What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, May 11, 2012


MAY DAY!!!  What a great day!  This post may take a while or a few because of simply how dense the day was with stuff!

6am the alarm went of and of course it was pissing buckets outside.  I will be the first one to say that I immediately thought, sh*t, this is gonna suck!  But I've gotta suck it up and get it done!  So I dragged - literally - dragged myself out of bed and got some things moving forward.  We got to Bryant Park for 8.  Yes, believe it or not, I even think I was a couple minutes early.  There were several hundred people there already - which is saying a lot in OWS land!

We all milled around for a bit, catching up, talking to people about their plans and thoughts for the day.  that didn't last long though as we started organizing for the morning's pickets.  We had a whole list of different locations and companies for Occupy and the coalition to picket.  Our affinity group (details to follow) ended up "bottom lining" the Citigroup picket up at their headquarters on Park Ave.  We headed out at about 8:30, marching, chanting, and even a bit of dancing.

Our affinity group was made up of two groups of Occupiers that have a lot of overlapping members.  The Think Tank and the Occupy Town Square crew.  Th purpose of an affinity group for a day like this is really about safety.  Obviously everyone hears loads about police brutality and violence at Occupy events.  So most people in Occupy were trying to get together with similar minded people that had similar tolerances for  safety and risk.  Our affinity group was made up mostly of intellectual types not so keen on police run-ins.  It actually worked fabulously.  We set things up before hand to have a celly service that we were all connected on by phone.  When one person wrote something, everyone on the list received it.  It allowed us all to stay informed and connected on where we all were and what we were doing.  We all had "buddy's" that we were responsible for and contact info should something happen.  Sad I must say that so much safety precautions must go into a day of free speech and protesting.

But anyway, back to the day of.  Or maybe we should start this part with the day prior when a small group of our affinity group got together and made "puppets" for the march. 

The obvious point was that a heart plus a brain were much greater than money!  We carried them around with us all day! Including the trip up to Citigroup.

The Citigroup picket was another part of the #99 pickets that I've written about before and came with some pretty good chants and information.  Citigroup received a 2 million dollar payout from NYC to add jobs, yet their NYC workforce has shrunk by 67% since.  The company also made 10 billion dollars in profits last year, yet has paid no real taxes in over three years.  Yeah, it's funny, even the cops "monitoring" us were smirking and looking befuddled.  I'm sure they pay their taxes.  The most interesting part of the picket though was just about at the end when some thread bare business guy in a suit started shouting - very angrily -  that we should all just get a job and give it up already!  We of course hear this ignorant rant all the time - as if the amount of 'lazy' people in America just doubled in 2008 overnight.  So I clicked into "lets debate trash talkin football player protestor mode" and went and gave him the business: 
"We all actually have jobs.  I have two right now, some of us three."
"So go to work and stop complaining. It's 10 o'clock in the morning "
"Not everyone works a 9-5 Monday thru Friday!" 

"So get a job at Duane Reed," veins popping out of his seemingly uncomprehending head.
"Why do I need another shitty minimum wage job, when I've already got one?"
"Go to school then, learn something!"
"I already have almost two masters degrees!"
"Well go get a job at Duane Reed then!" He fumbled out, subconsciously conceding that he was really at a loss in this one.

He really didn't know what he was talking about or what to say.  He was too emotional and angry.  People like this baffle me.  They are so full of anger and disgust.  It's almost as if because they think that because they are working and absolutely miserable that everyone else should just accept that working is miserable and do what he does.  It's as if he never stopped to think that perhaps another world is possible.  That maybe if he stopped wasting his free time distracting himself from how unhappy he was and instead spoke up about it, that it might change!  And yes, I'm speculating completely and to a fault!  But the body language and true anger was something we've seen so much before.  People that lash out, angry at their situations, but unable to come to terms with it, to understand and place the sources of their anger.  So they lash out at "dirty hippies" in a park or whatever else the vilified are labeled as. 


So it's now August and I'm jsut gonna give this a quick sumation (hopefully).

From Citigroup we headed back to Bryant park, I lost the crew though as a woman that saw me get after the business guy wanted an interview.  We missed paths as they apparently stopped to disrupt traffic at some point.  But yeah, We got back to the park and started a think tank.  I can't remember what it was on right now.  I left early to get invovled in the immigrant workers justice working group tour of the biggest restaurant worker expropirators.  It was amazing, the whole sidewalk by the capital grill was shut down hundreds of people on both sides.  Then on to Chipotle.  Was incredible.

We ended up back in Bryant park again and then down to Union Square with the "Gituarmy" carrying our puppets.  I'm not big on this kind of stuff, but ended up getting in on the puppet action as its a long walk and arms get tired.  There were all sorts of estimates of people on the day and with this march, but by a couple blocks south of Bryant park the march took the whole Avenue.  Thousands of people.  We ended up down at Union Square where we were joined by the unions.  They had an event going on with speakers and we all just milled about.  As the evening went on their was a planned march downtown to Battery park.  I just remember being at Canal street and hearing that people were still in Union Square and hadn't left yet, while the front of the march was almost downtown.  We got down to the Wall st. area and hour after the speaches happened.  There was an estimate of 100,000 people there that I heard.  Probably generous, but there were a lot of people and it couldn't have been much less. 

From there we spilled into some park down on the other side of the ferry terminal from battery park and had a giant general assembly.  The park closed at ten and there was discussion of staying and trying to "take it", of course the huge police presence seemed to dissuade a lot of people.  Most marched out around ten into the zigg-zags of lower Manhattan.  Tthere was a lot of police violence reported, but I mostly steered clear.

All in all, it was months ago now, so I'm not giving you much to work with here.  Just trying to get posted what I had.  But bottom line was that it was an incredible day.  Unprecedented in its collaboration of unions, NGOs, Occupiers and citizens.  Even if it didn't achieve the absurd goal of a general strike (duh).  Tens of thousands of people in the streets, yet virtually NO media coverage.  The NY Times coverage was actually so obviously comical as to convince me of the media/powers that be conspiracy once and for all.  Buried on page A29 or something they talk of 35 occupy arrests and snarled traffic and mentioned a few hundred people and nothing else.  I've written about it somewhere, I'll try to find it and get it up here.  Sorry, this is so late, so poor, and with no analysis, but so is life right now!!

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