Today was a trip. I've been involved in the #OccupyWallStreet movement and been following it very closely online; really, as if it's my only hope. I'm convinced it's not only my only hope, it's my countries only hope(and I wasn't even a patriot before;) it's the only hope- as explained by movement hero Chris Hedges.
I got to work at 6AM and clocked in. 2 young white people, one a man 1 year older than me, and the other a woman a few years older than me- have been hired in the last 2 months in my 'department' of the restaurant. Every morning while we work we listen passively to the 98rock morning show; a talk show, because there's no music station on terrestrial radio that's agreeable to all of us. The show had a guest in the studio, Paul Mooney, known recently for his appearance on Chappelle's show, hosting the 'Ask a Black dude' sketch. A guest on the phone was one of the unofficial spokespersons for the #OccupyWallStreet protest, Jesse LeGreca, whose first interview on behalf of the movement went viral.
As my friend Graham Andrews, #TheNihlist has said; not only is there some truth in humor- every joke is 100% true. The heaviness of the truth causes laughter- because laughter is the last release valve before insanity. That's why the maligned in society have made the best comedians in the last 100 years. All they have to do is tell the truth, and the audience, not being used to hearing it- has to laugh, or else.
When the #OccupyWallStreet spokesperson was saying goodbye, Paul Mooney said, "I love it when white people get in the streeets."
Everyone laughed for the right reasons.
"What's the oldest white expression?" Paul Mooney asked.
Everyone stayed silent.
"Get off my Land!"
"Get off my property! White people are obsessed with property... that's how you know that there's actually change in the air. White people can't stand to have their property questioned. Now that white people are getting thrown out of their houses, they're taking to the streets; and when white people take to the streets something has to happen."
He was, regrettably, completely on point. Not regrettably because white people shouldn't stand up for their property 'rights'(though if they hadn't in the past things would've gone a lot smoother,) but because the U.S. doesn't really digest when black people stand up for their rights. It's always seen as some primitive angry gut reaction to their own failures; rather than congruent to, and in harmony with, the big war.
Late in the interview, the young woman I work with asked, "What are the protests about?"
And the young man I work with said, "I don't know, some government shit. Goverment."
She said, "Oh. okay."
And he said, "Fucking hippies."
I don't talk about politics or religion at work, if I did; I'd have a much more colorful work history. So I ignored it in spite of my strong feelings.
I sailed through the rest of the day at work daydreaming and when I got home and checked facebook I saw a link on #OccupyTheHood(originally conceived as a way to get more people of color involved in #OccupyWallStreet) to a quote from David Banner calling for more Black Celebrities, including athletes and entertainers, to support #OccupyWallStreet.
The post predictably generated big back-and-forths about what it means to be Black, rich, and American; or any combination thereof. Those discussions are always interesting, always, but a link someone posted caught my trackball left-click:
And it was one of those rare not-psychedelic induced epiphanies for me. I had been seeing things in black & white and I should've been seeing them in color. Here it is. Black American revolutionaries( now extinct, mostly murdered,) Communists(made illegal, still insist on existing,) and unionized workers(still exist, tho now the butt of many jokes[for expressing self-interest in the 'free' market]), existed as one and the same entity-and for good reason- not very long ago. And in the video, that entity(who is no longer allowed to exist) in American society speaks out about the exact same things #OccupyWallStreet protesters speak about now.
The connection between all those things is simple. It's innate. It's inborn. It's practically(and for some of us literally) inherited- we've only been brainwashed to believe it's contradictory. Those Communist Black Auto Workers saw the interests of White Americans better than White Americans saw it themselves. The Big War is the same as it's always been- It's the weak against the strong, the many against the few, the brave against the invisible, and the righteous against the crooks. It's the oldest struggle of humanity and it's embodied not only in that clip on youtube but in Zucotti park now. It's populism. It's what everyone knows is right. It's what every thinking person is concerned about.
It's The Class Struggle.
October 21, 2011
October 15, 2011
I haven't posted much this month, because I've been preoccupied, and I'm delighted to have been preoccupied. Before the Occupy movement, all I did was try to write something good every now and again, get drunk, and wait for the sweet release of death. I've already documented my experience with the movement here and there, and my experiences waiting for the sweet release of death, but I haven't before documented the connection.
Everyone knows that something is not right in the U.S. As best illustrated in a Chappelle's show sketch and a an article written by Matt Taibbi, there is great inequality in our society. It's not only economic inequality, but justice inequality, and social inequality. Sometimes, when I like America and what it stands for, I remember that the United States is expressly(by some accounts) committed to Equal opportunity. And yet I see 2 separate and highly unequal systems in play.
Segregation is no longer racial. It's financial.
The Poor and the frightened face insurmountable obstacles, endless ridicule and review, and then cruel and unusual penalties. The Rich deal with inheritance money, cover-ups and sweeping under the rug of their actions, and then minor fines.
Even they know they're getting away with it.
As an American patriot and nationalist, don't you have to admit this system is completely backwards? Those who're poor and vulnerable should receive the unlimited opportunity and the reasonable doubt by jury and the minor fines. Those who're rich and impenetrable should receive the public's suspicion and the public's doubt and serious jail time.
Many in the occupy movement are calling for a separation of money from the political process. I think there should be a separation of money from everything.We can make this country into whatever we want. I prefer an America in which the prey is assumed to be the victim and the predator assumed to be the perpetrator.
October 04, 2011
I went to New York on the 'Chinatown bus.' This is the cheapest ride you can get to New York City from Baltimore and it picks you up at the Baltimore Travel Plaza, not far from where I live. Me and my girlfriend caught the bus at 6:20AM against all odds, and although we intended to sleep on the bus we were too excited to. We passed books and some food between us until we arrived in Manhattan at about 10:30.
We took the subway to Zuccotti park, home base of the #OccupyWallStreet protests, looking up directions on our phones(How did people use the subway before internet-in-your-hands? Asking people?). When we arrived at the park it was still before noon.
One of the first things I noticed were some Vietnam Veterans holding signs and doing some preaching on the northwest corner of the park. They were against the current wars and war in general(as I'd expect them to be), and interestingly enough, I found then, and later in the march; they constituted a hugely visible portion of the movement.
I was immediately discouraged by a slim, plain-looking short-haired young woman wearing a shirt with 'free hugs' written on it, walking quickly in spirals around the park, loudly offering 'free hugs' to 'spread the love.' I have no idea what motivates such people to attempt to pacify a hive of discontent like Zucotti park. Love is not all you need. Everybody knows that.
On the northwest corner of the park, there was a huge lineup of retired signs from previous marches, lying on the ground for display. The signs I opposed were the 'compassion is our currency(free hugs)' ones, and the ones opposing the United States' support for Israel and/or support for Palestine. I found both elements to be most clearly distracting from the central focus of the protests. As I walked into the beating heart of the park, I realized a distinction needs to be made between what's going on at Zucotti park, and what #OccupyWallStreet is. Zucotti park has been dismissed by many passersby and daytime reporters as 'a few hunded hippies.' I wouldn't call anyone there a hippie(not that there would be anything wrong with that); I would instead call them homeless and discontent anarchists(is there any other kind?).
In the center of the park there's a 'kitchen' which is an outdoor pantry with an electric stovetop. I had brought some pantry items I was never going to eat, and they accepted everything except brownie-mix since they had no oven. I also had books to donate, but the 'library;' several cardboard boxes of books, was covered in plastic and tarps since it had been raining so much recently. Me and my girlfriend sat at a table and talked for a while. Every 15 minutes or so someone would come up to talk to us. It was mostly friendly chit-chat(unheard of in NYC as far as I know) with only a couple of beggars.
We left to go to a March in northwest Manhattan for another political cause, and got most of the way there, but then turned back when we figured we'd be late for the 3PM OccupyWallStreet Rally if we didn't leave then. We had lugged a bundle of 'the occupied wall street journal' newspapers we had gotten at the park, to distribute there, but ended up lugging it all the way back since we never went.
When we got back to Zucotti park there was a world of difference from before. There were at least a thousand people in the proper limits of the park. On the West edge of the park there was a drum circle with the welcome inclusion of horn-players and chanters and onlookers. We managed to give out our bundle of newspapers we had schlepped all over town to passersby around the square.
After losing the papers, we headed into the park again and found several interesting things. Funniest of all was a tiny table around which 4 people were sitting; covered by umbrellas despite the relative shade. On the table was nothing but tobacco of all sorts- mostly donated cigarettes, also rolling papers, pipe tobacco and loose cigarette tobacco. All 4 people were smoking and meticulously rolling cigarettes. There was a donation jar, and a field-expedient sign that just said 'cigarettes.' I laughed out loud.
There was a stand for the Socialist party, a bunch of roving Ron Paul supporters, tons of people with petitions to sign. It looked honest. It looked fertile. Across from the park to the north was a van with 8 NYPD officers. Across to the east and south were several food stands, many serving 'halal' food which appeals to both vegetarians and those who're trying to display solidarity or affection for the middle east and the Arab Spring. Within the park there were some thinly-veiled women, either American Muslims or Middle-easterners; it was no matter. Everyone was on the same page.
This is when we were introduced to the call-and-response technique of OccupyWallStreet to get around anti-megaphone laws(uh huh) in New York City.
Anyone can speak up at any time.
The person yells, "Mic Check!"
And those around him also yell, "Mic Check!"
Once the original speaker hears "Mic Check!" returning back to him from the crowd in the distance, he continues with what he has to say; 3-5 words at a time.
The words are repeated by those immediately around them, and in waves across the crowd. I was shocked both by how effective this was and how emotional it was to see a crowd echo an individual this way. I'm sure the 'mic check' has a stronger effect on a crowd than a megaphone would. It's clever, it's smart, and it's really harrowing.
The Mic Checks went over a half-sheet of paper we had been handed which was full of effective chants, advice for how to be prepared, which included; having the number for the national lawyers guild on you, having your friends' families' or friends contact information on you, and where the march intended to go.
I heard chants of '"MARCH! MARCH!" and the march was on.
First we chanted "ALL DAY, ALL WEEK, OCCUPY WALL STREET."
The drum circles were at different points in the crowd leading the chants since they had a monopoly on rhythm.
We chanted, "BANKS GOT BAILED OUT! WE GOT SOLD OUT!"
And, "WE, ARE, THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT!"
As we were chanting that, we noticed lots of people on 2-level-busses and in taxi-cabs and on the other side of the street either giving us a solidarity fist, a quizzical look, or recording us on their cell-phones.
Soon, some rhythmically gifted and socially conscious person, added "AND SO ARE YOU!"
"YOU!" fell in the chant at the same time as "We!," as in,
"WE, ARE THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT, [AND SO ARE
The chanting was hard on my throat. And it got my dissident juices flowing. Occasional bags of cough drops were being passed back through the crowd. I saw smiles and a lot of good humor, but I was pretty pissed about what we were chanting about at this point, and tried to yell loud enough to hear myself even above the crowd, which had to have been 3000 people or more. While we marched on the sidewalk it was cordoned off and bordered by police on scooters.
The march came to an intersection and there was a huge glut of marchers growing in it.
There was a young black woman standing on something above the crowd, pointing to my left yelling "This is the agreed upon march path."
She pointed to my right and yelled "If you want to go this way, well, it's up to you."
I immediately tried to see what the difference was and what was on the path-less-travelled. I peered over the crowd to my right and saw a few cops standing and facing the crowd, but only about 3 or 4. I couldn't see anyone marching beyond that, and the crowd was only standing there, not budging an inch; so I marched to my left.
After I had tread about 30 feet onto the 'agreed-upon' march path, I started hearing the chant
"TAKE THE BRIDGE! TAKE THE BRIDGE!" and saw people ahead of me climbing over the black wrought-iron fence in great numbers and decided to turn around and march on the right side.
I guessed that the march had overwhelmed the few police officers and wanted to do the more illegal thing. I didn't know that I was on the northbound traffic section of the Brooklyn Bridge until I looked to my right and saw one lane of traffic moving very slowly.
I heard chants of "WHOSE BRIDGE? OUR BRIDGE! WHOSE BRIDGE? OUR BRIDGE?" which played on the earlier chant 'WHOSE STREET? OUR STREET!'
I joined in the 'OUR BRIDGE!' section of the chant with delight and a bit of righteous anger. I had a huge body and head buzz going on which is indescribable until you yourself do something like this. It was my bridge. I took it from something big and nasty and wrong with the help of those around me; the small and beautiful and right. It was our bridge, and marchers around me acted with the same stone-faced jubilation(which is again unique to this kind of improvised direct action.) People continued to climb down from what I learned to be the pedestrian pathway to my left to join us. Soon, the right lane of traffic, which was crawling- was blocked by a group of 6 women. I rushed to join them on the right side to shut off traffic completely.
People were writing 'OCCUPY WALL STREET!' on the beams of the bridge in sidewalk chalk. People were putting up stickers for various causes and stencils of art. The chants continued and became more varied. To my left I could see the other marchers, now above us as the pedestrian pathway rose away from us, cheering us on.
The first sign that things were going sideways was when I saw an officer in uniform simply walk past me on the right, head down, with an orange net.
Seemingly unrelated, the march slowed down, I could see a gap in the road ahead, and someone yelled "CLOSE THE GAP!"
I ran to close the gap, guessing that this would prevent some NYPD strategy from being implemented. Then the march came to a stop. I peered over the crowd ahead of me and saw what appeared to be firetrucks at the end of the bridge. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to turn around and avoid being arrested. She said yes. We made a half-hearted attempt toward the back of the march when we heard rumors that they were arresting people at the back of the crowd.
Just then, a man on the pedestrian pathway was leaning over the railing doing a 'mic check.'
The confused standstill crowd yelled "Mic Check!" back in gratitude.
With the crowd repeating he yelled, "THEY ARE...ARRESTING PEOPLE...AT THE FRONT...AND..."
A bit of panic broke out in the crowd and many on my side started doing 'mic check's.
Someone in the crowd yelled with the same method "ARE THEY...LETTING US OUT...IN THE BACK"
He said "MIC CHECK!" and went on to say "IT LOOKS THAT WAY."
Not many people scrambled for the back. If it had been completely open then I knew the crowd would have thinned, but it really didn't. I decided to face forward and try to figure out what exactly was going on up there. As I looked around I saw a few NYPD, holding an orange net, coming up the pedestrian path toward the man who was yelling out what he saw from his vantage point to us.
I yelled "MIC CHECK!"
I heard a few assorted "MIC CHECKS" and went on to say and have repeated "NYPD... IS COMING UP."
The man was looking at me so I just pointed. He leaned over the fence and saw the police. Panic and chants started as we felt like we were being squeezed together on the roadway. Plenty of information spilled in from the back that they were arresting people on both ends. Which wasn't very surprising.
Then a man in the crowd mic-checked "WE CAN ALL... CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER...IF WE LOCK ARMS...AND SIT DOWN!"
Chants of "SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN!" erupted. I and about 5 men around me sat down. No one else, including my girlfriend, seemed interested in that. The crowd became more squeezed and we stood up. The man on the pedestrian walkway and about a dozen others were netted to the fence between us by police, which I thought was strange.
The crowd was becoming so squeezed that people were mic-checking that people were having trouble breathing, and starting chants to free up room like 'TAKE 2 STEPS!'.
Some of those chants were met with other chants like "WE CAN'T."
Efforts also continued to "SIT DOWN!"
Some mic-checked back "THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ROOM!"
I couldn't find the humor in it at the time.
I was holding my girlfriends hand to try to not be split apart and noticed another couple who were split apart. The man was right next to me and was staring intently at his girlfriend a few people to my left. She was staring back. I thought that if I took off the backpack I was wearing and held it to my neck or above my head temporarily, that might free up enough room for him to make it past the front of me to his girlfriend. I did so, and felt relief for a moment. He wordlessly tried to do just that, and couldn't. We all just became squeezed to the same pressure immediately afterwards.
Eventually the pressure lessened and I guessed correctly why. Everyone was getting vanned, or bussed, as I saw later- on commandeered public buses. I saw then that there were about as many cops as protesters, and save a call from the mayor(ha ha!), we had no chance of not being arrested. People started throwing their bags and containers of cannabis over the side of the bridge. A couple people ditched mostly-drank pint bottles of liquor. My girlfriend took one swig of our Vodka housed in a water bottle, popped a xanax, and tossed it over. Then, of course, it started raining. People started making sure everyone had the number for the national lawyers guild written on their arm or elsewhere, and began planning, how and where they'd meet up when they were released.
I was surprised at how many people had umbrellas. We all started to huddle together to share 'UMBRELLA POWER' as one mic-check put it. As the end was nearing a sense of humor returned, along with reassuring mic-checks. One Mic Check said there was a protest against the arrests at the end of the bridge from marchers who evidently made it all the way across, and at 'one police plaza' on our behalf. Another said that Marines were 'coming to help us.'(which turned out to be quite over-stated)
A surprisingly serene moment came when someone decided to sing, and others decided to join in the singing of, the star spangled banner. Only about half the crowd knew the words at the beginning but everyone was singing loud and in harmony by the end. The police were smiling. Everyone cheered.
Land of the free. Home of the brave.
Eventually one of the policeman said "Ok, fellas, over here."
I walked obediently and into a line forming.
A young man walked up next to us and said facetiously "Is this the line for jail?"
We laughed and told him "Yeah."
He got in line. We all got patted down, had our hands zip-tied behind our backs, and were told to climb and did climb onto a public bus. The bus took off. There were about 9 cops in the aisle. I was sitting in the seat at the very front of the bus. The men around me were talking to the extremely short police officer next to us about the long hours and hardships of being a police officer. The #OCCUPYWALLSTREET movement has some nuance towards police. On one hand, police are very clearly the enemy of the movement. And on the other hand, police are just working people who are only paid to be the enemy of the movement. I'm guessing these good-faith efforts to gain the sympathy of the police by the men around me won't accomplish anything for the movement; but they may cut down on the amount of ass-whoopings and pepper-spraying that protesters get. Which is still good.
When we arrived, somewhere, after a long drive- we had to wait on the bus as a previous bus full of protesters was 'processed.' It may have been about an hour. I watched in awe as more-flexible men around me and in the back of the bus reached into their pockets and were texting or poking around on their cell-phones while still handcuffed. A man with about 6 facial piercings including huge spirals in his ears directly across from me was doing something on his phone, then decided to pull some earbuds out of the lower pocket of his denim jacket and put one in his ear. He then pulled out the mp3 player and selected whatever he wanted to listen to. All while handcuffed. I was amazed.
Technology doesn't pacify people; It's a myth, and the opposite might be the case.
About then, another man across from me had a curious expression; he was the same one who'd asked "Is this the line for jail?"
He seemed to be experiencing restless leg syndrome, his eyes were wide open, his mouth in a frown, everything else unremarkable.
When an policeman passed him he blurted out "When do we get to go?"
"What do you mean?"
"Go to the bathroom."
The policeman leered out the open bus door and moaned and sighed.
"It'll be a while, bud."
The man across from me just held his expression more intently.
The policeman said, "Don't piss your pants, now."
"I'm about this close from is not being a conscious decision."
"If you piss your pants I have to do a psych evaluation, you'll be in here all night, we gotta take you somewhere else. No fun for anyone."
The unpeeing man held the same expression and rocked back and forth.
Other men on the bus started to offer suggestions. Somehow the idea came that he could piss in a plastic bottle outside. Those on the bus began to look for plastic bottles. The policemen seemed a bit entertained; but annoyed. The plastic bottle was a way to get around public urination laws.
The idea also came forth for us all to piss our pants in solidarity. Questions arose. Who would hold the bottle? and who would hold the man's penis?
When the extremely short policeman who'd arrested me asked "Who's gonna be man enough to hold it?" 2 men on the bus spoke up to say "I'll do it" in complete and unwavering honesty.
I would've too. But I was totally silent. (as is my 'right')
Eventually one plastic bottle was produced by some handcuffed man. By that time, 2 of the police were already off of the bus and extra-judiciously trying to find a place for the man to urinate. The young man was standing in front of the white line on the bus waiting for his cue to go out and pee and even I felt relief when he finally was permitted to step off the bus.
About 2 minutes later, he returned and had little to say. All he said about how he felt was 'much better' and he looked like a changed man. Everyone greeted him with cheers.
Eventually, after waiting on the bus for what was probably 45 minutes, me and 4 other men were escorted off the bus by our arresting officer, the extremely short one. We were led into a hallway which was between the outside and the station, and the men in front of me started to stand and face the wall. I figured maybe some of them had been arrested before and knew the procedure, and thought maybe we'd get our handcuffs off.
The policeman standing at the doorway to the station said, "No, no, you don't have to stand and face the wall. You can look wherever the fuck you want."
We laughed, turned around and began to look wherever the fuck we wanted. The extremely short policeman filled out our paperwork to process us, holding it against the adjacent wall. He asked for our names, birth dates, addresses, and photo I.D.s. One of the guys in our group was a New Zealander who was visiting his brother and had a visa. He didn't have photo I.D. and his name was 'Amir' something. He looked like a nerdy white guy. The cops were upset that Amir had 'made their lives harder' by not carrying photo I.D.
He said, "I wasn't planning on being arrested. How can I make your lives easier, then?" in a familiar flight-of-the-concords accent.
Then we were led inside to holding cells. Half the cells were already occupied by those who'd occupied the Brooklyn bridge with us. They made jokes and some of them mock-voiced being the stock-character prison rapist 'bubba,' which might've spooked a frightened man until they giggled uproariously afterwards. Across from those cells, new policeman patted us down again more carefully, emptied our pockets on the counter in front of us, and told us(or me) what I could and couldn't keep.
I had $206 dollars on me. I always keep lots of cash on me on a trip- just in case I'm unavoidably detained. Both when I was first patted down and the second time, the NYPD counted my money, but put it all back in my pocket. I don't really understand why, but I wouldn't have been surprised if they pocketed it, so I'm glad they didn't. They had a large manilla envelope that they put my cellphone in. Then the policeman dealing with me uncuffed me and asked me to remove my shoelaces and patted me down again for 'strings' and double checked that I was wearing no belt. After that, he sealed the envelope and led me to the cell.
When I got in, I recognized a man in the cell as a man who had sat directly next to me on the bus. We hadn't spoke at all(he had looked angry) but he smiled at me now, and I said "Long time, no see."
I talked with him for a bit and learned he was an Italian on a work visa named Mario. He started talking about revolution pretty quickly and wasn't shy about calling the police 'pigs' and calling all of their actions 'a power trip.' Next, the good-humored New Zealander was led in, and next, the young American who had convinced the NYPD he had to leave the bus and urinate(this was a rumor circulating around until I left New York- evidently no one else on any busses got any leeway and some people pissed themselves).
Everyone pissed in a tiny single-piece ceramic toilet in the corner as soon as they got in to our cell. The water didn't run(we couldn't even find or imagine where the flush might've been) and it was obvious it had been in disrepair for at least decades.
We all started talking pretty seriously about why we were marching, how we felt about the state of the United States and the rest of the world, and exactly who our 'ememies' were. The New Zealander and I agreed that most of the developed world is living under Financial Feudalism, and not Capitalism. He had a very impressive political vocabulary of the history of Europe for the last 100 or so years, and I had the best grasp in the cell of United States history of the past 100 years. I went into detail talking about the civil rights movement and the Kent State Massacre and the black militant movements of the 1970's. The Italian seemed particularly interested.
I mentioned that "You guys[adressing the non-american-born men] should be proud to be here. This is the first time I've had any hope for my generation. Young Americans have nothing. The first time I really felt motivated that something could improve was when I heard about these protests."
The other American, a 19 year old New York native, agreed without exception. We talked about how our generation was being robbed by those trying to dismantle the social safety net, those pushing all of us to go to college and end up in debt, and the financial criminals- who were all baby boomers. The so-called generation X had been asleep through the Reagan era, and now it was time for young Americans to stand up for themselves.
I was feeling pretty motivated, and in a way, grateful to be in prison. It was nice to talk to people who knew what my grievances were and agreed with me for once. Both the Italian and the American had actually been sleeping at the park for the past 5 or 6 days. The New Zealander had just been visiting every evening and going on marches. As could be expected, the Italian and the American fell asleep in the cell shortly after we settled in. Me and the New Zealander talked for a while longer, but I could feel myself falling asleep too. As our conversation tapered off, and I started nodding out, I realized that mass arrest is the dumbest reaction to a political movement that anyone could think of.
There's 2 things about being held in a cell, at least for the first time. First, there's anger. I can't imagine anyone would be locked up at a protest and change their minds or calm down, once they're in a cold dark cell, being looked in on like they're an animal. And second, there's camaraderie. Our cell didn't have enough room for all of us to lie down and sleep(It only had that much room for about 3 of us), and we figured when we first talked that we may be held overnight, but there was no sentiment(even from me, a grade-B schizoid) that we wanted isolation from eachother. We were all friends immediately.
The rest of the stay in the cell, for about 8 hours, went exactly like that first one did. The humor actually improved. We talked politics early on. Later, when a couple of us were awake at the same time, we were making jokes. Occasionally jokes would be heard in other cells and we'd laugh. People did sarcastic 'MIC CHECKS' and chanted 'WHOSE JAIL? OUR JAIL!' which erupted in ingratiating laughter.
After about 2 hours, a policeman appeared at our cell and asked how many of us there were. He then gave us 4 bags with 2 sandwiches apiece. We were all hungry, so we started eating right away. 3 of us(including me) got 2 'peanut-butter sandwiches' which were made of extremely dry bread with what was probably one finger-full of peanut butter in the center of the bread. 1 of us got 2 government cheese sandwiches which came with packets of mayonnaise. Our entire cellblock started to talk about how jealous we were of those with cheese sandwiches.
People started making sarcastic requests, including 'a liter a' cola,' which is a quote from the movie Super Troopers. Me and the other American in our cell laughed. We had to explain what we were laughing about to the other men in our cell. Other guys further down in the cellblock started going through the dialogue of the entire scene, with tons of great one liners. We were all in almost ecstatic spirits right then, maybe because of the minor blood sugar boost; or maybe because of the general absurdity of everything up until then.
Later a policeman came by with water, and asked each cell if they needed to use the bathroom(some cells didn't even have non-functioning toilets.) The police were in a decent mood too. They joked amongst themselves and entertained detained-men's questions and attempts to explain the movement to them.
It's a little much to say 'prison was fun,' but I'll tell you, there was a funny reassuring spirit in the air. After the initial bit of panic is over(Holy shit! I have no idea how long I'll be here! There's nothing to look at! There's nothing comfortable anywhere!) one realizes it's just a waiting game and does the best they can. You fall asleep for 15 or 20 minutes, in between you crack jokes, or talk about political revolution past and present. Hell, I've had much worse days at work, and even in 'leisure time' with friends it's not socially acceptable to just take a nap. I even entertained the notion in one of my 'dreams' of being a professional revolutionary. I'm sure I could just drop everything and stay at the park. Rack up a massive arrest record, look forward to those shitty sandwiches and try to further radicalize those in my cell.
I decided not to do that, obviously, but the experience of being jailed furthered my commitment to the cause 10-fold. I concluded with total conviction what I had already expected. Prisons can't reform anyone(though not to be too melodramatic, it was only 8 hours or so for me).
The good humor left our cell when the police started talking of our eventual release. We just sat up staring at something, turning our heads when any movement happened at the bars, hoping our name would be called. The humor remained in other cells, however, and helped keep me in good spirits. We were told there were 71 people being held, and they were being let out one by one. After about 5 people were released, my cell all started to fall asleep again. I awoke and heard that only 30 were left. I went back to sleep and awoke to only 10 left. I was among the last 5 to be called so I was glad I slept.
Walking out of the cell wasn't as disorienting as being in it. We stood in line at the desk in the lobby, and were served a summons for "obstructing vehicular traffic" and "obstructing roadway to pedestrians" one by one. Then we got the manilla envelope with our things and walked out. The fresh air outside smelled like cigarettes. Across the street from the precinct, the national lawyers guild was taking down everyone's name, phone number, and email address to keep in touch with them before their eventual court date(mine is December 16th). I talked to the young American man I was in the cell with(he had been asleep most of the time) and asked him if he was going back to the park. He said 'of course' with no inflection, doubt, or emotion. He asked if he could use my cellphone, which was close to dead, and I let him. He called an apparent girlfriend. I texted mine, and told her I was on my way to the park, then turned it off again.
He only had an undershirt on and was shivering in the rain and cold. We found the subway station and took an above ground train, from wherever we were in Brooklyn, back to the park. While we waited for the train we met 5 other people who had been recently released and were going back to the park. When we got on the subway car, we talked about revolution, the NYPD, and the future of the movement. We were all even more invigorated about it. There were only a couple of people in the car with us, paying us no mind; and I've never seen young people so committed and hopeful. Never. All 7 of us were on the same page, the same side, and none of us were making snide and spiteful 'we're all fucked' type statements. We were all going back to the park. To not do so- would be treasonous.
When we got off the train, we got out into the street and soon met up with other released protesters. We all cheered at each other, and joined up together to march back to the park. There were about a dozen of us.
We all chanted "ALL DAY! ALL WEEK! OCCUPY WALL STREET!" with even more fire than earlier in the daylight.
2 taxi cab drivers slowed down, honked in unison, and smiled at us. One of the recently released in front of me was holding a cut plastic set of handcuffs which now looked like devil's horns. A couple of other marchers had actually found signs on the ground on the path that we had originally marched and were holding them up. As we arrived back to the park, we were cheered on as we still chanted and were given a real heroes welcome. As I descended into the park to see if my girlfriend was there, she greeted me immediately, to my delight.
We went to the nearby 24 hour McDonald's to trade stories, use the bathroom, and get coffee. It was pretty full in the lobby but we managed to find seats. It was, by this time, raining steadily and pretty cold outside. We stayed inside for as long as it took to get bored, trading rumors with some other released marchers, and then headed back to the park. It was about 4:30AM by this point and our bus didn't leave until 7:20. Many more were sleeping in the park now, wearing blankets, tarps, and reflective material of some kind that I or someone else referred to as 'space blankets.' My girlfriend and I were offered one of these space blankets, but I turned it down since we didn't intend to sleep.
I tried to look for either my American or Italian cellmate. I was going to buy them food. But I couldn't find them.
It was pretty easy to stay awake after being released. The tiniest bit of food or coffee or fresh air can reinvigorate anyone. Which is I imagine how the real occupiers never lose their patience or resolve. An 'ABC eyewitness news' van arrived but only set up a tripod and filmed a view of the entire park. Eventually we called a cab and made it to our bus to leave.
I tried to sleep on the bus but kept waking up. I felt bad about leaving. After all, I'm not doing anything with my life that I'm that committed to; I'm just running out the clock in ways that don't seem so boring. The march and the arrest and the park weren't boring. It was for a cause I believe in. Even now I still weigh my options.
Of course, I've decided to maintain my life as a young American, for all it's worth; which is next to nothing. If nothing changes for the better in our country, my only prospects are to work until I die and leave nothing behind for anyone. It's good to know that if the shit really hits the fan, if I have even less to lose, I can go to that park and be taken in. Even if the residents have been evicted by then, I can always become a criminal Anarchist.
There are 2 things I learned from all of this. First, being a wage prisoner isn't much better than being an actual prisoner. Second, my generation needs to stand up for itself. It's time.