Sunday, October 23rd, 2011...10:40 pm

What It’s Like To Occupy Wall Street

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I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m not a big fan of the present day news media. They have an uncanny ability to make a mockery out of just about anything. True to form, the media has been all over the place in their coverage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Despite the incessant reporting, I still had no clue what was actually going down. So on Saturday I took a stroll down to Zuccotti Park to see for myself what this is all about.

I wasn’t planning to blog about my visit but in conversations over the weekend people seem pretty interested to hear about it. I appreciate getting thoughts and views from people I know on current events and issues so I figured I would do the same for you.

I’ll keep this simple and share my “notes”.

  • Zuccotti Park is awfully small and is more of a plaza than a park. It’s tucked in between a bunch of large buildings. It isn’t the most spacious area to start a mini cooperative community. Everything is densely packed together. If you’ve never been to the park it is probably much smaller that what you’ve imagined or have seen on television.
  • The park is in the shadow of Ground Zero, which is one block to the west. It is an eerie juxtaposition as Ground Zero always stirs up emotions in me every time I walk by.
  • On Saturday there was lots of activity along the perimeter of the park. There were barricades, cops, protesters and people flowing by to check out the action. It’s a bit intimidating to actually go into the park. I felt like an outsider to their little society and that I might even somehow be the enemy. Everything in the park is covered in blue tarps and tightly packed together.
  • The Occupy Wall Street operation has significant organization and funding. The occupiers were handing out an oversized newspaper flyer called The Occupied Wall Street Journal. There were lines for food stations, a first aid tent, and a people’s library. The occupiers have formed “working groups” for food, medical, facilitation, graphic design, donation and outreach. At the front of each tent was often some kind of table or setup with some type of message/protest.
  • It felt like the fact that the occupiers had formed their own society (and seeing how long they can keep it going) is actually their goal. They view Zucotti Park as a beacon of hope/protest/voice for the entire repressed world.
  • The main protests/messages are around anti-war messages, environmentalism, wall street greed and government corruption. It seemed like each person had his or her own personal issue or hot topic that they were protesting.
  • It doesn’t seem like there needs to be a specific list of demands or more organization around messaging. This is not a political protest as much as a societal protest.
  • Some of the protesters are jarring in their radical beliefs. I wasn’t up to try to engage in conversation, as it seems like they are in such a different place it would be awfully hard to relate.
  • I’ll classify the people who were out there as counter culture. Lots of tattoos, piercings and unique styles. I could see how a less thoughtful observer might classify it as a “freakshow”. Much of the 99% of America might be shocked or uncomfortable with some of the occupiers.
  • The “we are the 99%” slogan is misleading. The occupiers in Zucotti Park seems to be the small percentage who refuse to conform to society norms or mainstream public opinion. There protests also seemed far more radical than the desires of 99% of Americans.
  • There’s an amazing energy to civil action. Everybody there seemed pretty proud and certain that they are doing something meaningful. They seem to have a spirit and determination to keep this going as long as possible. There may also be some people that are just there for the experience. It did have a bit of a Burning Man type feel.
  • It does seem like the demonstrations are reverberating throughout the nation and the world. Interesting to witness the epicenter of it.
  • The thing that really got me thinking is that it seems like people who don’t participate in mainstream society are protesting mainstream society. More than anything it seems like they just want to be heard and to be recognized. Maybe this is at the core of protesting.

    Finally, I’ll leave you with the knowledge that two different people made positive comments about my St. John’s hat. That really got me pumped up. A few more comments and I’m ready to join their tribe.

    Hopefully my perspective helps you better understand Occupy Wall Street. Hit me up if you want to share your take. I’d like to hear it.