Report: "Don't Be Afraid to Say Revolution!"
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will smile from the grave/ And say, we movin' step by step/ Toward what he called a revolution/Don't be afraid to say, Revolution!"
"Cornel West is here", Milcho said, as we were wandering through Zuccotti Park at dusk. The sky was gray and it smelled like rain; people here and there were securing food, medicine, bedding, under plastic tarps. Milcho, Wendy and Amy and I came to Wall Street together tonight. I am corralling everyone I know to come to the Park to see this live and without filters. And you who are reading this, and can get here should come too, for this is history, friends!
We walked over to the meeting area, and sure enough, there was the unmistakable corona of hair, the too-long white shirtcuffs. We followed him up to the meeting area, sat down. And then watched as tonight's General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street unfolded:
It's late, and I'm too tired to write this well, but as the 11th night of Occupy Wall Street closes, I note a couple of new things:
1. Demographics: Changing, indeed. More diverse, different ages. Some union people, college professors doing teach-ins, old lefties having a look-see. Also: the front line of the media has officially landed. Yesterday it was Michael Moore, today Susan Sarandon. Matt Taibbi says he's visiting tomorrow. Moore is coming back tomorrow to film the General Assembly with Laurence O'Donnell for his MSNBC show. I think O'Donnell is a jerk, but if they just sit back and film the process of the meeting, that would be a real breakthrough in changing the MSM narrative, I think. Right now, most of the people I talk to in my daily life still think OWS is a hippie fest.
2. Cops: Now there are two kinds of blue shirts on the scene--the regular patrol cops, and the (kinder, gentler) Community Relations cops in royal blue polo shirts. No ranking officer white shirts in view. When the community police are around, you know someone is worried about image. What this says to me is that the city's decided that more violence would be really bad for optics.
3. The Organization--continues to dazzle! After West's remarks, the meeting began with reports from Outreach Committees (they've teamed up with an important black radio station in Philadelphia for Occupy Philly, and they're going to support the Verizon worker's union strike), from the Medics who've started a counseling service, from techies who are doing Linux and open source teach-ins, and from the Laundry Committee, who've washed everything. They've even organized morning tours of Wall Street, which they're offering free to passing tourists!
And, since we must have Bread but also Roses: there's a "free people's stage"--a square sheet taped to the ground--and you can sign up to perform there.
The most interesting report though was from the committee that's drafting demands. This is the big "grownup" media sticking point (as in, "But What Do They Want? There's No Unified Message!"). But if you stick with the #occupywallstreet folks for the long haul, you begin to wonder just who are the "grownups."
For their solution to hacking out a platform knocks me flat with amazement: The group is going to use the next few days to talk about these demands. And then here's what they'll do: on Friday, they will spread blank sheets of white paper all across the park. Some will have topic headings, some will be all blank. Magic markers will then be distributed, and everyone will write, in large letters, the issues and goals they think are most important. If you agree with someone's poster, you can put a "Check".
Fascinating! It is actually rather Chinese in technique. It reminds me of the student Big Character Posters that appeared in Tienanmen Square.
After the writing exercise, they'll collect all the papers and collate them into a larger online manifesto, which can then be debated/modified/changed online in a Wikipedia-style collaboration.
4. Location, location location: It's becoming clearer that the choice of New York City, as opposed to say, Washington DC, for the launch of this effort, was genius. For what it says is, of course, that this movement is not about the US government. The real enemy is the Financial-Bankster complex. I have not heard or seen any mention of any political candidate or party inside the Park. Forget "post-partisan"--that was so 2008. This is a post-party movement. It is what we Correntians participating in this blog have been waiting for--but not in the form we expected!
5. Obama is dead, dead, dead. Really. These young people were his eager troops. And they've moved on. Way on. The talk on the ground is not about elections anymore. It's about transforming society.
And it's not about leaders anymore. Occupy Wall Street remains a messy, wonderful, chaotic, stunning collective. In eleven days, 500 protesters have succeeded in making Washington, Obama, presidents--heck, even elections seem as obsolete as a Commodore computer. *
That's it for now. I urge all of you who can to come to Wall Street if you possibly can make it. This is one of those moments when time seems to hover and pause, and focus is laser-sharp. It's a rare moment of collective creativity. Who could have guessed it would bloom now?
*As I update this, I see that the New York Times has caught onto the fact that there's something happening here. The trouble is they can only see it when it's coming across their Foreign Desk, not when it's in their back yard! As usual, The People are waaaay ahead of them (check out the Comments section of this very good article).