Today was the first day I felt the winds of fate blowing to fill the sails of #OccupyWallStreet. (n.b.: I am only there during weekdays and sometimes on weekends.) General Assembly was thronged with new faces, things were in good order everywhere I looked (better delegation of responsibility perhaps, for example a dedicated kitchen crew), and a more diverse assortment of people were having serious conversations. Expressions of solidarity from outside supporters were also very easy to come by.
However, the guy complaining about Jewish control of everything was at it again. I got a better look at him: his eyes were both wild and rheumy, and he seemed a bit tetched. The response to him was also not immediately suppressive, to everyone’s credit. It’s true, he has the right to free speech. It’s true that even hate speech and hateful assembly are protected by the First Amendment, but the danger of onlookers confusing his aims with ours was the primary concern. He was heckled, sung down with “Kum Ba Ya, my Lord, we love Jews,” (itself problematic, someone observed) and his sign blocked by others’. One guy made a sign pointing at him: “This Man is Crazy.” It was an uncomfortable moment in which we, including myself, were sometimes not thinking clearly, but it was an important object lesson in management of adversity and diversity.
To that end, it was nice to see more underrepresented populations appearing and sometimes speaking out. An African-American speaking to the General Assembly said there need to be more addresses of the General Assembly from other than White men. I agree, but with a footnote: how exactly does anyone know who is a “White” person? Do we legitimize ourselves by declaring our racial background? People are sometimes not what they seem; but at least sex is usually easier to identify. The GA minutes show that on 9/26, 10 people were interviewed by news, and only one was a woman…that IS a problem.
The march was occasionally harder to coordinate (chants, drumming) owing to its size. I went North with the 1600 detachment. There were a couple of tense standoffs with the police when they tried to redirect the protest. The poetic moment was a tall woman with a saxophone tooting a bar of “We Shall Overcome” sotto voce as a phalanx of cops closed in from behind her holding the orange nets they use to hunt The Biggest Game. Some conjectured that they didn’t want us to meet up with the postal workers’ protest, which we ultimately did. People in Manhattan at large were much more supportive than those I saw on Wall Street, and the moment of unity between the two resonant protests was a perfect closer for me before a rush hour train ride and a night of work.