Yesterday I spent all day in New York City occupying Wall Street. It was hands down one of the most inspiring things I’ve experienced. I’ve never been involved in a protest and I’ve never spoken up about what I believed in but with all the encouragement I’ve been seeing through social networking sites I was ready to take my turn.
I spent my time in two places, fist being Zuccotti park, known now as Liberty Square/Plaza, and then Washington Square Park. I was surprised when I showed up, I guess not really knowing what I was going to encounter, to find that these people were some of the friendliest I’ve come across. I immediately was handed an ‘Occupied’ Wall Street newspaper, someone else handed me directions on where the march would start, and another person handed me a small sheet of paper with the ‘rules’ of the park on them (this is sober environment, please respect others, etc.) which I was told to pass on to someone who had not read it yet. And this was all on the steps before even entering the park.
People were in casual discussions everywhere, mostly talking about the issues. There were signs up in different areas informing people of different stations or areas to convene and discuss. People who had been there for weeks were teaching and explaining the issues to those who didn’t have as strong a knowledge. Once I entered the park I was asked if I knew where everything was and handed a little map of the park with all the stations outlined.
The community they have created is amazing. People leave their sleeping areas out and they remained untouched or unstolen for the most part. For something people on the outside are calling chaotic and unorganized, spending time on the inside would greatly change their minds. There is an art station for sign making, information tables, medical, food, media, legal, you name it they have it.
At 2:00 we gathered and began to head to Washington Square Park, which is pretty far from ‘Liberty Plaza’. The march was peaceful, no one was arrested and there were no altercations. We kept to the sidewalks and only occasionally blocked traffic going through intersections. But there were ‘vetern’ marchers (so to speak, those involved for weeks) who would stand along and make sure we all stayed together. Police marched alongside us, keeping traffic clear and politely reminding marches to keep to the sidewalks.
In Washington Square Park protesters gathered for a special general assembly. At the start of the rally everyone took a seat on the ground while speakers from some of the major ‘working groups’ (information, arts and culture, media, food, medical, etc…) took to the ‘mic’ to announce what they do and get people to join in. Then a special guest spoke to the crowd, a man who came from Egypt and had been a part of the Arab Spring. They have devised hand signs to express when they like something or agree (waving your hands straight in the air), kind of on the fence (arms straight out waving), and dislike what you are hearing (hands waving down). Almost everyone seems to ad hear and use these signs which eliminated the clapping and cheering and kept the speakers on point and moving swiftly.
The protesters have created this form of voice amplification in the wake of police not allowing them to use microphones or mega phones. They call it the people’s mic. How it works is the speaker speaks and then the people closest to them and a few people standing throughout the crowd repeat what they say, and in large groups a third group of people repeat it again. All the while projecting your voice back so everyone can hear. It is pretty amazing and actually efficient. Sometimes people get thrown off track or lose place or fall out and they are brought back together by a speaker calling for a ‘mic check’ in which everyone repeats mic check to get them back on track.
We stayed the whole day there and marched back to ‘Liberty Plaza’ and hung around for a while to hear the next meeting. While sitting around taking in what was going on and talking with those around us we were offered free bottles of water and muffins.
The people there take care of each other. They look out for each other. They all want something better. I left Liberty Plaza feeling, well, liberated. I felt like I was a part of something and a part of me didn’t want to leave. A part of me wanted to sign up for a ‘working group’ and throw myself into the whole movement. I want my voice to be heard and I want to be a part of something amazing like this because these people are not some dingy group of people living in a park making a mess. They have an amazing community and it is hard for me not to want to believe in it.