It’s not difficult for me to remember my first impression of Occupy Wall Street. Like many a New Yorker, mine was one of curiosity and cautious, yet hard to repress delight. For all the criticism regarding a lack of central message, the truth is that there was and continues to be one key point of agreement among all the protesters: things as they are are not good enough, and that’s a hard message to deny from any side of the political spectrum.
Happily I went, and quickly I was disappointed. It was a weekday afternoon, which meant that it was down to the most dedicated, most permanent protesters, maybe two hundred, and every negative stereotype regarding their appearance and attitude was given comical and exaggerated life. The crowd was almost entirely young, white, and, despite the mildly reassuring presence of showers and well-used trash receptacles, diseased looking. Every worthwhile message was cheerfully conveyed on the shittiest looking pissed-on cardboard to be found, and the one activity that drew the most energy, most participation, and most observation was the drum circle. I fucking hate drum circles.
It was time to take a breath. I stopped and read the literature. I listened to conversations, and spoke to a few of the many helpful, intelligent participants. For the time being, my fears had been eased. The package wasn’t perfect, I thought, but it was the right message for the right time. Better to have them there than not.
Weeks later, my now editor Jon Morris and I traveled to Philadelphia and explored the Occupy Philly protests taking place in front of City Hall. There we found a group of similar size to Occupy Wall Street, but with more space and a more visibly organized appearance far more welcoming to newcomers. And aside from goals particular to the state of Pennsylvania, the message and presentation was essentially the same. The theme for that day had been how to dump your big bank and switch to a smaller name or credit union. Read the rest of this entry