#N17: A Life in the Day
By Joel Chaffee at Nov 18, 2011
There were maybe two hundred people at Liberty Park when we arrived at 7, and several hundred amassing at the Red Cube across Broadway. We found a Starbucks to take care of business and returned to the Cube. Found our third friend in the crowd, which took some twenty minutes of shuffling in the dense crowd - a theme for the day.
A 7am Resist Austerity! march was scheduled from Zucotti to the NYSE. Two large contingents left, behind a black flag and a green flag. Black left first. The green coiled around the Cube and then we too left, down Cedar St.
At Pine and Nassau we sat down in the intersection until we realized that we were sitting in the intersection. Not wanting to be arrested we moved to the sidewalk. Some people stayed and were arrested.
The crowd is larger than we had anticipated. Lots of young people, but middle aged and older people, as well. Sidewalks are crowded. People trying to get to work are mostly understanding, though frustrated. One humorous woman says, "You guys are about freedom of speech, right? How about, Get the fuck out of the way!" A calm gentleman nearby kindly tells her, "There's no work today."
Chants of "All day! All week! Occupy Wall Street!" And "We are the 99%!"
We are filling the streets and sidewalks. Police line up behind the barricades, some holding their batons. We sing "Happy Anniversary" to Occupy Wall Street and some police laugh. We sing "The Star Spangled Banner."
The Philadelphia cop, Ray Lewis, is arrested and everyone cheers him.
Of course there are cameras everywhere. Some people climb up to the ledges of the buildings for better views. I think about how school had tried to train everything going on here out of me. There are two helicopters high overhead. We wave. People watch the street from windows in the buildings above. One floor seems to be a gym, or else a very relaxed office. The calm gentlemen calls to them that "There's no work today." I imagine Alexander Hamilton inside the offices we are surrounding, cringing at the sound of the Great Beast.
Gothamist reports that Occupy Wall Street has closed four intersections around the NYSE.
A strange young man, stocky and with large headphones on, shoves his way through the crowded sidewalk seemingly intent on disrupting as many people as possible. He gets shoved back by one protester before a cop steps onto the sidewalk and grabs the boy's shoulder, telling him to calm down. They let him leave the way he came. Someone reminds everyone that even if someone shoves you never to shove them back.
The police are allowing people to walk on the streets amidst them. There are many people on their way to work. Protesters often call out to clear the way for a pedestrian coming through.
To our backs is a large window looking into a very elegant restaurant. The juxtapositions on display are endless, so after the first joke is cracked no one bothers to make another.
The four corners of the intersection begin speaking with each other, Mic Check'ing. Attempts to get four rounds of Mic Check going seem impossible, but the failure is good natured and Mic Checks break out all over the place.
Eventually we march back to Zuccotti, where people mill around the park while others break off for who knows where. We decide to find Excedrin and food.
At Union Square there are thousands of students who are on strike for the day. Also lots of labor people. The OWS Library is on display, all 30 tattered books. It's a good thing manuscripts don't burn, as they say.
The Union Square group breaks off into several marches. We join one that heads south on Broadway and then west on 15th Street. Police allow the crowd to take the streets. The march continues along 15th. Lots of pedestrians cheering and joyful. Police on every street corner. At 6th Avenue the march heads north, which is confusing to us as we thought the aim was Foley Square, south.
As we walk south we meet other pedestrians along the way heading to Foley Square. Some you can tell are going, others ask for directions. Washington Square Park is mostly empty. Somewhere along Broadway, around Soho, we catch up with a march in-progress - or else just a bunch of us who were heading to Foley. In any case the police believe it is a march and try to direct it here and there.
At Foley there are thousands of people. We are trying to meet three other people there, but cannot find them. The rally at Foley and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge are permitted events. Cops are everywhere.
Music from the MCs on stage. Hip-hop songs. A capella songs from OWS groups. Some children pump the crowd as the march out of Foley begins.
The crowd is 32,000 (according to police) so of course it takes forever to get things going. Feet are cold to numbness and anxious to march.
The march along Broadway is early enough that there are still many people working as we pass. Bank employees record us with their phones. Some smiles. For the most part the crowd is full of good-natured people happy to be there, which is infectious.
At City Hall Park we wait to meet a fifth friend who is in the back half of the crowd. Someone rushes up to us and Mic Checks that the police have stopped the back half of the demonstration at Chambers St. People head over and shout "Let them through! Let them through!" They are let through. Huge cheering.
The march over the bridge is wonderful and freezing. Many car horns honking in solidarity. The crowd breaks into smaller groups on the cold trip across the bridge, various chants going. On the Brooklyn Side police are congratulated for not having on riot gear.
Groups returning from the Brooklyn side remind everyone, "We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!" Shining onto the hideous Verizon building: "Occupy earth." "We are winning."