September 23, 2011
I went down to Liberty Street today, to see the Revolution there.
The Revolution was being rained on fairly relentlessly, although the rain was lighter than it had been when I started out. I came down the East Side from the 59th Street Bridge on my rusty bicycle, which caused me to run into the Great Leader circus at the U.N., a large system of traffic jams, barricades, and cops. The Great Leaders mess up the streets of New York just as they do the world, and for the same reasons. But I eventually got past it, as may we all, and shall say no more about it.
Zuccotti Park, which is where the Event presently resides (mostly) is on the west side of Broadway, a few hundred feet north of the actual Wall Street and a few hundred feet south of the site of the World Trade Center. It is immediately in the shadow of a giant black office tombstone now called 'The Equitable Building' or some such thing. Unusually for the crowded area, there is a lot of corporate open space around the park, which except for a number of small trees, is entirely paved -- a considerable advantage in the present wet weather. There is, almost, a sense of a large public space even if it does not compare with Tahrir Square.
At the time of my visit, the park had two or three hundred people in it, mostly under various forms of gear to protect them from the rain. The police, who are certainly present but not at the moment threatening or overbearing, at first forbade tarpaulins, but this stricture had been lifted, at least in theory, for a sort of media center. Plastic garbage bags and disposable plastic ponchos were in wide use.
Overall, the Event seemed to be, so to speak, lightly disorganized, a mode of being which many contemporary activists will immediately recognize. There were no visible leaders or officers. Some specialized functions were performed by self-organized groups, for example, if you wanted to help out with food there was a food group. One participant told me the effort has been criticized for a lack of organizational and ideological focus, but she herself approved of its loose structure. I noted that at least the logistical demands of the exercise had been carefully planned; there is a web site to gather funds for it, and food and related supplies were gathered in advance rather than as an afterthought. (Nevertheless, the pizza joints and the falafel wagons in the vicinity were doing a lot of business.)
In pursuit of ideology, I looked around for flyers or posters. Some (wet) signs had been leaned against a wall; these reiterated the already well-known purpose of the protest, generally speaking: dissatisfaction with the dominance of the United States by the rich and their corporations, and the ruinous state of the economy they govern. No doubt some participants had more specific complaints -- one wanted to do away with the Federal Reserve Bank -- but these were not prominent. Possibly dry weather, promised for next week, will cause more flowers of this sort to bloom.
Most of the people there seemed to be in their 20s, but I noticed a few older people as well. I doubt if the old folks were overnighters; sleeping in the rain is for the young. (Do it while you can!) There was no obvious predominance of a particular ethnicity or class.
People came and went as they thought best; neither the police nor the participants made any effort to control access to the site. Overall, the partipants I spoke to seemed rather cheerful, given the weather. They also seem ready and determined to hang in for the long haul, whatever that might be.
For up-to-the-second news, their web site, which includes live streaming, chat, IRC, etc., is