‘Occupy Wall Street’ matures, strives forward


Letter


We began singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round all the way to jail.” Here we were again. Detained, zip-cuffed, but energized as ever. The only difference? There were 700 of us loaded on three Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses idling on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Three hours earlier, 3,000 to 4,000 people were at Zuccotti Park conversing and eating, preparing for the day’s march. New faces, new signs, new strength. Mini MicChecks began describing what “Occupy Wall Street” represents, “This is a non-violent, peaceful demonstration.” Moments later, the march was underway.

I made my way across the street and walked parallel with “Occupy Wall Street.” Police presence was heavy as usual. After a few photos, I crossed the street in between slow traffic and awestruck pedestrians. I was now in front of the march with other photographers and journalists. If police instigated anything, we were there with our cameras ready.

After a few photos, I joined the march and chanted, “All day, all week. ‘Occupy Wall Street!’” It was amazing. Hundreds of kids, adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, as well as senior citizens marched in solidarity against something they — even if they couldn’t formulate it with Ph.D. precision — knew was fundamentally wrong with our current financial, legal and political systems.

I continued walking with the crowd until we approached an opening near the Brooklyn Bridge. I ran ahead and climbed onto a structure to get a better view. It was beautiful, breathtaking and bold. We were composed of multiple, unique social identities. Socio-economic status was irrelevant, and race, religion and sexual preference were unifying, not divisive, characteristics. I turned my head to the left and saw the march progressing toward the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walkway. I jumped down, mumbled a curse from the pain that shot up my foot and rejoined the march as the chant, “Whose streets? Our streets!” continued.

I ran between people and made my way to the front once again. The crowd was ecstatic, as marching into Brooklyn was something we had not yet done. I climbed onto the divider separating traffic from us. The march extended all the way back, spanning blocks beyond my view. I stepped down and continued forward. Several minutes later, people yelled, “We’re taking the bridge!” I stepped onto the divider again and saw that the crowds who were blocking the street near the bridge’s entrance were being led by the New York City Police Department. As the march’s tail end caught up, people began hopping the divider. After a few photos, I jumped the divider and joined those walking side by side with traffic. “Whose bridge? Our bridge!” was the new chant that echoed. Brooklyn was only a few hundred yards away — until the NYPD met us halfway and formed a human barricade.

Moments later, demonstrators were turned around and zipped one by one.

As more were arrested, the police advanced forward, creating a pit where we could barely move or breathe. A young girl next to me began screaming, “I can’t breathe!” and pushed people to reach and climb the bridge’s fence. She removed the stockings under her jeans, followed by her T-shirt. She was calm now, but the situation was worsening.

After a half hour, the police reached the line I found myself in. The guy smoking a cigarette next to me offered a drag and said, “It’s gonna be a while.” I took a pull, reversed my bookbag onto my chest, and then I was cuffed.

The police were assigned their four prisoners and loaded us on the MTA bus. We began introducing ourselves, asking where we were from. Texas, Manhattan, Nebraska. Wherever we traveled from, our spirits remained high and the energy was even higher. The singing started and the bus made its way. Two hours and three precincts later, we finally arrived at Midtown North Precinct.

After seeing a couple seated in front of me using their phones, I decided to go for mine. The zip-ties were tight, but I didn’t care. I twisted my right hand around, stood up and tried to reach it but couldn’t. I asked the guy in front to give me a hand. He reached into my pocket and handed me my Android. Achievement unlocked. I powered it on, photographed the scene and updated my Twitter before being led inside.

Midtown North was different than last week’s 1 Police Plaza — yes, I was arrested last week as well. It was smaller and much colder. Our arresting officer counted our money, searched us and had us remove our shoelaces and belts. Then three of us we were led into our tiny 4-by-8-foot cell.

“Officer, I need my SPF-40! My lips is chapped!” set the tone for the night. Endless jokes were made from all eight cells. “Officer, please tell the front desk I’ll take my wake-up call around 8 a.m. No earlier, no later.”

But then we returned to our “Occupy Wall Street” roots and held a General Assembly.

A facilitator was chosen, and each cell was given 10 minutes to create and discuss an agenda. Topics included Cell 14’s faulty flushing, prison exercises, toiletry sharing, legal advice, solidarity actions while in prison and post-meal food and drinks. The discussion was fluid, and people asked to be on stack before speaking. Preserving the democratic ideals that have been at the heart of every “Occupy Wall Street” General Assembly was remarkable. Jail had not and would not deter the spirit of “Occupy Wall Street.”

Hours after being falsely promised food and threatened with additional charges if we did not keep our voices down, we were released three to four at a time. I re-laced my shoes, put on my belt, took a couple photos and received three summonses. We walked outside and were greeted with cheers from the National Lawyers Guild and other “Occupy Wall Street” members. We were given water, food and anti-Obama T-shirts. I booted up my phone and began updating as more and more people were released.

I thanked the greeters for everything and made my way back to Zuccotti Park. As I walked, I reflected on the past two weeks. Sept. 17, our first day. Sept. 18, snobby jabs from professors and industry professionals. Mid-week, a lack of mainstream media coverage. Sept. 24, my first arrest. Sept. 25, slanted reporting from the mainstream media. But, despite it all, “Occupy Wall Street” is growing.

As more and more people become aware of this movement, which is independent of right- and left-wing political rhetoric and socioeconomic status, more join. Labor unions are joining “Occupy Wall Street” in New York City, and other U.S. cities are beginning their own “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations. The occupiers have also asked university students to join the largest student walkout this Wednesday, Oct. 5 at noon.

From what I’ve seen, “Occupy Wall Street” is a movement that continues to mature with more organization, funding and public support. Whether the Arab Spring has arrived here in the fall is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that the solidarity, love and message will continue inspiring the world as the demonstrations enter their third week.

Joshua Paul is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in information technology & informatics with a minor in digital communication, information and media.


By Joshua Paul

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