Report from the occupation
'One of the most beautiful moments of my generation'
Published: October 12, 2011
A general assembly is held twice each day on the north side of the park, where at times nearly a thousand people congregate to hear the day's announcements and subcommittee reports.
With an almost eerie effect, the assembly is conducted (as is every announcement throughout the day) using a system referred to as the "people's microphone" — a snail-paced, call-and-response tactic (generally receiving two responses) — used to share thoughts and information without the benefit of loudspeakers. New York City requires an "amplified sound" permit, which OWS doesn't have, so they've found a way to communicate to the crowds without breaking the law.
The charming and endearing technique starts off with a verbal exchange where one individual shouts:
The crowd then immediately delivers an overwhelming response in unison: "MIC CHECK!"
The poetry assembly held at night illustrates the emotional power the people's microphone actually holds.
With 30 or so people huddled around next to the library, a poet will get up on the stage (four or so steps up the staircase), check the mic, and then command the full attention of the audience members who shout back every line of every piece producing a majestic result. Some poets come with previously written work, while others deliver interpretations of their time spent in the Liberty Park Community. As one poet said (through the "people's microphone"):
"We will/WE WILL!"
"A new/A NEW!"
"Language together/LANGUAGE TOGETHER!"
Concerns about the park being maintained have been a focal point of OWS discussion, and a point of concern for the owners of Zuccotti Park — Brookfield Office Properties. But the sanitation committee does daily sweeps of the park, scrubbing away graffiti and feverishly working to prevent people from trampling flowerbeds.
The "comfort center" allows those willing to brave the elements to spend a night here.
Quiet time begins at 10 p.m., and a sea of cocoons — constructed from donated pillows, blankets, tarps, sleeping bags and even tinfoil — begins to form in the center and slowly creeps toward the outskirts of the park. At sunrise hundreds begin to wake up red-eyed but ready for the coming day.
The kitchen is stocked with donuts, apples, bagels, watermelon, pasta, bread, peanut butter, pizza — all donated from various supporters. The perishables get delegated to certain sections of the kitchen while hot, prepared food immediately gets set out on the buffet-style line to eat.
In the center of the park, a photographer shoots portraits against a white-curtained backdrop to document the experiences of those occupying Liberty Park.
After their Friday classes let out, Andrew Rodgers and Ann Crowley, who have 11 and 25 years respectively on the job at Detroit Public Schools, hopped in the car and drove overnight to New York City, arriving here the following morning. They brought sleeping bags in case they felt inspired to stay the night.
When I ran across them, before a march that was set to move uptown into Washington Square Park for a general assembly meeting, they stood among the group of protesters along Broadway Avenue, holding signs of support.
"It's an important movement, to be a part of the political conversation," Rodgers said. "I think we all need to start taking part in the conversation. The rich people aren't suffering; we're suffering."
Both were in awe of the level of organization at Liberty Park.
"They have to inhabit this place. It can't stop," Crowley said. "It needs to be an ongoing endeavor. [The media] are criticizing the narrative, but where do you start? This is taking it back and it's about time."
With other "Occupy" movements stating to crop up across the country (Detroit's group is set to kick off later this month), I found it hard to deny that this isn't the beginning of something huge. OWS has improvised a community on the doorstep of Wall Street and sent a message to the corporations inside: Just play by the rules the way they were made.
At the very least, OWS will be remembered as the crack in the mold of disparity that finally got people talking. A decentralized group has created a centralized hub of hope, with the rallying cry of "We are the 99 percent!" How that has been disregarded by media is a story in and of itself.
Lecea, who plans on staying at Liberty Park through November, will go back on the job hunt outside of Michigan when he leaves. With New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg now saying demonstrators can stay as long as they want, but winter weather is approaching fast, and Lecea believes some people will come prepared to beat the frigid cold regardless of leniency on adequate equipment to sleep comfortably.
"If they allow tents, then some people will definitely try to stay through the New Year," he said.
The end doesn't appear to be anywhere near.
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