I added some other photos to show to what degree the police have blocked off so much of the financial district–even the Christmas tree!
Today a lovely woman from Sweet Honey and the Rock came to lead us in protest songs outside of Trinity Church on Broadway. Maybe 20-30 of us joined in for some rousing music.
Then the police arrived. (I’ll download some pix), and quickly outnumbered us. These folks are paranoid.
Yesterday I fell and sprained my ankle, so today I’m resting in bed with my foot raised. But I’m determined to go back tomorrow. It will be my last day here.
All of this OWS activity is incredibly exciting and inspiring. So many bright, committed, enthusiastic–and exhausted–people pooling their energies and imaginations to create a new world.
Yesterday and the day before I attended workshops led by Starhawk, a highly respected counter-culture activist. She led us in exploring the internal problems within the movement and then in ways to effectively lead a revolution while simultaneously creating a new order.
One of the amazing parts of this was that I, a total newcomer, could walk in and participate along with the recently jailed and seasoned activists who have been leading these activities–like a peer. I had an equal voice and was listened to like all the others in a group of maybe 40 people.
And what a rush and deeply satisfying experience to share these folks’ frustrations, euphoria, disillusionment, silliness, brilliance, utter exhaustion, and gritty determination to prevail.
As we were leaving the meeting yesterday and I was descending the stairs while listening to the woman behind me explain how she had to cross town to retrieve her money the police confiscated when she was arrested, I turned to ask her a question. That’s when I missed my step and fell.
This article by Dr. David Graeber, one of the founders of OWS, is a well written, thoughtful explication of the philosophical underpinnings of this movement. I urge you to read it.
For more about Dr. Grabber: http://www.gold.ac.uk/anthropology/staff/d-graeber/
He’s one smart, well educated, articulate guy!
I made my way to the Atrium yesterday for a 6 pm meeting of Women Occupy Wall Street. The group had drawn up a proposal requesting from the general assembly $300 for a training session for 25 women in self-defense, hopefully preparing these participants to then train others. Women are feeling threatened and intimidated by a fringe of the movement who feel licensed to be belligerent, particularly toward females.
At 7 we left the Atrium and walked in the freezing cold to the park, where general assemblies are held every other night. There a group of 70-80 intrepid souls stood shivering, prepared to carry out the movement’s business in the bitter cold. Why, one might ask, might we not do this in the enclosed and heated Atrium? Apparently the police make that impossible. Mic check, necessary for larger gatherings, is forbidden indoors. (They’ve also closed off the toilets in the Atrium, doing their best to discourage the movement’s activities there.)
So. For 2 hours I stomped about on the park pavement, trying not to freeze, while requests from other groups were heard and discussed.
Now here’s the really bad part. The “discussions” were dreadful. Street people with nowhere else to go (I guess) have found this a haven for garnering attention by acting the role of spoiler. They attacked and derided every proposal put forth. The facilitators did their best to keep proper procedure, but the constant obstructions from the emotionally disturbed made every action take much longer than it should have. Still, the two proposals before us managed eventually to reach a “modified consensus” (meaning a 90 percent agreement) and pass. Then came our turn.
Two from our group stood up to explain the proposal and why we needed it, then to bear the brunt of verbal assault from members of the crowd. By the time a vote was taken for a modified consensus, the loonies were joined by a few guys who resented the idea that women need protection any more than men do, and we had only an 80 percent rather than a ninety percent agreement. Mind you that all of this was taking place with our teeth chattering, our heads hooded, and our bodies twitching from the cold.
As I hiked back to the ferry, I was angry. At the insanity of carrying out our business on a night so freezing cold that we could hardly think, of the maddening disruptions by people who clearly need help, and by the yokels who refuse to acknowledge that women are especially vulnerable in testosterone-charged crowds. (Think of that female reporter who was sexually assaulted by the mob of revolutionaries in Egypt last spring.)
But then there is my admiration for those who stuck with the process in the face of all of that misery, determined not to be discouraged, determined to forge a beauty out of the beast.
Yesterday a friend at Ganas, Leslie, invited me to an OSI meeting at the local Unitarian Church– a beautiful, 155-year-old structure a brisk half-hour walk away.
The meeting spent most its time discussing how to deal with a particularly difficult individual who didn’t show up that day. Apparently the guy has emotional problems that result in constant interruptions at their meetings and have caused considerable tension in the group, not to mention a barrier to any agenda. They’d even brought in two facilitators from OWS to advise them.
At first I thought it a shame that so much time was being spent on one person, but then it occurred to me that this was a crucial issue to be resolved in any group based on non-violence, mutual respect and inclusivity.
It was fascinating to watch the group struggle over this. They expressed much sympathy for the man but also frustration with their inability to contain him. What to do? They discussed procedures to decide when someone is so disruptive that s/he must be asked to leave. But what if s/he refuses to leave? There’s the rub. Most did not want to call the police, as the cops and the system they work in can be violent. They finally ended up with the possibility of the group respectfully escorting him from the room without touching him. The discussion seemed to satisfy everyone, though they made no final decisions and agreed to continue the topic next week.
I find it exciting to see a group strive so hard to behave according to their beliefs rather than to fall back on our conventional solutions that pretty much always involve force when persuasion fails. I suppose escorting a person from the room is a form of force, but it’s as gentle as any I can think of.
A great many people seem to be yearning for a different kind of society, one which OWS is espousing. Love, compassion, social cohesion, fairness, solving our problems together with everyone participating as equals. There is a great hunger for this, and many, many people are willing to devote considerable energy to realizing it. I didn’t think I’d see any such movement in my lifetime, and now it’s bubbling up all over the world. They’re not perfect, but these folks are determined to forge a better world.
I probably should have commented on the race and gender mix here as well. I see a good deal of racial mix. Predominantly White, but with a great many Blacks, some Hispanics, some Asians. A veritable rainbow of colors, as you may be able to tell from the pix below.
I’m not as happy about the gender mix. Maybe twice as many guys? A guess. But the women speak up and call attention to our issues. I think it’s terribly important that women have an equal voice in decision-making, as we tend to tone down the testosterone. And even in this egalitarian atmosphere, anger and hostility raise their ugly heads (in both genders) and need a calming hand.