We hear “take me to your leaders” a lot at Liberty Plaza. I heard it twice even before lunch today, once from a friendly bike messenger bringing several bags of bagels from a promotion, and one from the TV reporter who conducted the above truncated interview. Authority has been imposed from above for so long that a group of people taking individual responsibility and turning to facilitators only for ad hoc administration seems to tax today’s minds. At least something is being taxed!
I filmed that interview from the TV with with my phone set on “solarize” to remind the viewer at each refresh-flicker that this is not real. With solidarity from Verizon workers, pilots, postal workers, and the IWW, and formal acknowledgement from independent media like Democracy Now!, Michael Moore and Chris Hedges, one shouldn’t sneer. Officer Bologna sneered until he couldn’t contain himself, and 80 were arrested last Saturday for nonviolent, technical offenses. “Causing trouble?” Pix 11, that’s “bad apples” in the NYPD. And those who condescend or moan about “demands” have spent 7-20 minutes rubbernecking on site, then lied and elided.
Donations from all over the country and world have supplied the movement with a substantial endowment, which it will need as it grows and does outreach. But the prickly leader problem will bedevil the details as Occupy Wall Street expands. The leadership question is clear from the General Assembly, where we recently spent 1/2 hour debating whether to spend $700 on a network of Tracfones for transencampment station communication, to the marches—where drummers sometimes vie for control of the rhythm instead of cooperate, especially with chanters. At what point, if any, will expediency force us to elect helmspeople? Will inclusion of other groups and agendas open our own (as it were) to steering? Must the movement’s progress eclipse elective association and autonomy?
A fitting coda to my two days at OWS was a car service home from a young Cairene from Russia. He’s too busy driving and studying for a minerals & mining degree to have heard of Occupy Wall Street, so we talked about that a lot, and naturally Tahrir Square as well. His three years in the USA have been eye-opening, but he hadn’t thought things had come to this pass. Most encouragingly, E. disabused me of the idea that Occupy Wall Street was nothing like Tahrir Square. I told him that people had been living in the square for two weeks, had formulated demands in a few days (as opposed to a fortnight); that the police had arrested over 100 (and zip-cuffs can be brutal if tightened), punched some, pepper-sprayed some, knocked out a tooth and destroyed things wantonly. He disagreed with the US media and said, involuntarily decelerating as if thinking of something else, “This is exactly like Tahrir Square. I can’t believe this is happening in America.”