Thursday, October 6, 2011

Arab spring, european summer, American autumn


So I'll break my rule. Leave the steps. And go into the streets.....
Getting off the subway at Park Place, the first person I  recognize is long time cultural worker Paul Stein, an archivist and performer of labor songs stretching back to the yiddishkeit era, armed with his accordion. All right then, today’s march is linked to history.
Down Broadway, I see Cynthia Doty, a Democratic politican and colleague with the Interfaith Assembly.  She’s waiting to meet friends. They’ll join the march as it passes this way.  So mainline politicians are joining in too.  
I want to go all the way to Foley Square.  I’m seeing Union signs all the way, there are teachers, along with Public School Adovcates. Electrical workers, auto workers, service workers, and the heroic Transit Union Workers who refuse to allow their buses to be turned into police transports to the jails. 
I realize that I received e-mails from the Living Wage Campaign,the Religion Labor Coalition, from, the Coalition for the Homeless and at least two or three other groups announcing this event.
It’s a steady stream of people all the way to Foley Square. Courthouse steps filled with people.  Having to pass all the way down one street and funneled back up another to reach the square. Edges lined with fringe leftist groups, 9-11 truthers, La Rouchites, and folks with the blueprint for the New Socialist Republic in North America. Speeches going on, I can’t hear a word. But I hear the drum circle and it draws me nearer. 

Signs with typical humor. People against fracking. Sluts against rape. (Origin: the reported statement from Toronto police that women who want to avoid rape shouldn’t dress like sluts). Weed not greed. Lots of Make out not war stickers. (back in my day, it was make love, not war.)Banners. Bikers. Babies. Tatoos. Troy Davis t-shirts. And thousands and thousands and thousands of everyday people. As far as the eye can see. We are the 99 ... and so are you. The people united will never be defeated. El pueblo unido jamaz sera vencido. Familiar all. 
Two four six eight, fuck wall street. (Doesn’t rhyme, but then...) We’re not afraid, we don’t scare, we’re gonna occupy everywhere. 
After two hours, the people are getting restive. Let us march, let us march. The police have barricaded off all but part of one lane and the sidewalk. Going is slow. The spirit is positive, almost festive. Like enough is enough. And so the march winds its way from Foley Square back past City Hall and on to Broadway. Down what the city calls the Canyon of Heroes.A young man with an ancient camera has spotted my  batik shirt with clerical collar and wants a picture. I agree. He asks me to take off my hat. I agree, he snaps. It’s a college project he says.
The red t-shirted marshalls from UNITE, a union/community activist coalition seems to be serving as marshalls, keeping the paths straight and clear. 
Bob and Ric
Marching down Broadway, I see my next door neighbor Ric, his brother, and their friend Moishe. Like me, Ric is a movement veteran. Was part of a lawyers mission that helped draft a new Nicaraguan legal code after the Sandinista victory. He’s wearing a button promoting the 10 point plan developed by Ric feels this is the fastest grass roots movement he’s ever seen get together. And more significantly, it’s the first such a public manifestation with class issues at the center. (Well since Martin Luther King tried to move  beyond race analysis to class analysis with the Poor People’s campaign, another vicitm of his assassination.)  The 99% image really hits home. Of course, somebody’s got to be drafting plans. Remember, he says, How I wore my Obama hat for so long? For so many months? It was because I knew it wouldn’t last long, just wouldn’t last long...He wonders what kind of staying power is here. I remind him that the homeless protestors occupied City Hall Park for 200 days. Kochville, they called it in honor of then Mayor Ed Koch. (See John Jiler’s Sleeping With the Mayor.) Thus was born the Interfaith Assembly. 
Guitars and banjos, people singing This land is your land, this is land is my land..., singing if I had a hammer....
As we approach Chambers Street, oldbodies are starigj to give out. Ric and friends drop out. I thinka minute, contnue on.On to  Liberty Street and Zucotti Park. Liberty Street has been opened up. Most marchers rerach the end, circle then head home. But the Park is filled  with people. In the park, I see Paul Stein again. We shake hands and he remembers singing at West-Park the Sunday before 9-11.

Paul Stein

A large US Mail truck pulls by and blows its diesel horn in support. The driver leans out alternatively flashing a peace sign and the raised fist of solidarity. U-S- Mail, U-S-Mail the chants go up in response. 
The People’s PA system is hard at work. Sentences, phrases being passed back. 
I want to make this clear, especially to the media. I am not the leader of any movement. I just want my money back. (Cheers)  Everyone here has a story. Everyone. Whether you’re a student saddled with unpayable debt. Or someone who lost a house. Or someone who can’t find work. Or a worker without health insurance, we’ve all got our stories. Hear them and we shall set ourselves free. 
This is what democracy look like, this is what democracy looks like....
I move closer. Look in. it’s Michael Moore, back again. In an orange Tigers hat. I wonder if he’s staying for the playoff game. 

Michael is making his way through. I follow in his wake to make my way out. This is a delicate time. It felt good to share our frustation togsether. To just enjoy our public presence together. It’s the largest demonstration I’ve seen in the city since we’ve been back.(1995) The Times had no figures. The Daily News would report around 15,000. We all know this isn’t working. And no one knows what’s happens next. 
These are our streets, these are our streets.
Apparently arrests were made later. Provacateurs, I think. Provacateurs. 

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