Sunday, November 27, 2011

Occupy Wall Street- My Story

It was 10:30 at night when I got home last Thursday. After getting off the train, I decided to try to numb the pain of an additional thirty minute bus ride by catching up with a friend from high school. Expecting the late night conversation to be little more than fluff, it surprisingly turned into a fierce exchange of ideas as I shared with her my experience at Occupy Wall Street. I was just returning from the second anniversary of march's existence so I was still beaming from excitement.

I told her of the various people I knew who were also in attendance. My former high school English teacher was helping me out with a play I am writing and suggested that we head down to Foley Square after my interview with him. Although I am an avid supporter of OWS, I have been lazy and never made it to any of the protests, even the one they had in Jamaica, Queens. It was about five o'c lock when we arrived, and I realized it wasn't just laziness keeping me from attending OWS. After arriving to the area, one the first things we saw were cops equipped with riot gear. I thought to myself, where is our protection? There has been some speculation as to why ethnic minorities have been largely absent at OWS protests. I can't offer much insight into why that may be but this ethnic minority was scared out of her ass. I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to go to the protests and she, another ethnic minority, explicitly told me, "Don't come to me for bail money."

The friend I was on the phone with had the same fears. Luckily the night ended without any conflict. In fact, I found many of the officers to be kind and helpful with directions. I did find it obnoxious when few protesters antagonized the cops without any clear reason in doing so. I was giving mad shade to the silly, little white girl next to me while she was yelling at the cops. I again thought to myself, You best believe that if things get out of hand, I'll be quick to point in your direction and scream 'Cuff her' because my broke, black ass ain't finnah go to jail!

Laughing, my friend inquired about the aims of OWS. She put her boyfriend on three way and he began to challenge me about the validity of their targeting of Wall Street. Though he shared their frustrations with the little oversight placed on our financial industry, he seemed frustrated by Occupys's opaqueness, an aspect that I appreciated. He and I debated about the need for OWS to specify their wants. At that time, I was stepping through the door of my house and saw that my parents were still up. I got off the phone but ended up continuing the conversation with my parents.

They were in bed, watching the coverage from the day's protests in New York City, specifically the hundreds of arrests that were made that day. She stated her disgust with the abuse of law enforcement. While I certainly agreed, I also argued that white liberals' trouble with police brutality is a troubling in itself considering my anecdotal evidence of their tendency for provocation. A police pepper spraying old people and hippies is awful and stupid but it is much different from unarmed black men getting shot. Maybe I was being trivial but she understood my point.

My father, old, jaded and cynical echoed my friend's boyfriend's concerns. He wanted to know what was going to come of this, noting the increased coverage of what was previously largely ignored. I explained that the self-proclaimed movement is centered on the absolute power given to the financial industry and how it contributes to the socio-inequality that plagues our society. Likely speaking to the ubiquity young, white faces on TV he asked me exactly who was watching. But there were unions, students, hippies, immigrant groups, the green party, a few people in work clothes, teachers, aspiring rappers and everyone else in between. Repeating my appreciation of its vagueness, I told him I saw a wide array of people represented which is appropriate because economic affects almost all of us, 99% of us, if you will.

Marching across the bridge with honoree Sister Miss All Ass was somehow empowering for me and the other occupiers. In today's economy it is easy to feel as if you are alone in your struggles. While our struggles vary, particularly in regards to severity and experience, it can all be linked to economic injustice. I may not have fully won them all over, but I was convinced that Occupy Wall Street was working.  Some are inspired by it, but everybody is talking about it. The guy holding that sign with a well-know Gandhi quote got it right, "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win."

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