The third birthday of the Occupy movement was a spectacular success, with myself and a handful of other protesters staying in the park overnight without any police eviction.
I got there, as usual, when the stock market closes at 4PM. I try to let the stock brokers and hedge fund managers see us before they go home. The park only had a 100 or so people in it, but by the time we held a general assembly meeting at 9PM, I would estimate the number of mic-checking protesters had doubled.
During the daytime, I would do a little dance back and forth across the sidewalk, facing Broadway. Private security, employed by the corporation which owns the park, told me that I could not enter the park with my sign because it had a cardboard stick attached to it, so I was forced stand on the sidewalk. In turn, the cops maintain you can’t stand on the sidewalk and must keep moving, so out of this my victory jig was born. I originally got the idea to dance with headphones on from a “silent rave” party held annually in Union Square, where everyone dances to techno music individually on their iPods. This inspired me to co-opt this idea into a form of political protest.
Despite my First Amendment right being restricted, I pranced like a faery for hours, until my legs became too tired to continue. The importance of this ridiculous dancing is to show the 50-100 cops “guarding” the park, that their superiors are completely misconstrued in their priorities, deploying the country’s finest police force against unarmed protesters and dancing fools like me.
When my legs are out of fuel by 9PM, I stretch out my vocal cords and begin singing Aretha Franklin loudly. Crooning while carrying my sign, I look like a hobo prophesizing the end of the world, but most passerby see the humor in it. Black people particularly appreciate my playlist of gospel’s greatest hits when they walk by. (“You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”, “Respect”, “Son of a Preacher Man” by Aretha Franklin, and “How I Got Over” by Mahalia Jackson — sadly I have no video of this, at the moment.)
All this is designed to serve as psychological warfare against the police, who probably go home thinking what an absurd task it is to deploy hundreds of police officers against even fewer protesters. They are correct in thinking so.
The real fun begins at 11:30PM, engaging in Socratic dialogue all night. The cops brought down the extra-legal barricades which surround the park, and I make new friends while trying to stay warm. By dawn, we knew we had accomplished a minor victory for the struggle for liberty, egality, and fraternity.
I won’t even know how to explain it to my children one day (assuming I have any), how awesome it is to be in a park full of protesters who share your ideals. A movement that fed 3,000 people a day for free? Sheltered and clothed 300 people a night? If you had told me that such a thing could be accomplished five years ago (when I was a severely misguided young Republican), I would have dismissed you as a fanciful liar.
Yesterday at the Occupy reunion, I met business school students who believed the Industrial Revolution could have liberated mankind from resource scarcity, queer radicals who rode buses across the country to protest anti-gay policies on college campuses, and even explained to South African Jews my solidarity with the poor and working classes of Israel. I ate a free and hearty plate of tuna, broccoli, and string beans; and froze my body on a concrete bench, arguing philosophy like Socrates and his coterie on the Acropolis.
You should never believe media coverage of leftist protests. Contrary to widespread belief, though fractured by police action, our community has only grown stronger, and the principles we stand for have only become more self-evident over time. The stock brokers don’t even know what they’re missing.