… But Liberty Plaza was pure déja vu of the 60s, wan urban Woodstock with an outpouring of political passion, the likes of which I haven’t seen since then, or of the activism of Union Square on May Days back when. The plaza was chock full of duffel bags, backpacks, luggage, covered with blue plastic rain-shields. The smell of sweat and funk lofted in certain places and incense sweetness lofted in others. There were mattresses for sleeping, small tents, tables with free-food, roll your own smokes, soft drinks, smiles from the servers, an upsurge of conversation that buzzed in your ears like Ravi Shankar’s sitar.
Scariest of all was the mobile police tower on wheels whose observation booth had been raised above the crowd to observe like a film crew’s lift, filming for perpetuity. Its image reminded me of a concentration camp or prison lookout, the electronic scanning data flickering most likely behind its smoked-glass windows. That fact that this tower was portable certified its ability to be used in multiple settings and events. There were thousands of people flowing in and out, a march returning from Foley Square that would march out again with different people back up to Foley Square. It was like taking the tour.
The first person I spoke to was a gray-head like myself, with a nice shirt on like mine, and a pair of pressed chinos like mine. I asked why he was here. He talked about the audacity of the criminals of Wall Street, their stolen bailouts and easements, creating a drought of capital to finance job-creation. I asked him if he thought the purpose here was to stop that flow of capital up and away from the working and middle classes and the poor straight to the wealthy. And he said exactly. We talked about our Social Security and Medicare, how endangered it was by the maniacs of the Repuglican Party, who would love to starve us out but won’t. The strike back had begun. In fact, that was what this “Occupation of Wall Street” was all about, here and in the many cities around the country and the world.
Next to him was a priest. I asked him what this event had to do with religion. And he answered Christ fed the poor and he chased the money changers from the Temple. In some way, this is the intention here. Bless him. I shook his hand. Walking into the plaza, I encountered an older hippy couple, a black woman and her unshaven white-haired, husband. They had smiles on their faces that widened when I said it’s back to the 60s, right? Yes, we hope it lasts and gets everyone involved, the woman said. Such openness this couple had in contrast with the business crowd that streamed down Broadway like zombies, the suits en route to their strategy sessions to game the system even more.
I moved deeper into the crowd and met three odd-ball folks, a tallish thin man with a beard speed-talking, a chunky-faced quiet man standing beside him, and closest to me an ear, nose, lip, cheek studded orphan of the storm, who had came from Youngstown, Ohio, or “Murder City” as he called it. He had no place to go, had lost his job, and somehow managed to get here. Later, I saw him with a big joint in his hand. Perhaps if he threw it away, he might find a way back to who he was. Lord knows, I had smoked my way through three decades and finally threw the doobie away in disgust. What an oppression it was, one man’s opinion.
There was another, tallish fellow trying to advise this Youngstown fellow and complaining about “the trust fund babies” who had landed here in search of “an experience.” He was not happy to see or hear them, “children of the rich” he called them, who should go home, though perhaps that was unfair to them. Perhaps they didn’t like their advantages as much as he didn’t and were trying to set a new course in life for themselves. It’s never too late to learn, even for politicians and streeters.
There were the obvious hangers-on, like they guy I asked when the next march was leaving. I don’t know, he said, there’s something over there that tells you. The next words from his mouth were to his friend, you know this is my 70th day without a drink. Good luck. But there were smart people here, very smart, with a mini-press corps dealing with reporters. Ad-Busters magazine was one of the driving forces. And some smart people with money. The articles in “The OCCUPIED Wall Street Journal” showed that with headlines like “The Revolution Begins At Home,” “Learning from the World,” “Pushed out of our homes and into the streets,” “No excuses left IT’S NOW OR NEVER,” even a “Declaration of the Occupancy,” that summed up the groups fed-upness with the “mass injustice,” its own Declaration of Independence. And very well-focused and factual, I might add.
There were stories on the back cover, “Occupation for Dummies—How it came about, what it means, how it works and everything” and “Five Things You Can Do Right now—1. OCCUPY 2. Spread the Word 3. Donate 4. Follow the occupation 5. Educate Yourself,” bravo. A march was leaving like a stream from a river headed uptown again to Foley Square. I opted to stay some more and talk to Mark, the tall, seemingly disenfranchised guy, who disliked the rich with a passion. The conversation turned very personal … (full long text).