Yesterday I went down to the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park for the first time. At the same time as being an education center, cooperative community, and soup kitchen, it’s also one of the most exciting theatrical spectacles that the city has ever seen. Frankly, I find it amazing that this vibrant hub of counter-culture activity is buzzing away right in downtown Manhattan.
I could hardly get down the sidewalk yesterday because of the countless tourists and spectators like myself who were snapping photos and staring slack-jawed at the goings-on. Despite the crowds milling around their tent city, the protesters are highly organized.
There is a schedule of classes and workshops that anyone can attend: my friends went to a class on Non-Violent Communication, a method of interacting that is non-confrontational.
Throughout the encampment, there are signs up instructing people on how to protect their civil rights if they get arrested. I actually learned some things right then and there, that probably every American citizen should know.
The protest signs express countless different viewpoints, but they’re all what I’d call “pro human.”
One young lady I spoke to held a sign that read, “Occupy Innocence.” “It means we’re fighting for the next generation, for the children who don’t have a voice in politics.” Another sign read, ”Debt is Evil.” The guy holding it explained, “Student loans have gotten out of control. Your education costs twice as much because you’re paying the high interest on your loan. Why should education be so expensive?”
I got excited when I found the kitchen area. One helpful cook gave me the lowdown on the food set-up; “We get all of our food through donations. Sometimes people give us groceries, or restaurants donate food. We also get allotted money from the cash contributions, in which case one of us will go food shopping.” Do they need help? Yup. “We serve food to hundreds of people a day. You can come and help prep the food or help serve. You can also bring food. We really need sandwich fixings, like hummus, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. Stuff to make vegetarian sandwiches.” Now that is something I know how to help with.
Right beyond the kitchen is the compost — yes, the compost! — and a greywater filtering system.
I want to help get people talking about all of the ideas that Occupy Wall Street has shone a spotlight on, whether it’s banking, civil rights, or environmental protection. To that end, I’m helping to produce Occupy This, an evening of conversation about the movement that features some exceptional thinkers, including comedian Reggie Watts, monologist Mike Daisey, and Pulitzer-nominated journalist and author Anya Kamenetz. Occupy This happens Monday November 7 at 7 pm at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. It’s a fundraiser for Occupy Wall Street, so come on down and help the folks at Zuccotti Park get their sandwich fixings!
Occupy This, Monday November 7, Brooklyn heights Cinema: 70 Henry Street Brooklyn, NY 11201, 718 596 7070.