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Excerpts of My 2011 Zuccotti Diary: Fretting Toilets & Arrest

Writing my last blog about wrongly convicted political activist Cecily McMillan made me think back to my own NYC OWS protest experiences. Here are excerpts from two blogs I posted 10-16-11 and 10-18-11 about a night I spent at Zuccotti Park.
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Less than 24 hours ago, sitting in a NYC Barnes & Noble cafe, a message popped up on my laptop from one of my brothers in California alerting me that there was a crisis with the Occupy Wall Street protest. Mayor Bloomberg was demanding the park be evacuated at 7am Friday morning for cleaning and some “NEW RULES” to be applied to the occupiers thereafter.

My mailbox began to fill up with alerts from a number of political organizations whose mailing lists I had somehow made it onto.

I checked the correntewire website and a headline urged anyone who could to get to Zuccotti Park by midnight. One of its links warned about possible arrest and advised bringing something to help recover from pepper spraying.

I gulped. What on earth might that be? Well, I would opt to wear my glasses rather than my contacts. That would offer some protection. I could put a bottle of lens solution in my knapsack as an eyewash?

It seemed surreal to be considering such a situation. Surely it would not come to that. But then again, 700 innocent people of conscience had been brutishly arrested almost two Saturdays ago on the Brooklyn Bridge. I had missed that massive ambush by only fifteen minutes that rainy day.

I emailed an activist friend and told her I was intending to head down there in the next two hours and wondered if she were too.

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I wondered how many people there were in New York City at the moment hustling to fulfill this same call? I thought of those characters in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who became so obsessed with an inner call to the space aliens’ mountain that they were helplessly reconstructing that destination out of things such as mashed potatoes, etc., to the dismay of their loved ones.

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I also thought of my favorite Thoreau story when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Henry David Thoreau in jail and called out, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau called back, “Waldo, what are you doing out there?” Perhaps this would be my Thoreau moment! About time. I had been popping off on internet blogs and comments about people talking the talk but not walking the walk. Time to put my body where my mouth was.

Money? I supposed I had better bring a credit card. In case I needed it for bail? How much was bail for heaven’s sake? I had had to suspend my debit card a few days earlier because of fraudulent activity on it in Miami. Geeez. I was awaiting a new one in the mail. I did have some cash in my wallet.

I poured out a mountain of dry cat food in a very large metal mixing bowl for my two cats and filled an equally large glass bowl with water. If I did get arrested how long before I would get home again?

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As I closed my apartment door I noticed my shaking hand as I twisted the key in the lock. Was that about the possibility of getting arrested, or a more imminent danger of jumping onto a nearly empty 6 train at such a late hour on a week night.

The subway trek to Wall Street wasn’t bad. The 5, in fact, had come on the local 6 track so I didn’t have to change trains. I noticed that the few people boarding the car at that hour after 42nd Street were wet with rain. Oh boy.

I was disappointed when only two of us got off at Wall Street. Where were my fellow Close Encounters types?

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The rain was steadily coming down as I emerged. A plastic parka would have been smarter than just my sweater hoodie over a T-shirt with an umbrella. I had put another shirt into my carryall but realized another pair of shoes and socks would have been a lot smarter. I quickly opened my umbrella.

By the time I got to the Park the rain had intensified. I was startled to see half a dozen or more young, parka-ed people zealously sweeping the sidewalks of the plaza, with random people like me having to jump out of their determined ways. I marveled at how they simply ignored -- defied -- an angry driving rain.

I wondered which of the large clumps covered with plastic tarps all about me were actual people and which were just “stuff.” I thought of how vulnerable these protesters were each day to the elements without inside shelter. I also thought of the vulnerable homeless people scattered throughout the city, facing down this weather tonight as well as another upcoming winter season. How many would not survive that challenge?

I looked up and noted that the picturesque, lacy-leafed tall trees throughout the square offered little protection from the wind-driven rain.

I dreaded the idea of lightning which blessedly did not seem to be occurring. Every once in a while thunder boomed. Each time it was met with loud and spirited cheering from all corners of the plaza. I laughed in surprise and delight. The occupiers, vertical and horizontal on the square, took that opportunity to express their brave, defiant, collective spirit, even to a challenge from Mother Nature. How could one not LOVE them?

My first verbal contact with a fellow protester was a woman in a bright green slicker, with bright red hair and an even brighter smile. She seemed younger than me, but older than the protesters I had seen so far. Forty-something? The others around us seemed predominantly twenty- and thirty-something year olds.

The rain was not conducive to chatting but we tried. She was trying to locate the place to stow the personal baggage she had brought earlier in the day. She said they had all been working hard with various focuses, renewing the little park. She had tended to the flower beds. Through the veil of rain I noted even in the dark how pretty and well groomed they were.

She disclosed that she had decided to take a week’s vacation from her job in western New York state and spend it with the occupation. I loved it. Here was one of my full-out Close Encounters of the Third Kind committed ones who had responded to the call. In fact, I suddenly felt like a pathetic part-timer. Only committing to the next seven or so hours.

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At that point the heavens opened up and the rain was merciless. I stood there getting helplessly and thoroughly drenched, despite the umbrella. Was I really going to spend the next seven hours in such a ridiculously soaked condition? Thank God it was not colder. I told myself at the end of seven hours I would be able to peel off the wet oppressive clothes and have a nice warm shower back at home. A luxury many of my fellow activists would not get to enjoy.

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I squished, in my soggy sneakers, through the puddles farther along down the maze of tarp-covered people and supplies. I spotted my friend near the pedestrian sidewalk. She was sporting far wiser clothing than I, a long raincoat and boots....

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... I noticed a cluster of people standing around a tall young man wielding something in his hand. A Sharpie? He seemed to be writing a phone number on people’s forearms. “What is that for?” I asked. “The National Lawyer’s Guild,” he announced. I gulped and held out my forearm to him as he wrote "212-679-6018." “Call it if you get arrested.” “In fact,” he added, “memorize it in case it fades during the night.” I looked down at the number. My exposed arm around the black digits began to glisten from random rain drops.

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.... the young man assured us McDonald’s was the wiser destination since it had that precious all-night bathroom. I pumped his hand, as I would all the occupation residents I would meet, and tried to express my gratitude and how important their mission was to the rest of the country. They were igniting hearts, even internationally, to fight the good fight to end profound corruption.

As we walked into the neon-bright McDonald’s there seemed to be about a half-inch of water covering the floor. I walked or rather squished my way gingerly across it to find the ladies’ room.

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... The McDonald’s had an up and downstairs. The downstairs was filled to capacity. I noticed a rope across the bottom of the stairs going up. That seemed oddly inhospitable and ridiculous, given the number of people in there and the heavy lines for both food and toilet. Again, mostly twenty- and thirty-something year olds, at all energy levels and states of wetness. Some eating, some not. Some talking excitedly, some looking weary and bedraggled, some with their heads cradled in their arms on top of the tables trying to sleep. At that point it was well after 2am.

I sought out the women’s bathroom line and noticed my friend near the door was again very animated in deep conversation with another young protester. Good for her since the bathroom line was not short and I’d clearly be a while.

There was an air of patient good will among all of us in the line. As I got closer to the open door I noticed a woman earnestly trying to dry off one of her socks under the hand blow dryer. She pulled back to let anyone who needed the dryer go and then resumed the ambitious project. Another young woman rushed in and deposited a pile of paper napkins on the sink since there was no toilet paper left in the stalls. A very thoughtful gesture and we thanked her on her way out.

I waited in the order line for about ten minutes and then bought a diet soda and Big Mac from a tired looking cashier. I also reaffirmed from him that the restaurant was a 24-hour one. I would be back to use the bathroom again I was sure.

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As I finished rather guiltily gorping down my burger I toyed with the idea of slyly slipping a bit of cash to the young man for him and his friends. Suddenly about half a dozen police pushed their way into McDonald’s and a woman officer began bellowing “EVERYONE BUY SOMETHING, NOW!!!!”

Say what?

My friend angrily flashed out to those of us at the table, “That is not legal!” The young people around me looked up alarmed. It seemed so gratuitously cruel, given the insane rain that had occurred outside just a short time ago. Also, considering the time of night, and the fact that the past five weeks was probably the best overnight business this Mickey D’s had done ever. What was the problem letting them use this temporary shelter at the 3am hour to manage to sit down in a dry and warm place?

I suddenly thought of the obscenely wealthy Wall Street execs, their towering offices all around us. I thought of one of the top 10 hedge fund executives I had read about who in 2010 earned $900,000 an hour! For doing what, ripping off America? And here were these precious young adults around me, unable, some, to afford even something from the dollar menu as they fought for our democracy. Called out the corruption of the corporate gangsters!

I considered also how much money collectively the parents of these young adults had given in buying Happy Meals, etc., over the years to help make the McDonald corporation the wealthiest in the entire world. Now when this teeny percentage of noble and earnest young people were striving to help our democracy, sacrificing so much in terms of physical comfort and even risking arrest, there was NO COMPASSION for them, not even a crumb, despite them continuing to be still frequent consumers? Something was very wrong with this picture. All the happy time advertising for McDonald’s and the rest of corporatism certainly covered up that rigid quid-pro-quo profits over people code of business. Granted, McDonald House is a great charity. But, come on!

Did McDonald’s overnight management call in the police, or were the police eager to use any excuse to inconvenience the occupiers? Maybe both? I wondered how during the day the other retail area shops were treating the occupiers. I also wondered if this sudden police flexing in the middle of the night was foreshadowing for more serious flexing of intolerance to come at that promised 7am showdown.

I leaned over to the young man I’d been chatting with and whispered, “Are you guys strapped?” He smiled and shrugged, averting his eyes. I pulled out a bit of cash and pressed it into his hand. He began to protest but suddenly the young woman who had had her head in her arms, now rallied from the rude hollering of the police woman, shot me the sweetest “thank you.” The young man looked at her then back at me and nodded his thanks, too.

I grandiosely (considering I was having my own chronic economic challenges) wished I had money to buy something for every customer there! It made me wonder how these young people were doing financially, given how expensive New York City is, especially the “inconspicuous consumption” that could add up cruelly, even of having to buy a product to be able to use a toilet.

The rain had fully stopped as we exited McDonald’s. I was angry and curious about this sudden police presence, but I had finished my food and my friend had put off getting her coffee long enough. We left to walk back through the square to the opposite side. Also to check in to see what was happening on the square.

The young man who had bonded with my friend decided to hang with us further. My friend and I both commented on the book he carried with him, “The Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire.” Seemed a perfect read for the OWS protest. He said he got it from the OWS library.

He told us a bit about the OWS organization, that he helped with the “comfort” area, in fact, seemed to be actually employed by the system. He confided he was very concerned that some friends he had made while there were now missing. They had participated in one of the marches outside Liberty Plaza and had not returned. Were they locked in jail somewhere? He was also dreading the upcoming showdown at 7am with the Bloomberg cleaning crew and the police.

At one point I was telling him about my own shaky corporate job status. He became concerned, and then asked me if I too wanted to work part time during the OWS occupation with one of the focus groups. This was so startling to me. So spontaneous and generous. Here he was living in this “in the moment” environment and yet was altruistic enough to try to help me, a middle-aged plus woman to share the benefit of their assuredly precious and modest paid employment there. My eyes burned with tears at such thoughtful concern for a relative stranger. Empathy. Something I kept writing about, well the lack of, in our American government. It seemed to exist a hundredfold with the citizens of OWS!

I had been dazzled by each of the activists I had randomly met so far. They seemed to carry an extra measure of serenity, intelligence and generosity. Not to mention courage, which I would get to witness collectively, as well as my own, first hand, in less than three hours.

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It was well after 4am I discovered through the steam of my rained upon watchface. We noted that some space had become available on the benches outside Charley’s. It would be a more comfortable perch awaiting the morning demonstration than the cold wet cement blocks over on the plaza.

I had put a small rectangular box of plastic waste basket liners into my carryall (unfortunately I had forgotten their existence earlier when I was getting drenched with rain). We stretched out two plastic trash bags over the wet wood.

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Suddenly a young woman approached us and asked us if we knew of a nearby bathroom. I indicated the direction of the McDonald’s. McDonald’s had been closed down completely she exclaimed. I urged her to go into Charley’s and insist they let her use their facility. Several more people showed up in search of a bathroom. I encouraged them to try inside. Later I would find out Charley’s had continued to turn such people away.

This really burned me. Once again, a retail establishment was doing a whopping business from these young people occupying the plaza, especially at these late hours, and yet would not deign to extend use of their toilet, even on a limited basis and in the face of an emergency with the all night McDonald’s suddenly closed down. Where was the humanity? Let us take your money and cold shoulder your extenuating needs. Rigid American capitalism without heart.

I was beginning to get a sense of the constant indignities and inconveniences the occupiers of the plaza had been facing down that most of us had no idea of.

My friend also needed a bathroom she announced and set off to find one on the still, dark streets around us. When she hadn’t come back an hour later I was concerned and sorry I hadn’t accompanied her at that hour. Not a safe time for a woman to be alone on the streets of NYC.

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I wondered if they [port-o-potties] had been too costly for the OWS organization, although I had been reading it had received substantial donations. Had it been the organizers' fumbled responsibility or the mayor’s and city governance’s to leave the hundreds of occupiers so unprovided for in the middle of the night?

I would find out later from a blog of interviews on Democracy Now’s website it was indeed Mayor Bloomberg’s and the City’s fault:

PONCHO GUTHRIE [an occupier]: The park is cleaner than a lot of areas around here. Now, I’m not from the area, but a lot of people I know who have lived in the area say it’s cleaner now than it was before the occupation came in. There aren’t any rats in there. The place is very sanitary. Garbage is picked up three times a day. We take care of the recycling. It’s very sanitary conditions. The only things that are lacking are things like showers and restrooms, which could be provided with a city permit. But unfortunately, we don’t have a city permit. So, any sanitary issues are kind of on Mr. Bloomberg’s plate.

So let me be blunt about this restroom-less scenario connecting the final dots, since my and others’ cold, wet, toilet-less-hold-it-in-for-a-good-long-while experience on the Plaza. Less than half a dozen hours before the “obsessed with the sanitation of the park” Mayor and police or whomever were to inspect and enforce a cleanup of Zuccotti Park, HUNDREDS OF DEMONSTRATORS LIKE MYSELF HAD NO TOILET FACILITY TO URINATE OR DEFECATE AT because presumably the police had closed down the ONLY toilet reasonably located in the Zuccotti Park area overnight.

How is that for a crazymaking not to mention cruel catch-22? Keep it clean, folks. But let us make it all the more insultingly challenging for you with your own normal and predictable bodily needs for evacuation.

YOU JUST CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!!!!

Deviousness and/or inhumane obtuseness? Certainly empathyless-ness once again, from the retailers at that hour, for sure, but also from the mayor and city government. And what was this, the fifth week of the demonstration?

Yes, amoral, empathyless crazymaking. Something like taking $10 trillion of our money and then blaming us for that loss and denying they are inflicting economic terrorism on us. Telling us to suck it up and tighten our belts since it is our fault we are losing our homes, jobs, health care, even lives. The cronied corporatists and the politicians so willing to posture righteousness over “irrational mob anger and social inconvenience” when it is THEY who are responsible for defrauding us and creating circumstances of serious mass suffering and desperation. How cravenly low can they go?

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At one point, while he, his friends and I were sharing, a young man in overalls, very drunk and pontificating about politics and poverty, then his own desperate straits, lumbered along the sidewalk before us. A couple of the college guys gave him some money for food and then he finally sloppily moved on. A few of them shook their heads. My superhero friend said, “He will be the one that Fox News will film as an example of how out of control we are.”

The OWS occupiers had made space in their community for this troubled young man, feeding him, offering him company and space, it seemed, but at the same time there was the double bind for them, he was harming their image to a media very eager to find titillating examples of fault or weakness.

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He told me more about the general assembly system the occupiers relied on. About the people’s mic, whereby phrases were repeated by some in the front of the crowd so people could hear in the back. Apparently no bull horns were allowed for the occupiers. He confided that the horizontal hierarchy of decision-making could be frustrating and cumbersome at times but it did work. He demonstrated the hand gestures. Wiggling one’s upwardly pointed fingers meant assent, downward meant disagreement, level meant mixed feelings or indecision. Making a triangle with both hands was asking for information.

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By this time my friend finally returned defeated from her bathroom search. A few new people nearby told her that McDonald’s had finally reopened and she could go back there, or there were finally one or two other places in the neighborhood now opening for the early early morning breakfast crowd. My friend headed to one. NOT McDonald’s.

A tall, balding man with an expansive smile, a large coffee, and a small rolling suitcase sat down on one of the nearby benches to my right. He seemed close to my age, which was unique to this crowd of overnight occupiers. We quickly introduced ourselves. Such unusual non-New Yorky behavior for sure. But given the extenuating circumstances so natural and comfortable.

He shared that he had just arrived from Tucson to join the occupation. I thought once again of the Close Encounter types, like the woman from upstate NY who had just suddenly decided to take a week off from work. They felt the “call.” Recognized it was time to commit to fighting for decency and integrity. This man, too, like all whom I had been meeting through the night, resonated a quiet grace, strength and even modesty about what he was doing.

One of the younger men brought back to the benches a copy of the early morning edition of the New York Post. I noted the provocative headline, “High Noon at 7am!” I gulped. He shared the article with me. The Post was playing up the looming showdown about the evacuation for cleaning. Playing it up for all it was worth. Absolutely drooling over the specter of police violence.

The Irish musician had earlier explained to me how the occupiers were willing to vacate 2/3s of the area for cleanup but would not surrender the last third in order to keep the occupation going. Whether the mayor and NYPD would cooperate with that condition was to be seen. The NY Post clearly hoped successful negotiations would not happen.

When my friend returned from her second bathroom pilgrimage, I told her I had better go find one myself before "high noon"! I was shaking a bit about what the next hour or so would mean in terms of possible violence and arrest. I could already hear some chanting from across the street. The chant sounded like, “I am not afraid.” I figured I could use some of those group affirmations.

My friend had confided earlier in the wee hours that as life circumstances stood with her this day, she could not afford to be arrested and would not engage on the plaza at 7am. I told her that she had risked arrest so often in her life with so much anti-war and human rights activism, I hoped she didn’t harbor any guilt about not risking it this day. “Today we should let it be MY turn!” She smiled in support. High time for me to seriously walk the proverbial walk. She told me she would wait until I got back from my trip to the bathroom before saying goodbye.

I rushed north two blocks and then turned right to a little empty coffee shop. It was the closest bathroom I had heard about. When I asked for the bathroom location from three very busy foreign-looking gentlemen in whites, the one at the cash register told me nervously that I could not use it unless I purchased something. I nodded my head but in exasperation. I told him, “I promise I will buy something as soon as I use the bathroom, okay?”

Actually, relieving myself and getting a bite of food before getting arrested seemed the way to go, anyway. I glanced at my forearm in the bathroom, surprised by the faded but still legible digits of the phone number for the National Lawyer’s Guild. I freshened up a bit. But my sneakers and clothes were still oppressively clammy. I had become amazingly acclimated to them, though. It helped that the temperature had been benign.

When I returned to the front of the little restaurant I glanced at my watch. 6:15 am. “High noon” was 45 minutes away. I ordered an egg sandwich and a small coffee. As two of the men hastened to accommodate my order, I suddenly blurted out, “I’m with the occupation down the street a couple blocks!”

They looked over at me in surprise. One of them smiled and nodded. Taking this as encouragement, I continued on, “So, I’m wondering if I am going to be getting arrested in the next half hour or so.” I saw three sets of hands suddenly freeze in mid-air from their food preparation. I guess I had managed to, and somehow needed to, capture their silent and not unsympathetic attention. I exhaled and finished, “You see, I’ve never been arrested. I’m a bit nervous about it all.”

The man at the register rang up my order respectfully. “Wish me luck!” I said turning to the door. He nodded. One of the other men shot me a shy smile and gave me a thumb’s up. I was grateful.

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I re-entered the plaza, heading up toward the Broadway edge where I could hear announcements and then chanting. “ALL DAY -- ALL WEEK -- OCCUPY -- WALL STREET!!” There was a powerful wave of energy among the people. The sunlight had broken through. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Echoing in my ears. I wondered if this were happening to my compatriots to the same dramatic degree. I had to say, the crowd certainly seemed discordantly animated for the possible pending wave of police force against us.

As I took my place beside a friendly looking couple, around my age, I looked about me and noted that now there were many different age groups represented. I had felt like my friend and I had been two visiting tourists from another generation during most of the night.

I kept glancing at my watch as the minute hand approached the 12 to 7 AM. Not exactly as benign as awaiting the ball drop at Times Square I thought. I also kept thinking of that titillating and provocative New York Post coverage. There I stood, sipping down the last of my coffee, wondering where and how the police would press upon us. How the ambush would come? What would it be like being restrained, penned and forcibly labelled and recorded as an official enemy of the state for protesting the corruption of said state?

I noticed two tall young men in dark sweatshirts who had swimming goggles pushed up on their foreheads. Aha, I thought. That is the proper wardrobe for pepper-spraying. Still, I had my glasses on and my eyewash in my knapsack.

I thought of that horrible police officer, an inspector wasn’t it, Bologna, who had pepper-sprayed four corralled young women near Union Square not long ago. They were helpless and he inflicted that pain gratuitously upon them. He and the police captured them for arrest maybe, but he was captured, thankfully, too, on video. It had been 80 people who had gotten arrested that day.

And then, the Saturday before last, I had made it to the march late, in fact I had missed all those arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge by only fifteen minutes. 700 people were “kettled” on the bridge and then arrested. 700 plus at once. Stunning and disgusting. What on earth happened during this “kettling”?

Would we be somehow “kettled” today? I looked around nervously. Apparently the police had done it with some kind of orange netting. Netting? Scooped you up like helpless fish from the sea? With the same indifference as pragmatic fishermen to the future welfare of their catch?

Those police during the bridge ambush. They had clearly given the marchers the false impression it was OKAY to march across the bridge on the roadway. Then, ENTRAPMENT!!! It reminded me of what Bloomberg also had done during the demonstrations against the Republican Convention years ago. I had escaped a close call back then when I had had to leave a march prematurely for work. An acquaintance hadn’t been so lucky.

Getting roughed up. Knocked off your feet. Having your hands pulled behind your back and cuffed for hours and hours. I girded myself for such treatment.

My friend who had just left had posted an account of her friend who had been arrested that Brooklyn Bridge day, had been successfully kettled and arrested. Another person our age.

He had shared about the experience in intimate detail on her blogsite. Even about how his dripping nose was making him crazy as the hours passed since he couldn’t blow his nose what with his hands and arms constrained behind him. Most moving in his account was how finally a young man, being held with him, offered the back of his shirt for him to use to wipe off his nose and get some relief. My friend’s friend took him up on it with gratitude. What a sweet and profound example of generosity and bonding among this movement’s standup heros and heroines.

I took my last gulp of coffee then turned to the woman next to me and said, “I wonder how the police might come at us?”

The woman furrowed her eyebrows for a beat, then exclaimed, “Honey, RELAX! Word came down the kids did such a good job scrubbing up the plaza they don’t need to clean it. It was cancelled.”

What????? I had apparently been standing there on a far more uncomfortable emotional channel than the rest of the crowd. WHEW!!! I exhaled and laughed. Then thanked her exuberantly for taking me out of my misery of anticipation.

I thought of those over a dozen at least young people I witnessed upon my arrival so zealously sweeping and scrubbing, even in the midst of a driving rain.

A driving rain, no less. Nature had even taken a hand in shining and buffing up the place to make it clean and tidy for the mayor’s inspection! I couldn't stop smiling.

Maybe during my bathroom pilgrimage and pre-arrest speech to that coffeeshop’s tiny staff the call-off announcement had come down?

I would later read on Democracy Now’s website:

Democracy Now!'s Ryan Devereaux. "At about 6:00 in the morning, a march of union members arrived to Liberty Square, and the reception was one of pure joy, chanting, cheering," Devereaux says. He describes how protesters allocated $3,000 from their treasury to purchase cleaning supplies and then "spent the better part of all day yesterday cleaning this plaza, making sure that it was as clean as possible when the inspectors would arrive, giving the city absolutely no excuse to say that this was a unsanitary place."

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JUAN GONZALEZ: The situation at the Occupy Wall Street encampment is rapidly developing this morning. Thousands answered a call for support and streamed into New York’s Financial District overnight ahead of a, quote, "cleaning" that many feared would actually lead to a [clearing] of Zuccotti Park, where protesters have stayed since September 17th. Well, shortly before 7:00 a.m. this morning, they got word that the feared evacuation had been canceled.

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AMY GOODMAN: Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway issued the following statement about the canceled park cleaning, which reads in part, quote, "Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park—Brookfield Properties—that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation," unquote.
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RYAN DEVEREAUX: That’s correct, Amy. As the sun began to rise over Liberty Plaza this morning, news started to break, started to filter out, that the cleaning operation, that some had viewed as a pretext for an eviction, was going to be delayed. Cheers broke out. People blared horns. The mood was incredibly jubilant and celebratory. It was a tense night here in the park. They were cleaning all day yesterday and all through the night to make sure that this place was spotless when city inspectors came to check it out. And I must say, it is very, very clean. The rain also helped. But the mood here is one of sheer joy. A number of protesters have marched down Broadway in the direction of Wall Street, unclear where they’re headed. But it’s quite the scene here.

The crowd kept getting thicker and thicker around me and there was a lot of picture-taking going on with the increasing daylight. Vans for media crews lined up on the side streets. The sidewalks on both sides filled up to capacity. There were a lot of news people talking into mikes with the protesters in the background.

I managed to bump into the original woman I had met upon arrival over 7 hours earlier. With the red hair, green slicker and still bright smile. She seemed excited and happy. I also spoke to a British fellow next to me, sporting a peace jacket and an edgy and mischievous grin. At one point he mentioned Woodstock. I asked him if he had been there. He responded hotly that he was only in his forties. Oooops.

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.... I headed toward Broadway and the Wall Street subway. I had done right by the occupation for this day at least. My legs were wobbly, my clothing damp still with rain and maybe what they call “flop sweat” awaiting the police violence -- looming in my own mind if not reality there at the very end.

I felt like a fish swimming upstream as the corporate workers and/or new occupation attendees streamed down Broadway toward me.

My activist friend and I had participated in history I knew and I was grateful. Some further exciting events would be happening at Zuccotti the following day and I was determined to go back. Also I wanted to go to an anti-war rally at Times Square Saturday late afternoon. “Wall Street is War Street” was an apt chant I had recently heard.

For now, I simply wanted to shower and sleep. I thought of the occupiers for whom those luxuries may not be available for an uncomfortable while. For the thousandth time that day I felt gratitude and awe about them and what they were sacrificing for America and the world. I saved a little gratitude and awe for myself, too. I may not have been arrested but I proved to myself I was willing to go that distance.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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