Before the eviction, the trees, rustling orange over hundreds of tents. Everyone taking care of each other and giving freely. After a General Assembly, grabbing a raspberry pastry from the kitchen tent and then sitting beside the tree of life, candles and moonlight and guitars. Curling into a sleeping bag under the New York City skyline, the people walking around nearby making me feel safe rather than anxious.
The riot police on horseback, rarely in the middle of a crowd but instead usually somewhere unexpected. Walking down the street to the Porta Potties, rounding a corner into an alleyway and coming face to face with a horse.
Passing out stacks and stacks of the Occupied Wall Street Journal.
The beautiful chaos of General Assembly. Chaos, because every voice is respected and everyone has something different to say. Beautiful, because the passion people bring is raw and genuine. Whenever tempers get heated, the facilitators ask us all to pause and remember why we have come. Nobody has to be there on these cold New York nights, yet hundreds turn out. The collective group energy when consensus is finally reached….
Imagining the South Park episode that will one day come of this all.
Once, a fight broke out during a Spokes Council meeting. Two people were yelling and screaming and then, suddenly, spontaneously, a deep vibration reverberated through the room, the crowd drowning out the anger with an OMM.
The massive support network after the eviction. The off-site kitchen delivering food to the park every hour or so. When the cops banned us from bringing in trays, we loaded plates on the sidewalks and passed them over the barricades. When that was shut down, we served food on the church property next door. When warm clothing and supplies were banned, we stuffed backpacks and smuggled them in.
After the five thousand volume library was destroyed in the raid the book donations pouring in overnight. A new library was wheeled into the park. The new library was confiscated. More books arrived and they now line ledges beside a cardboard sign that reads “People’s Library.” When the cops show up, everyone grabs a handful of books and walks away.
Meeting former Philadelphia Police Chief Captain Lewis, protesting in Zuccotti Park in his full uniform. “Thank you for being here,” I said to him. He pulled me into a hug. “No—thank you for being here.”
Preparing for a day of mass action. Heading to the subway to the church in the rain at one in the morning. Ten activists riding the trains, silent, nobody knew who we were, but we knew what we were about to do. Laying out our sleeping bags on the floor in the church.
Occupying the subway. With a team of 15 and a newscaster from ABC, hopping onto a C train and riding up and down, mic checking and shouting our stories through the whole car. Opening the floor to others on the train. “Mic check!” “We are Occupy Wall Street!” On their way out, people smiled and thanked us. “It’s about time,” one woman told me.
Converging on Foley Square with 30,000 others for a march to the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking through the crowds and meeting Sgt. Shamar Thomas, the marine from that video.
Going to bed with voices gone from screaming.
Strangers in New York City somehow recognizing me as affiliated with Occupy Wall Street (the pins on my jacket, the cardboard sign sticking out of my bag?) and thanking me. The baristas at a coffee shop gave me slices of pizza and a bag full of pastries. One night a man gave me a metro card so I could get back to the park. A woman on the subway got off at my stop with me and insisted on buying me dinner.
During a General Assembly one evening, turning around and seeing Michael Moore standing there watching.
When musical instruments were banned from entering the park. “Ladies and gentlemen,” a man shouted in front of the encampment, holding his saxophone above his head. “I present you with a danger to public safety.”
A meeting was interrupted by two people who announced: “with love and solidarity, we have arrived with pizza.”
Holding a late-night mass drum circle outside Mayor Bloomberg’s house.
Taking care of each other. Eating dinner outside Trinity Church, everyone passing around everything we needed. Passersby donated chips and cookies. “Anyone have rolling papers?” someone asked. Bottles of water arrived and we handed them around. “Hey, here are some napkins.” And even with dozens of us down the street for this meal, Zuccotti Park: still full.
The press conference, immediately following the eviction, where New York State Senator Eric Adams traveled to Zuccotti Park and spoke out in support of Occupy.
Stephan Jenkins, the lead singer of Third Eye Blind, showing up in Zuccotti. He stood on a bench with his acoustic guitar and strummed out a couple tunes for a crowd of around 50 people. A man who sells out shows for thousands and thousands.
Imagining one day, years from now, long after this is all over, returning to Zuccotti Park and sitting on a stone bench in silence.
Talking to the cops who secretly support us. “We’ve all been talking at the station,” one of them said to me. “And we’ve decided, if you guys try to leave for the winter—we are taking the park. We’ll take the park and start chanting, ‘PLEASE DON’T GO! PLEASE DON’T GO!’”
The streets are almost always cold and shadowed. But the rare moments, the sacred moments, walking with my hooded head tucked down, shivering through windy blue and gray shadows, and then rounding a corner where suddenly the rising sun clears a building and for just five minutes, warm orange sunlight spills into an alleyway and careens through the morning mist, a blinding glint in a thousand glassy windows.
Drea. Doing interviews and passing out newspapers with her, and then finally deciding one evening that we needed to get away from it all. Walking through the city, down past the fenced-in bull, wandering into Battery Park, the New York sky dark and moonless. A glimpse of color, a glimmer of light. Tucked behind bushes, an orange fire danced in a concrete pit. We sat together with the flames in silence.