November 17 was a “Day of Action,” prompted by the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I strongly support what these people are saying, and wanted to add to their numbers, so I got to their final event in Foley Square, NYC, as soon as I could.
I got there around 6PM, after many had left for Brooklyn Bridge, but that was OK. There were still a lot of people there so I decided to check out the scene. This is what I saw:
(Note: I don’t have a very good camera on my phone, so I have no worthy pictures to share. A few people asked me to take their pictures, and they were very kind and courteous, but my pics are pretty crummy.)
I saw all kinds of people there, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, young, and old. Some were well dressed; some VERY well dressed in suits, ties, skirts and dresses; some looked like they just finished cleaning a gutter; some were very “hip,” and some were dressed like hippies, it’s true. But there was no one single style nor uniform.
I also saw a group of seminarians who held signs in support of the movement from a christian perspective. They posed for pictures as clear, visible participants in the event.
I heard a number of speakers who shared passionate tales of how they wanted to work, but also wanted to have time for their families. I heard children speak who wanted a future. I heard a gospel choir sing about how they are the 99%, and heard a brass band play uplifting music that got many people to bop and sway. It was really lovely!
There were signs, banners and more signs. Some were witty, some were strong; many were anti-Mayor Bloomberg (go figure); some called out both Democrat and Republican support of bad economic policy; and a lot of pre-printed union-based ones, such as from the UAW and 1199 SEIU. One sign promoted the “People’s Library,” a collection of free books on all sorts of topics. There were also flags: American ones, modified American ones (with #OWS in place of the stars), and a Chinese one.
I also saw a lot of cops (a term that I usually think is derogatory, but sadly I think it applies here). They circled Foley Square and coordinated pedestrians with a very odd “Stay to the left!” They were not pushy, they didn’t say anything else than their barked orders, but it did seem that if I stayed to the right (like we’re usually told to do) then I might have to answer to their batons. Maybe not, but they did have an intimidating presense.
Beyond the police I also at one point saw four helicopters hovering above the park. Up and down the streets I also saw a lot of police cars, some with lights flashing, even though there was no visible police activity.
That’s because all the people were listening to the speakers, the music and each other. They were voicing their frustration about the status quo, and expressing hope for change, fairness, and hope. I even saw some people engaging in lively, yet still warm, conversations with some of the police (IMHO they were the bold ones); both sides were talking and seemed to respect each other.
What I DIDN’T See
I didn’t see any weapons (expect for on the cops), there were no rapes, drug use, inflammatory “KILL!” or ‘HATE!” signs, or any acts of excrement. I saw no vandalism, no pushing nor shoving. No one called for the death of or attacks on any politicians or business people. There was talk of revolution, but it wasn’t incendiary; it was calling for massive change that would help people instead of promoting wars or allowing poverty.
I also didn’t see or hear anything that said people wanted money for nothing, or that their problems were our problems. The closest to that was a sign that said “student debt is national debt,” which I’m guessing was calling for student debt to be eliminated, or otherwise dealt with on a larger scale.
Yet that was probably the wildest sign or action I saw all night: a sign with a person’s opinion that’s at least worth a conversation.
I share this to shut down those who think the Occupy Wall Street movement is full of freaks, hipsters, hippies, vagrants, rapists, weapons-runners or whatever other simplifications or accusations lobbed by Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and puppeted by many in the media. I’m not saying I saw everything, or everybody there, and it was just one event, so maybe the negative elements also exist. However these clearly don’t characterize the movement or I would have seen it.