What it was like for me at today's Occupy Boston protest
I feel I should get this out to people who may be either wondering what is really going on with all the Occupy cities in the United States or rolling their eyes at me going, here he goes again. John just can't keep out of trouble and he's a little too old to be an idealistic hippie.
I don't want to get into why I went, starting with the notion that I truly believe our government is completely broken and dysfunctional. I don't believe our one person/one vote notion of freedom is worth a damn anymore, and I think that anyone who says, If you don't vote you can't complain is truly clueless as to what's going on. Anyone you vote for except maybe on the very local level couldn't care less about you. They're politicians, and all they want is the office. And when they get the office they go to work for the people with the most money. That's not me, that's large multinational corporations. And then they sell off the country to the highest bidder.
It doesn't matter that Occupy Boston or Wall Street or Los Angeles or wherever (did you know they're all over the country? So many people think it's just Wall Street. No, it something like fifty something major cities) are just gathering and protesting. You hear the MSM say they are directionless and wonder what they are they protesting about? That's not the point. That's just the MSM doing what it always does. Hey, Political Candidate, what is your agenda? And the PC gives them one, just so they can tick that off their list. It doesn't matter to the MSM that tomorrow that agenda will change depending on the locale of that day's stump speech, they have an agenda. And this is where the MSM is so clueless. First, the Occupiers don't need them. The MSM is missing the boat on this one the same way they missed the boat on the paradigm that's putting them out of business in the first place. All the news and information is flowing back and forth on the social network and the digital world. At first I couldn't find any info on what was going on. I mean, people were setting up tents in Dewey Square in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank, and I couldn't find anything on the Globe's or the Herald's sites? Of course not. They're run by corporations, and their parent corporations aren't going to want that reported on. So I went to Facebook and Twitter and there it all was. (Right now I'm following real-time Twiitter and Facebook feeds as the Boston Police are approaching the tent city. They do this under cover of night, and won't allow the press to watch. When did our country become like this?)
Which is why last week I stopped by the tent city and I was amazed. I wanted to see things for myself. There was all kinds of organization going on there, including a press tent filled with computers. I mean, these people know what they're doing. And here's the thing: the MSM is missing the whole story. The BIG STORY is that for the first time in forty years, people are finally taking to the streets again in the United States. And today, I saw regular middle-class people, because what has been decimated in this country by corporate greed but the middle class, and there it was in full force today. In Boston there were thousands.
I had heard about the march on Facebook. Sue and I actually packed a picnic lunch and headed for the Common where students were going to meet then march to Dewey Square. It was a beautiful day, though kind of hot. We walked around and things seemed a bit scraggly. We walked around some more, and noticed the crowd had grown. People were gathering. Sue and I parked ourselves in the shade and watched for awhile, then the marchers began marching. Should we join them? It seemed weird. We passed some police officers and I heard on say that it seemed the marchers were heading one way. The cops didn't know where the marchers were going. And that's when it hit me. You know the first time you vote you felt this power, this right. I am an American and I am voting. Today I thought, freedom of assembly. That's what I'm doing. I'm free to assemble and a whole crowd can assemble and they don't need a permit from the city, who came up with that rule? This was our freedom and our right at its most basic core.
We wound our way through the Common, past the State House, passed the Fox News offices (it didn't look as if anyone was at home) through Downtown Crossing to Dewey Square. I said to Sue that if and when it comes to the police against the demonstrators, the tiny streets in Downtown Crossing would be the perfect place for the police to trap them.
People seemed awe-struck as we marched by. A lot of support, though. A lot of thumbs up. We got to Dewey Square and Sue and I peeled off and used the capitalistic bathrooms in South Station, then went back outside. The marchers, now thousands since the marchers from the Commons joined the Occupiers at Dewey Square, continued on down Atlantic Ave. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn I was marching in a walk for hunger. The march just continued on. Back through Downtown Crossing and towards the North End. We didn't know where we were going or who was in charge. We just followed the crowd. We marched past Faneuil Hall toward the Garden. It was in the North End where things went ugly. Not real ugly, but not pretty.
I was marching along thinking this is so much like a pretty day in the city, but at some point it's going to end. The nice relationship between the protesters and the police will end. Because as some point the city, as it is doing at this very moment, will impose its will on the protesters. And the police will be ordered to step in. Or you can't just quietly occupy a green space forever and do nothing. Something has to change. Because values will clash, and when that happens, people become unruly.
Check this out. This is the sort of rhetoric that is out there. This is a profile about one of the protesters on Wall Street:
I can understand that. It's how I feel. The system is broken, and isn't working for me. And it won't anymore. The government is not concerned with me or my loved ones and I have to start taking matters in my own hands. What that means I don't necessarily know. I know getting out and marching made me feel like I was doing something. And we don't know where this is going to take us. I posted something a few days ago where Chris Hedges, who has seen plenty of revolutions, talked about what was going on in the United States. I was most intrigued by what he said about the protesters in Berlin. They thought in a year they might have people crossing between East and West Berlin, and then suddenly the Wall was down. Even the leaders of the protest movement didn't see it coming.
But it was at a bridge in the North End where the police stopped the march. Traffic stopped, and by traffic I mean tour buses and duck boats (oh no, not the duck boats!) Later I read that the police said the bridge wouldn't have held the collected weight of the protesters, but doesn't sound a bit odd to you? I mean, it wasn't a suspension bridge made of jungle vines. But a couple of paddy wagons pulled up, and a couple of locals got into it with a protester in full view of the police, and one of the protesters actually pointed it out to an officer who then had to respond, and the woman said her freedom of speech was being trampled on because she couldn't yell inflammatory inanities at the protesters.
We started talking to a man who I know wouldn't have wanted to be identified, and I'll respect that. He asked what we were protesting, and I asked him, You have to ask? Where have you been the past four or five years? He agreed he knew sort of what it was about, and said it was an anit-capitalistic protest. I told him that was part of it, but also a dysfunctional government that is up for sale to the highest bidder. We had a nice conversation. Later I thought to myself that I should have asked him a question. He admitted to a six-figure income, and I should have asked him how much money in actual dollars and cents did he lose when the stock market crashed. I'm sure it would have been a lot. On that day, Sue and I looked at each other and shrugged, saying if you don't have any money to lose what does it matter? But I'm sure this guy lost big. And there's the big question: You asked me what I'm doing in the street protesting, and I have to ask you, after that, why aren't you off the sidewalk and in the street too?