Discontent and renewal at Occupy Wall Street

Andrew Pilgrim
senior from Murray


Nolan Phillips
non-student from Benton, Ky.

It shouldn’t be so damn cold I remember thinking. Kentucky stays a decent temp all the way through October, for God’s sake! I blurted that one out. My accomplice, startled, jumped from his waking dream he was experiencing while coming down the turnpike. Naugrim had at least learned not to jerk the car off the road. We had just arrived in New York City for our first day of protest coverage and misadventure. We were exhausted and slightly delusional. We did manage to find parking for the day. Once there we were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the Wikileaks crew, who were in turn followed by a small group of Guy Fawkes, all purportedly members of the online hacker collective Anonymous, “The Defenders and Champions of a Free Internet”.

There were people everywhere. Literally everywhere. They were on the streets, on scaffolds in the sky, cleaning fountains in the water, in every nook, crevice, doorway, alley way and sky way I could find. People everywhere. “Welcome to New York, New York, ya redneck yokel” kept running through my head. It’s understandable now why people told me to come home safe. Nothing to do with safe at all. The emphasis is on the come home part. If a person wanted they could find work, shelter and food in that city in seemingly no time. New York, the final destination for runaways.

When we arrived at Zuccotti Park, also known as Liberty Plaza, also known as Lower Manhattan’s financial district, my heart sank. Roughly 700 to 1,000 people had set up a makeshift camp (no tents allowed), and were marching around in a big circle chanting various proletariat catch phrases, waving signs and generally just seeming to be more of a nuisance than an actual movement. We had driven roughly 17 hours for a hippy party. There was a giant drum circle and 18 to 55 year olds everywhere I turned. The old Dead-Heads seemed to be teaching their young how to “fight the power” as it were. The problem being, they’d never clearly defined who they were against, or what they wanted. It was a party. And it was a heart break. We talked to a few people here and there, asked the locals their opinions and eventually were just so disgusted with the whole thing that we went on to tour NYC.

Neither of us should have been healthy enough to continue on. To be frank, we weren’t. We were destroyed, and unhappy. I have never been as worn out and destroyed in all my life. By the time we got back to our car, and realized we were without a place to stay it was midnight. Our friends who were suppose to meet us, show us around and put us up for the night never showed. In a wild-eyed moment of insanity, we drug a way to wake ourselves up out the reserves and drove across the river to Jersey.

“We fuckin’ made it!” Naugrim exclaimed. In the rain, weary-eyed and half-asleep, while dozing off at the wheel, he had found a Loves Truck Stop. So we slept in the car there.

The temperature dropped so low it was either start using the clothing as a blanket or we run the car all night with the heater on. I opened my bag to find, sitting atop my clothes, what was a sense of cliche, humor and possibly a reaffirmation in some sort of greater power. Wadded up and covered in pro-wrestlers autographs was my hand stitched, heavy cloth American Flag. I wadded my wool coat into a pillow, and covered up under Old Glory for the night.

Showered and regrouped, Naugrim and I headed back toward the city. We had to see if this was really the bust and nightmare from Friday or if perhaps we just came at the wrong point and that maybe, just maybe, something was really brewing in NYC.

We arrived much earlier, to a city freshly showered from the night before. Puddles and people everywhere, but a generally cleaner feeling all around. It’s amazing how much a shower can change a persons outlook. It might also be attributed to getting our heads on straight after hours of driving.

We were constantly in communication with the people around us – talking to merchants in the shops, the near homeless man we met on the bus, who strongly recommends “The Steve Wilkos Show,” devoting your life to God (the meek are set to inherit the earth), and that we try to ride the buses everywhere we could so as to save the soles of our shoes. We rushed back to Zuccotti Park arriving just after the march had left the Park. The numbers at the park this time were already bigger and much better organized and motivated. There were people of every class and creed out there. Tea Partiers, Democrats, union workers, educators, still a few hippies, college students, etc.

A little excited just at the numbers I asked around for directions as to their route, set to head towards Wall Street then back up through Broadway, eventually. Suddenly, I began getting texts from a contact in Iowa, who was watching on the live stream broadcast online, at Global Revolution. She warned that the protest had been diverted, and was now heading toward the Brooklyn Bridge.

“Several protesters arrested on the march for sign violations.” The texts kept rolling in, in a similar fashion.

“Police leading protesters into the street to cross the bridge.”

We took off running towards the bridge as quick as we could get through traffic. By the time we got there police were cutting protesters off from one another, forming a wall between the 2,000 on the bridge, and the 500 to 800 at its feet. Understand, the Brooklyn Bridge had been closed down all day that day. The protesters did not stop traffic for marching across the bridge. The Brooklyn side of the bridge was covered in police. They had traffic cut off in advance all day. During this situation the crowd, with no way to turn and cops on either end, grew louder.

“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”

“End the Fed!”

“Who’s police? Our police!”

“Who’s city? Our city!”

On and on they went. At the foot of the bridge, the other people gathered, chanting and yelling at the police for setting up their co-occupants. The police stood, smiled and filmed while blocking off the escape.

So we climbed a statue of the Empire State Building, hung an American Flag and joined in. Yelling police, whose pensions are being cut, yet are still defending those screwing them, felt cathartic. I don’t want to tell anyone what side to take. I’m not going to try to explain the fragmented, disjointed system and beliefs the protest upholds and represents. But it’s a democracy out there with them. Whatever the hell they’re doing, or after, it’s a democracy and every one of them gets a say. Go see it for yourself. Go decide for yourself. And never let anyone tell you to do otherwise.