I walked up to Liberty Plaza at around 1:30 am to find out I was too late. The barricades were up; the police were everywhere. We couldn’t even get close enough to see inside the park.
People were pissed. They were blindsided–separated from their friends, their homes, their family. Occupy Wall St. runs on camaraderie–on solidarity. And when your supporters are facing an unknown fate in the park that has become the base for a global movement, separation is hard.
And yet, the demonstrators stood strong as their hard work, all their infastructure– the peole’s library, the kitchen, the tents, arts and culture, media, medica–were destroyed. It was the police, once again, who incited the violence and stirred the chaos. I had not been there long at all–maybe ten minutes– when all of a sudden, I was slammed against a building. I looked up and it was cops pushing the guys in front of me, crushing several of us against a building as they shouted to move back. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge gust of pepper spray jet past my head. Luckily, I didn’t get hit, at least hard. My mouth tasted like acetone as my eyes and face started to burn, just enough to make me livid. I was spitting that shit out for hours.
The whole night was chaotic, with ups and downs that swung between frightening, boring, and absolutely uplifting. As the crowd around Zuccotti shrunk and I realized nobody was getting anywhere near the park, I decided to meet up with the march that headed for City Hall. I had no idea how big it had gotten. Communication was complicated.
But I wanted to get there quick. I had a feeling I was missing out. I hopped in a cab to realize I had 3 dollars in my pocket and couldn’t find my debit card. That cab driver turned out to be the first of two to offer me a free, or nearly free, ride. I gave him 3 bucks and he took me to City Hall, where a much larger, or perhaps more centralized, group had convened. Even before the endless march I embarked on took off from there, the cops’ divide-and-conquer strategy had successfully separated us. We were in clusters around the park, then moving clusters around the village, where we paced, often aimlessly, for hours, not wanting to give up, but with no real plan.
Some people shouted to go to Washington Square; others said Union Square; back to Foley Square; Broadway and Pine. Some demonstrators threw trash into the road; others hurried to pick it up. While occupiers debated where to march, police differed in tactics as well. While some shoved people across the street and down on the ground with their hands, others held their batons in both hands to push. Some swung their batons on the heads and backs of demonstrators. Others were defiantly peaceful.
Several times throughout the march, police sprinted down the street to clear people out of the vacant roads (it was 3am). One walked slowly behind, joking with demonstrators about how he wasn’t like the other ones. Another cop pushed me up onto the sidewalk, and when I told him I was trying to get up on there but had no where to go, he apologized immediately, twice, and actually seemed to feel bad. Another cop yelled angrily at a co-worker “let them cross the street!!” as another boy in blue shouted and started to pull out of the intersection.
When we finally made it to Foley Square, where another group had already converged, the peace and organization was an immediate burst of relief. There were human mics and process. Organization yielded results. We communicated and made decisions. And then we became the new, temporary base. Not everybody was happy about that. Some had higher expectations for a commitment to Liberty Plaza.
And while the disagreement continued, familiarity with consensus assisted the stressed-out, sleep-deprived demonstrators in deciding to act with careful planning. We waited, we tweeted, we communicated, and crowds gathered. By 7 am, Foley Square was buzzing. By 8am, we were marching to Canal and Broadway, where an impromptu camp showed that the occupiers were never sleeping. They did not give up; they cannot be dispersed. All physical separations are only temporary, and the cops cannot penetrate the mind. Bloomberg cannot evict a movement.