Here Be Dragonson November 8, 2011 at 7:01 am
A scruff-bearded guy with a Condemn Police Brutality sign wended through the tightly-packed jungle of tarps and low tents at Occupy Wall Street in New York’s Zuccotti Park. “Bro’, will you march with us against the police precinct?”
Most journalists, as NY Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin pointed out, remained in their warm offices rather than “have to get cold and push through the crowd of protesters.” The few who came out did a hit-and-run to interview an anarchist or a socialist, then high-tailed it.
I was the only journalist who stayed, sleeping on the ground, talking to the protesters. You find out the truth when people don’t know you’re writing about them. It wasn’t, as Breslin noted, that “you find the scene pleasant and moderate. . .a great happy crowd.” It was more like a crime-riddled, open-air frat house, only with odor.
Demonstrators lined up behind the Police Brutality placard. A couple of stoned-out potheads, a six-three transvestite wearing a long blond wig and tights, some anarchists and avowed communists. . . Choosing their Grievance Flavor of The Day from a stack of signs. Legalize Marijuana; Free Wage Slaves; The Youth Will Dig Capitalism’s Grave; Tax the Rich; Redistribute Wealth. . .
Police arrested twenty of the marchers for tying up traffic. Wasn’t that proof of brutality?
I hung around for three days listening to a barrage of complaints and old bromides from Karl Marx and an array of fellow-travelers who had piled up millions of corpses in the Twentieth Century in the name of Social Justice. The specter of Marx crept into the park like smog.
“Some want to reform Capitalism and others, like us, are ready to scrap it.”
The operative term seemed to be “give.” Give us whatever we want, free. We deserve it, even though, as outlined in the Anarchists Manifesto, “work sucks.”
While ubiquitous drums beat (you gotta have drums), a young woman overdosed and was hauled off by police and paramedics. Some guy urinated on the side of a police van. Down at McDonald’s, protesters lined up to use the facilities while harried employees labored to keep them clean. Someone left a magazine on one of the tables with the pages covered in felt marker scrawls: “Please, please help me get some Demerol.”
One guy kept going off like a firecracker, jumping around and waving his fists and dropping the “F” bomb. A shaved-head with a Fu-Manchu got fed up and punched him cold.
Sean, an amiable guy with dreadlocks, thought Oakland and Oklahoma were the same place. A street medic named Ed had done nothing for the past twenty years except bum around trying to “make the world a better place.”
Henry, a junior at the University of Alabama, was being given a semester’s credit for occupying Wall Street in an interdisciplinary program that allowed students to design their own majors. Christine distributed donated comfort items because “we’re family.” Rossi wanted the city to provide portable toilets so “people don’t pee in the streets.”
There were “working groups.” Medical, Food, People of Color, Queer, Design. . .and one for rolling marijuana cigarettes.
The stench of burning marijuana was so thick at night I could hardly breathe. Drug-slurred, senseless conversations continued all night: Whatever happened to Andy Garcia? Obama will give everything to everyone when he’s reelected. . .
Some guy was puking; a girl shuffled past, sobbing (There had been at least one confirmed rape). A boy and girl were hooking up underneath a tarp until she suddenly ran out hurling curses back over her shoulder. Make Out Not War said patches sewn on sleeves.
Throughout the various messages emerged the assertion that everyone would live happily ever after if the assets of the 1 Percent were redistributed. And, well, if we don’t get what we want, we’re going to tear all this down in the name of the people.
A comment by American historian Gene Genovese about the 1960s Weathermen applies to the 99 Percenters who are now infesting cities coast to coast. They could be laughed away, he said, “were it not for the sobering thought that these pitiable young bourgeois will get themselves and some other people killed before the newspapers and TV, who invented them, stop finding them cute.”
During the Crusades, the edges of maps bore the legend Here be Dragons.
Here be Dragons.
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