Doing the Work

New York City.

Last Saturday I found myself sitting cross-legged in the middle of Times Square singing peace songs and wondering to what exactly I was committing. Arrest? Pepper spray? Beating? About half an hour earlier I had arrived at what was being called the Occupy Party, meant to imply the fun kind not the political kind.  And fun it was, music, costumed stilt walkers, families, tourists. Then, for what reason I still do not understand, the NYPD swarmed in on horses and in riot gear with trucks of metal barricades and began penning people in, block by block.

I think the police action took many by surprise because the day before Occupy Wall Street had celebrated a huge victory when Brookfield Inc., owner of Zuccotti Park, and city officials called off the forced evacuation of the park. The Times Square crowd, now pushed into close quarters by the police barriers, reacted with chants of  “this is a peaceful protest” and, as the intimidation increased, “the whole world is watching”.

And so there I sat, not sure how far I was willing to go as a passive resister, but unable to move because I would not be bullied into surrendering my right to peaceful assembly in my own city. I hoped my husband, at his 25th high school reunion that night, would not have to come bail me out. More than that I hoped getting arrested on a Saturday didn’t mean jail until Monday. Fortunately, a legal observer (a volunteer attorney with Occupy Wall Street) spoke with police then relayed the request for us to head out peacefully, which many of us did. Some stayed and about 40 were arrested. Many moved on to Washington Square Park. I went home, admittedly relieved.

It was a huge day for Occupy protesters in Times Square and around the world, and these big days buoy the movement.  They make us feel like we are really doing something. They are filmed, photographed and written about on and in every media outlet. But they can’t all be big days. The real game is sustain and maintain. The daily work. It can be boring. Cleaning, preparing food, meetings, meetings, and meetings. You can see it reflected as journalists and bloggers struggle to find new angles on the story.

They often revert to the favorite topic, the constant drumbeat in the background, and not the one downtown residents have been complaining about for a month. The demand for demands. This is just a distraction. It is not for OWS to come up with the solutions. We don’t all agree on solutions and that is fine.

I believe, perhaps foolishly, that some things can still be accomplished through our existing political system, so I continue to work within that framework as well as OWS. The two are not mutually exclusive. I recently volunteered on the campaign of a candidate running for Civil Court Judge. Today I will be volunteering at a political table at Zuccotti Park. There we have petitions against hydrofracking and expiration of the New York State Millionaires Tax. We have voter registration forms. I choose to work in this way, but I will sit in protest in the middle of Times Square if I have to.

I don’t expect or need others to bend to my point of view or to work in the same way I do. It’s not a choice between individualism and socialism. Work on your own and with the collective. Sustain and maintain. Just show up, and remember, every day is not a headline.

Photos by Hillary Atiyeh.


More articles by:
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rothstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!