Or at least, the people are marching down the sidewalks of Broadway toward Zuccotti Park. Two marches conjoin on the way, filling both sidewalks, and how wonderful it is to meet them – as if no one knew they were coming. Everyone stops whatever they’re doing in stores to stand in the windows or come outside and see. As we walk past stores the marchers say “out of the stores! Into the street!” And as we pass banks, “banks got bailed out/ we got sold out!”
People several stories above the street come to their windows and all exchange looks and I can’t help but grin… or as a Buddhist monk might say, it grins me. Here we are, marching on one of the biggest malls in the world. Broadway. Soho. Police march along side in the street, with a sense of pleasant excitement as they walk. A policewoman standing to the side smiles – it is the familiarity. Two policemen have their arms around each other, communing. Whenever I see a passerby who looks confused, who isn’t sure if this is a threat or something of which they are part, I meet their eyes and share this expression of unguarded joy and they smile back, or their baby smiles and gets lighter in their arms and they are pleased.
Those police that stand waiting avoid my eyes studiously or look at my body, not my face. But when the marchers enter the park, and the drummers, who were standing outside, are forced to move along, a policeman that follows them as if he too is marching wears a smile. The drummers drum well.
The NYPD is prepared – the park is surrounded by a barricade with two openings, and the barricades are linked together with the same plastic hog-ties used to arrest demonstrators like a family holding hands around the Thanksgiving table for a blessing. There is almost 1 police person for every demonstrator, and when we leave, the police are holding a meeting across the street. We join them to get a little talk and laugh, but we don’t know what the plan is for the rest of the night – that is, what they have planned for the people in the park. 7 or 8 orange crowd control nets lean rolled, waiting, as the General Assembly begins.
Earlier I watched the sunset in its reflection off of the condominium built beside Cooper Union. I thought of taking a picture of it to send to a train hopper I know to say, here I am, gazing on a fancy office building from within another silver space ship – nothing is black and white. The sun went down and dimly I heard, from 9 floors up, “WHO’S STREETS? OUR STREETS!” What feels like a long time ago, after the Day of Action, I kept hearing the echo of that chant, and would sometimes go to the window to see if there was a march, but it was only my eardrums. This time, I went from window to window, and then I saw it coming, a body of bodies, along the side of the Foundation Building on the Bowery. Inside the building students and alumni have set up a show about tuition.
Even though I disagree with the chants like “who’s country? Our country!” because I don’t accept the premise that the country, the land beneath the pavement, is an owned-thing, it is the rhythm of voices and the energy of the return to that awareness, that deep knowledge of presentness that has always been, even in our most silenced, most invisible times, now embodied – that gets to me.
I heard the union march earlier was gigantic, and the ongoing demonstration outside the Egyptian consulate about the current undemocratic elections in Egypt fascinating, but our other correspondents will offer more about those events of the day.
Words by Annabel Roberts-McMichael
Photographed by Zack Helwa