Reflections on Occupy I

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2011 . . . wow! It has been a barn burner, what with the disagreements between the top one percent and that bottom ninety-nine. At NPQ, where our intention is to promote active democracy, we have been excited by what is obviously a major resurgence of citizen action. The fact that it has taken place in an explicitly connected yet loose global network is more than fascinating. There is a breaking away from tradition here that reflects an era change in no uncertain terms.

Exhibit one: the occupy movement.

Last night I went to the Occupy Boston site in Dewey Square-right across Atlantic Avenue from the looming Federal Reserve building and historic South Station. The community of tents was already largely dismantled by the time I got there, at around 11:00 p.m. in preparation for a visit by the police. Earlier that day, the mayor had warned the protestors that they had to clear out by midnight or be ready to be cleared forcibly. A subsequent meeting of the general assembly had, according to various reports, resulted in some wanting to stay and be arrested if necessary but hold their ground and some not wanting to stage that confrontation and some reportedly suggesting a dance party – a celebration. So some had packed up and some had not but it did not seem that people had left.

By 11:20, I noticed that a steady stream of people, most of whom were young, had begun to join those present, walking in from every direction, and by midnight the crowd had swelled to what the press reports was 1,000. I believe that it was around twice that. Eventually, people spilled over to the other side of Atlantic Avenue. Trucks, cars, and taxis made their way down the middle of the street expressing any variety of opinions. One young tired looking man had set himself up so that whenever someone yelled, “Get a job!” he yelled back “I have two!”

The sounds of collective singing and chanting erupted spontaneously from the crowd first in one location and then another. A couple appeared to be getting married. I overheard many snippets of conversation-about the economy and politics and war, as people carefully explained their opinions to one another. A large group walked into the crowd carrying white flags declaring them to be Veterans for Peace. A man leaned out of his truck aggressively singing “God Bless America.”

Few police were on site, and the crowd was large and calm but almost joyful.. A band wound in and out of the crowd, and a massive statue of Gandhi was lugged here and there.

Eventually the police simply closed off the avenue, and more chants began and then the crowd went silent. Then came the “mike check!” and a group near me began in their usual non-bullhorn enhanced announcement style to let those immediately in their vicinity  know that the superintendent of police had declared that there would be no raid that night. Another small group did the same and the message passed through the crowd that way for a while.

And then began the dance party-still going on under a beautiful moon in the cold night as I left.

This was to be followed up by another General Assembly and more strategy decisions today.

And so phase 1 of the Occupy movement winds down and we wonder what phase 2 will bring.-What do you think will happen next?