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Wall Street Talk

Surrounding the Bull

by LINH DINH

Hundreds of cops, some on horsebacks, are now protecting Wall Street 24 hours a day. At Bowling Green Park, they have also blocked access to the Merryll Lynch bull. To be warmed by the methane gas of a healthy market, no doubt, a group of New York’s Finest gathered near their sacred bovine’s digestive exit, just below its up-lashing tail.

“They’re all guarding the bull’s asshole,” I said to this middle aged black woman standing across the street.

“Yeah, they’re all guarding the bullshit!” She laughed.

It was nearly 10PM. At Wall Street and Broadway, I met a young protester from Austin. Twenty five years old, he’d been sleeping at Liberty Park since September 24th.

“What do you guys do when it rains?”

“We just have to deal with it. We sleep under tarps.”

“Man, that must really suck. You probably can’t sleep too well.”

“Yeah, sometimes I get up and my body aches all over, but we just have to deal with it. We’re not leaving.”

“And it’s fucked up they won’t let you guys use tents.”

“Yeah, it’s fucked up, so we’ll have to set up tents at some point. It’s getting colder, and we can’t just sleep like that if it snows.”

“You think the cops will come in and get rid of the tents?”

“I don’t know. Who knows.”

“You know in California and other places, cops have slashed tents of the homeless.”

“Yeah, I know, but the whole world is watching us now, so if they do that, the whole world will see it.”

I asked him about demands, about how everyone is demanding that these protesters make demands, but so far, nothing.

“We did put out a Declaration.”

“Yeah, but that’s a long list of grievances, without concrete demands.”

“Well, we don’t want to narrow it down to a few demands, because each community has issues that it wants to address. This protest is spreading, and a list of demands from here can’t address all the problems.”

“But what about educating the public? If you can highlight a few key issues, then the public will have a clearer idea of what is wrong?”

“I hear you, but there are already people doing that. Writers. They may not be in our group but they are sympathetic to us. The explanations are out there. There are already people explaining what is wrong.”

Naomi Klein was scheduled to speak at Liberty Park the next day, as a matter of fact, so he was right. All the explanations are out there, if only people would pay attention. I then asked about them having no leaders or spokesmen.

“We don’t want to designate a spokesman or a leader, because we don’t want all the pressure to be on him. We don’t want him to be harassed by the FBI, for the FBI to tap his phone. Look at all the protest leaders from the past. Look at how they killed Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. If they want to tap the phone, they’ll have to tap all of our phones.”

“Yeah, but some people are better at speaking than others, so these will emerge naturally, right?”

“You’re right, and they already have, but we can all talk. We all know what to say. We’ve taught each other what to say.”

He believed the country was solidly behind this protest, and support will only grow, “People love us, man. They send us all kinds of stuff. They send us money. People love us.”

Speaking of solidarity, I wouldn’t have been able to observe the protest if a dozen readers of my blog hadn’t sent me hundreds of dollars this past month alone. Part of this cash was used to fix my broken camera. With a poisoned media, untrained citizens must anoint themselves journalists.

Though protesters have released no official demands, many of the signs at Liberty Park are clear enough, “END THE WARS,” “END THE FED” and “TAX THE RICH.” These demands are also shouted out by protesters on their marches.

And the marches are getting larger and more representative. Everyone is here, basically, from tiny children to senior citizens, egg heads to hard hats, pacifists to war veterans. Black, white, yellow or brown, they are all here shouting in unison, “Wall street got bailed out. We got sold out,” “Tax the rich! End the wars!” and, “This is what real democracy looks like!”

About the only types who aren’t marching are Wall Street suits and, well, cops. It is sad to see so many policemen protecting the very people who have also ripped them off. At a Starbucks near the New York Stock Exchange, some cops have even become bouncers.

Running around trying to find a place to charge my camera batteries, I saw a Starbucks, but its entrance was blocked by a police-manned barricade spanning the street. I approached, “Can I go in?”

“I need to see an ID,” a cop said.

In the new America, one needs to show an ID just to enter a Starbucks? I pulled out my long expired Virginia driver’s license.

“So you’re not from New York?” The cop interrogated.

“No, I live in Philadelphia.”

“What are you doing in New York?”

“Just visiting.”

“Why did you come up?”

“Just to hang out in the city. No reason.”

This cop gave me a long hard look. I had neither tattoos nor piercings, and my hair and clothes were more or less neutral. I mean, I don’t dress to make a statement, and I don’t like to wear slogans on my person. He gave me a long, hard look, and I could tell that he didn’t quite believe I wasn’t a trouble maker of some kind, or maybe even a terrorist ready to plant a robust pipe bomb inside Ben Bernanke’s lying quiche hole, but goddamn it, this was only a stupid Starbucks, though it happened to be within sight of the New York Stock Exchange.

Had the cops moved their barrier five feet back, the public could enter this business unmolested, but they couldn’t do that, you see, because that would inconvenience the Wall Street denizens arriving from the other direction.

So there you have it. While 99% of us are losing our present and future, as we’re harassed and groped and sleep in the rain, in protest or for good, as some of us are sent overseas to get our nuts blown off, a banker must never be made uncomfortable, even when his errand, or, rather, even when his secretary’s errand is nothing more than to grab her (and the cops’) boss a frappucino.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.