The park is located in downtown Manhattan about two blocks south of the World Trade Center construction site. The demonstration is going into its second month. The passing crowds are large because of the 9/11 activities and the construction. The park is small and privately own, hence the lack of a curfew. It is indeed occupied.
There are paths through the park. Tarps and tents cover most of the open spaces. Commercialism is present with street vendors selling food, badges, and other souvenirs. The official newspaper is free. There is a press desk. There is a kitchen and plenty of cleaning supplies.
The group is definitely heterogeneous. There are gay, straight, hippy, preppy, executive, middle class, poor, upperclass folks. There is a leadership committee made up of serious people of all ages and who are listening and forming a political platform. But all ideas are represented here. There is no cohesive demand. The conversation ranges from fracking, climate change, and jobs to just quality of life and peace on earth. You could at one and the same time be for or against the movement.
But there are people from all walks of life as well as many, many foreign visitors. The atmosphere is peaceful. There is clearly and encampment. People are sleeping in the midst of incessant drum beating. There are chanting yogis and musical players, and a group of clowns. A group of three girls from San Francisco showed up and tried to hustle tips until they were quietly discouraged.
The police have surrounded the area ringing it with cars, vans, officers, and auxiliary police. There was a buzz accompanied by a constant drum line. It was a cacophony of voices and opinions blending in discussion, education, and debate. The First Amendment, religion, ideas, and the American flag were present everywhere.
An open outdoor kitchen set up and fed the crowd. No one asked if you were a protester. You could just line up and get something to eat.
Many people stayed behind the barriers afraid to walk into the park. Others folks mingled. Photographers were everywhere. Walking around you had the feeling it was the hippie movement of the ‘60’s reincarnated. But this time there were definitely Main Street folks in abundance. The hippies are more colorful, but veterans, professionals, and students were in attendance.
There is no agenda, no manifesto, and no political platform. This is a grass roots organization. An encampment was by the highway US 84 in Hartford and in so many other cities now attest to growing dissatisfaction and a wish to be heard. It is the Arab spring come to America. My concern is that the group needs to focus. They will need leadership and a statement. I hope that this will be formulated before the enthusiasm fades. For once politicians of the status quo need to reassess their positions. As Albert Finney put it in the movie Network, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”