Rock 'n Rollers Don't Bathe


Occupy 11-17-11
It was a long day that started around 6 am for me. I headed up to Liberty Park for an early morning protest/celebration honoring the 2 month anniversary of the OCW movement. There was a full day of non violent action planned. The morning event was a march in front of the Wall Street Stock Exchange to symbolically call for a shut down of the corrupt and unregulated financial practices that take place there. A press release about the protest said they wanted to make it an especially musical one and that you should write your story, in the form of a slogan, on a sign and display it at the protest. I decided to bring a long a mini djembe that my sister gave me.
This is the sign I came up with.
Visual art is not really my thing but it was a lot of fun thinking about what to put on my sign and then making it.

In the earlier days of OWS there were regular, almost daily, marches on Wall Street that had become so common that a system of guard rails had been set up to provide a safe and legal route along the sidewalks outside the exchange for protesters to march. When I arrived at the Liberty Park around 7am the park was blocked off so organizing was taking place across the street near a big red cube sculpture. A British Journalist asked me about the protest and if I thought there would be violence. I said, "The won't be violence unless it's the police." The were a lot more people there than I'd expected. This time things were different. Just two blocks into our march on Pine Street a large group of NYPD officers blocked off the sidewalk. This created a large bottle neck of pedestrian traffic. A number of marchers were stranded in the cross walk and were not allowed to cross the street. The back of the group continued to advance and spill out into the street.
Up until this point the march was adhering to the previously stated rules, by the police, that we remain on the sidewalk due to the fact that we didn't have a parade permit. Of course this was not a parade. It was a protest. All marchers were totally abiding by this rule until the police blocked off the sidewalk and created the bottle neck. Very soon after this a "white shirt" officer pulled out a bull horn and announced that we do not have a parade license and that anyone standing in the street would be subject to arrest.
This announcement was made about 4 times and easily not loud enough for the back of the group to hear. I was starting to feel a bit manipulated by the police. The rapid and routine way the officer stated the claim made me feel like he wasn't attempting to communicate that clearly. Regular Wall Street employees, on their way to work, were starting to join the crowd and were initially not allowed to pass through either. After a handful of protest arrests (including Captain Ray) the police eventually set up guard rails around all four corners of the sidewalk and started to allow people with Wall Street Work ID's to pass through the middle of the street.

I got trapped between the sidewalk and a police van for about 45 minutes. A light moment was provided when I noticed this stereotypical cop fuel in the back seat of the van. It's kind of hard to see but it's a big pile of donuts.
We eventually turned back to Broadway, where the march started. The police had blocked off the sidewalk heading south as well so we had to go back to Liberty Park where they now decided to open the guard rails and allowed people back inside the park. Mostly thanks to the police, we had successfully delayed at least a few workers on their way to Wall Street.
These signs were posted all around the park now. There was a bit of excitement when some of the guard rails were removed. There was no clear logic behind when the police were deciding to let people in or out of the park. Sadly, the guard rails the line the perimeter give the feeling of a zoo or endangered species reserve to the people inside. I can almost hear the ads now: "Come to Liberty Park and see what's left of our countries freedom to assemble (safely behind a guarded metal fence)." Maybe they'll start selling tickets.
Back inside Liberty Park, I grabbed another coffee and met up with some more friends. My friend Fran and I headed back up to Union Square for a Student protest around 3pm. We met our friend Anna there. On our way to Union Square we heard reports from fellow marchers about the incident involving the "bloody headed guy." The guard rails went back after that.
There was a strong contingent for free education. A number of people spoke against some of the more high profile colleges in the NYC area (Julliard, NYU, The New School, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union, and CUNY). I grabbed a bite to eat with Anna and Fran and then we took the train down for the big 5pm rally in Foley Square. This demonstration did have a permit and was associated with a number of worker unions. I saw a lot of UAW signs. Coming upon the scene in Foley Square reminded me of the bridge scene in Apocalypse Now where the boat comes upon a flashing cacophony of lights and sounds that are both intriguing and terrifying.

There were thousands of people gathered while a big PA system reverberated hip hop music and angry voices off of the grand walls and pillars of the NY Court House buildings that surround the park.
After about an hour of listening to the music and meeting up with friends the group slowly advanced toward the Brooklyn Bridge. It took a long time but we eventually got to the bridge. It was a beautiful sight.
There was huge projection on the side of the Verizon Building just at the foot of the bridge that flashed an enormous 99% message as well as other things like "Mike Check!" and "Happy 2 Month Anniversary!" It was really amazing.

We met up later with more friends at the aptly named "Patriot Bar." My perfect epilogue to my evening was heading up to the Sidewalk Cafe to check out Jack Dishel's stand up comedy. A large portion of his act was processing the OWS movement and I found it really insightful as well as entertaining. I would highly recommend checking him out the next time he performs.

It was a very exhausting and emotional day. My feelings ran the gamut of pride, fear, love, hatred, and hope. I think anyone who allows themselves to open up the OWS movement is bound to appreciate it for something. For me, in a nutshell, it is a voice that tells me that we "can" do better as human beings at taking care of ourselves and each other. It's not a harsh voice, like one that comes form a drill sergeant or football coach (or even from the bullhorn at protest march). It's a voice that comes from the heart, like a mother or a brother, that fills us with pride and strength to cope with the tough things in the world and try to help make things better. It's a voice the resonates through me that says every life has value. We all have the potential to inspire good things, even if it's just through the examples of how we decide to live.



Barry Bliss's picture


Retired Captain Ray is a badass.

Doughnut thing is funny.

Thanks Man!

MMM's picture

Captain ray is a real hero for sure.

"Here to do great things."