PART 1 – The Bad
Cops, cops and more cops.
Cops on horses. Cops in vans. Cops on motorcycles. Cops on scooters. Cops in paddywagons. Cops on foot. Cops on bikes. Cops in portable security towers.
Cops everywhere. Watching. Waiting. Working. Thoroughly controlling the park perimeter. So much so that entering the park felt a little like walking into a trap, or a prison, or a kindergarten playground surrounded by carefully attentive parents, letting the kids out for a run.
That was my first immediate impression of Zucotti Park – ground zero of the Occupy Wall Street movement – when I first arrived there on Friday night. It wasn’t an auspicious start.
My second impression was that it was shabby and messy. People were camped under tarps, scattered everywhere, without any real sense of order. More or less like an outdoor rave or party, except a little more crowded, and without all the music and fun. I had thought of spending the night there, and since I didn’t actually have a hotel room booked I was prepared to do so, but the scene was less appealing than I had hoped it would be. And I’m not fussy, I’ve slept outside in the middle of different cities more than once. But this wasn’t doing it for me. Instead I asked the musician friend I was with if I could sleep on his couch.
As I walked around listening in on conversations, having a few myself, and observing the famed ‘repeat-a-thon’ that people use to converse together in the park (in which everyone laboriously repeats each thing each individual says), I found myself struck by more unsettling thoughts. And my musician friend shared them too. Where was the rocknroll? Where was the exploding imagination? Where was the love vibe? Where were the muscular dreamers, the charismatic catalysts? Where were the capable constructors to strengthen the concerned?
Maybe it was because it was late and people were tired, but that first night was quite depressing. I had had such high hopes, but this all felt so juvenile and unsophisticated. The severe strategic cost of a culture of leaderlessness was obvious, as was the sense that these people – though well meaning and justifiably angry and desiring change – had forgotten how to act collectively. That America had so beaten them down, so eradicated its great tradition of organized dissent, that they thought that standing in a park surrounded by overarmed cops having plodding repetitive arguments was all that was needed to topple Wall Street.
As my friend said it felt less like a revolution than ‘a controlled cry for the soul’. I was worried. Is this all Occupy Wall Street had to offer?
Next:PART 2 – The Good