Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Student March - Nov. 17, 2011 4:17 PM

I’ve found some words to describe this march, and my feelings about this march: Unbelievable! Incredible! Amazing! and... Transcendent.

I was in a weird mood, woke up all too early in a strange place, hit the light, saw roaches, and took off. Hit the 19th St. Starbucks and sat down to finish the previous piece, about the re-taking of Zuccotti Park; watched the hours passing, 2:30, 3:30, 4:00... gee, I’m late for that 3 o’clock thing... oh well, guess I’ll mosey on over to Union Square...

Two blocks later walking into a crowd of people, and where are the protesters? The crowd density thickens more and more and widens and widens, filling the plaza as I walk into it and yes, they are protesters, well-dressed protesters, and the cops are... where? There are virtually no cops here... and this thing was widely publicized. Puzzling.

Two minutes after I arrive, the crowd, with a roar and a determined, confident surge forward, marches out of the square. To where? We pour into 16th Street, and I think, brace yourself, and also, if I get arrested? No matter; we are hurtling wildly down the street with the freedom only youth can bring.

We are yelling, we are chanting, we are moving. I can’t tell you the feeling, the freedom I feel as we rush through the streets stopping traffic, yelling feeling completely free, at one with our bodies our minds our selves; with our souls. We know this moment we are one, with no division between our hearts and our actions; for once we are ourselves, with no fear, no apology; for once in our miserable lives. We know also that we have the power, the power to stop traffic, to stop war, to stop whatever we need stopped, and to start again. To begin again.

We want a lot. We want to begin new things that will help people, not hurt people; we want corporations to bow down, to begin again as well. We want people up and police down, power down, money down. All for a long time until we figure out their place in our world, a world of justice. We want a beginning, not the ending big business has spelled out for us.

We’re working hard for it, organizing all these weeks in the face of adversity, rain, injustice, public opprobrium, self-doubt, and a feeling sometimes that we were only 1%, not 99. Where was everyone else when we were protesting? But they came, and continue to come, slowly but surely; we are rounding a corner.

We round many corners as we weave our way through the streets of lower west Manhattan, passing like bees through the field, pollinating every living thing with the message of revolution! (forgive me). Down 5th, across 12th, down Greenwich, fanning out delinquently to occupy many blocks at a fast clip, a moving human music thrumming in the right frequency. Now and again a wild ululation rises as if from a Bedouin tribe, spreading up and down the line, eclipsing the drums that never cease, raising the hairs on our necks. Far below us a vanguard leads, out of sight, behind us we can see no end... this is a huge march. I think of the Iraq War march, but this is spontaneous. We didn’t know what we were getting into, but once we got going...

As we come spilling into 6th avenue, exhausted, famished, exhilarated, we run into yet another parade, which merges with us in one uproarious, exultant moment, which defined for me the essence of this movement: we own the streets, and we own the planet.

And we will do better with it than they did. We promise.
And you know we will keep the promise because you are we.

You (We?) can see a long way down 6th Avenue, all us; pouring down the street like a river, spreading out into a sea. Passing the now closed St. Vincent’s Hospital, it occurs to me that for now we aren’t anyone special; we’re just people marching. We aren’t No. 1, we aren’t New Yorkers; we could be anybody this August afternoon, marching anywhere. We aren’t anyone in particular; we’re anyone anywhere marching for justice in the world, Barcelona, Madrid, Spain; Greece; Angola; Beijing; Morocco, Tunisia, marching, marching for justice.

The police have no idea where we are, and I don’t know if we do either; we just keep moving, changing course and running to keep up with the Olympians in front (they’re doing a great job, actually; they run a block ahead in order to secure an intersection so the rest of us can cross without danger). We traverse literally the entire west side, weaving through Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, and Chinatown (sort of). We encounter one patrolman on the way and he just isn’t interested.

We keep going, through Chinatown and into Foley Square. There we find cops. Lots of cops. They greet us with bullhorns: Stay on the street, stay off the sidewalks. OK. We file into the park, and find our space, listening to a constant harangue by bullhorn; what now? The police are never satisfied. But no- it’s our guy. Listening as he rails on and on, crescendo after crescendo after crescendo, it sounds like a calypso battle, Mighty Toaster vs. etc. but it’s just one guy, our utopian firebrand with a massive, almost cosmic chip on his shoulder; we let him wail on.

I haven’t eaten today and I sit down to consume yesterday’s Halal, cold, soggy, dubious-looking; at least there’s a lot of it. I fill my merciful, forgiving stomach. Looking up, it’s clear we’re being fenced in once again by the police. Even standing on a perch, I can’t see as far as the Square itself. Are all of us here in the park, corralled for immanent arrest? I can’t tell, and a feeling of uncertainty seems to linger... I notice a multicoloredly-attired brass band sneak into the park through the fence. Cool. I see some other interesting-looking people I would like to talk to; I don’t want to leave. I want to stay and cross the bridge but I’m leaving later tonight for Georgia and the SOA protest; I can’t afford to have a delay. Feeling like a wuss, I contemplate a brisk march across to Brooklyn with a quick jaunt back on the A train. Of course. Finally, at one moment I have a definite feeling: it’s time to get out of here. I slowly rise, and leaving, notice a whole new set of police vehicles coming into the square.

The Georgia trip is derailed halfway through, and we return to New York; that’s another story.
I regret to have missed the projections on Verizon’s monolith, the general good cheer of the crowd, and the depth of the commitment of the marchers; but I knew reality this day. Every day can be like this day.


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