friends and family who have fallen victim to the recent economic circumstances and how little they had to do with it. I thought about how lucky I have been solely due to tragedy and geography and timing. We’ve all worked hard and maybe if these guys get their way that can actually mean something someday.