Steve Iskovitz, a friend and former Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Cambridge City Council, is unable to publicly share his thoughts on the Occupy Movement and instead suggested that we post those of his friend, Pavlov Katz. I received this post a few days ago, finally got a chance to read it, liked it and decided to start posting Pavlov's thoughts. I am posting them uneditted. His words are his own. You can find all of Steve and Pavlov's posts under the Occupy tag.
It's been a really long time since I last wrote. I left New York for a few weeks in early December, and returned later in the month. The timing wasn't too good, since very little happened around here during the holidays, and there was a lot of frustrating, idle time. One positive thing that did happen during that time, though, was that a lot of people worked on creating a sense of community among us who are staying at one of the churches in the upper west side. I'd originally thought of it as simply a place to sleep, and to simply leave in the morning and start my real day downtown at OWS. But some more insightful people saw it as more than that, as a chance to develop our identity as a group, a subsection of OWS. The original motivation for this might have been simple necessity– to reduce thefts and conflicts, but in any case, it's turned into an actual community, an opportunity to meet new people and work together constructively.
Otherwise, things were scattered and thin through late December, until New Year's eve. Earlier in the evening a few of us went around town, happy to get away from the uninspired atmosphere, but came back to the area and walked into Zucotti Park around 10 pm. Several hundred people were there, a low-level party. More people arrived steadily, and the absurdity of the situation became embarrassingly apparent. Here we are, 300, 400, 500 of us, in a park we lived in, a park from which we changed world history, until a mere six ago. And now we're surrounded by standing metal barricades which enforce arbitrary, stupid rules which are arguably illegal. Say, what about these standing metal barricades, anyway?
Eventually a few of the more daring–or bored, or angry, or crazy, who knows?– among us grabbed one of those barricades, detached it from the others, and pulled it away, dropping it ten feet away. Some private security guards contracted out by Brookfield Properties ran out and pulled the barricade back and re-attached it. A few minutes later on the other side of the park, someone pulls another, with the same result. Each time a barricade is removed, a crowd gathers and cheers. Some security guards appear ready to fight over them. As they grab the barricades back and swear angrily, it becomes obvious these people are not trained for this sort of thing. Soon enough the police pull them back and do the work themselves.
After a while a pioneering sort takes a barricade, but instead of dropping it in a random spot, drags it through the crowd into the middle of the park. Maybe no-one had done it before because they were afraid of accidentally hitting someone with it, but with some yelling the path cleared. Well, the police were not about to wade through the crowd to retrieve it, so they let it go. A few minutes later, someone dragged another to the middle. Then another. Soon enoughit simply became the thing to do. A sociologist would have loved it. I actually felt awkward and out of place because I wasn't dragging barricades. The ten-foot-long metal structures began piling up. Soon enough there were so many gaps that anyone could enter or leave the park easily. Someone climbed atop the barricade pile, then another. Soon a crowd of five or ten people stood on top of the five-foot mound, jumping rhythmically on it like a trampoline sort of. Drummers arrived. People were chanting, drumming, dancing, and bouncing on barricades. "Whose year? Our year!" "Occupy 2012!" More people arrived and the crowd became so thick the police seemed to disappear in the background. Someone set up a projector in the park and beamed images onto a building across the street. And that's how we brought in the new year.
It was indescribably fun. The numbers were on our side. We had a huge number of people, just as the police ranks must have been spread thin. I assume there were too many needed in Times Square and other areas. Bloomberg's "private army" (his term) couldn't spare one or two hundred troops, as they might have otherwise. So, we had our moment. The best thing about it was it was totally organic. I doubt anyone had planned it, and it didn't matter anyway. Through sheer inspiration and a little trial and error, we collectively hit upon a winning strategy, carried it out, and celebrated, all at the same time. This was the spirit that started OWS in the first place, and carried it through those early weeks in the park. Yes, there were working groups and on-line discussions even back then, but there was the crowd, the face-to-face contact, the infectious enthusiasm. Since the November 15th raid a lot of that had been lost. Through all our attempts to re-organize, we'd lost a lot of the human contact, so the New Year's party in the park reminded all of us who we are and what we're capable of. We broke the rules, showed the world we're still here, and hurt nobody in the process (and only a few of us were bruised by police).
Not long after midnight, though, the magic began to dissipate, and people decided to keep the energy going with a march around town. I bailed out after a few blocks, not seeing the point. Later, around Union Square, I think, nearly all the marchers left were detained and cuffed. Sixty arrested, some were simply detained and never processed, and all were out by early morning.
Over the next few days, sober reality began to settle in. I found out that Obama signed the bill on the 31st. Now anyone can be picked up for any reason, or for no reason, and held indefinitely. 2012 begins with the realization that the US is now under a state of martial law. Constitution, Bill of Rights, R.I.P.
There's an expression that says something like: "Don't sit and wait for the storm to end. Learn to dance in the rain." I'm starting to figure this out. There is an element of confusion nearly everywhere in OWS. About half of OWS meetings seem to include occasional shouting matches. How many arguments and potential fights have I helped defuse? We get visitors from other Occupy sites. They're surprised at all the conflict. The other night at a housing meeting, one such visitor said, "The rest of us around the country look up to you and try to emulate you. But you act like a bunch of children." Others say similar things.
I think a lot about this. Why is the New York occupation so much more chaotic than the others? Probably a number of reasons: We're a lot bigger. This is New York City, everything is more charged and intense here. The fact that we're a center of attentionn and that we're more dysfunctional seems like a contradiction, but in a way it makes sense. Things that happen here are more important, so people feel more strongly about everything. Also, we might attract people who want to be in the spotlight, whereas an Occupy site in the west or midwest might draw more quiet people who just want to work.
What I'm coming to realize and accept is that nearly every problem that could exist here does. I could write a book about the problems of nearly any group here. A bad decision here, someone who talks and doesn't listen there, a violent threat over nothing, an important task completely overlooked, young people over-relying on technology for communication, I could go on all day listing things.
I wonder, maybe every exciting, dynamic, important movement in history is filled with seemingly endless, ridiculous mistakes and problems. At other times I wonder if we're just a microcosm of American society, that we as a nation have become so detached from reality and common sense that we're incapable of correcting ourselves, beyond the point of no return. Or maybe I'd find the same problems anywhere. I don't know. In any case, I stay here because with all the problems, people still care, and most of are here for ideals, and with all the yelling and confusion and mistakes, we still manage to get things done, even in the winter, even without our park, and even with our money running out.
Thursday night a few of us were on the A train when five cops got on. They stood together for a few stops, then took up positions at different doors for a few more stops. They got off the train right behind us and seemed to follow us a way down the platform. It wasn't until we started up the steps that we noticed they were gone…I don't think they knew we were OWS. I think it's more likely that we looked freaky or poor, that we didn't fit in with Bloomberg and Company's vision of the new New York, and were letting us know.
Oh, one more thing: Police raided the Global Revolution building in Brooklyn a few days ago. Apparently they were the first group to livestream us. Someone I know was arrested for taking pictures of cops badge numbers. They're trying to take our "eyes" away. Okay, unfortunately I don't have a quite place to edit this, so I'll just send it out as is. Til later,