It’s about 7am, and I’m just back from the Zuccotti Park eviction. I’ve been up all night, on my feet for hours, and dealt with some taxing physical aggression from cops and crowds. I’m beat. Literally.
My stomach hurts where I was jabbed with the flat side of a billy club. My left breast has a fist sized bruise where I was elbowed or punched or who knows what. The fingers of my left hand are throbbing where my hand was hit by a cop who attempted to remove my hand from his club, even though I was only touching his club for purposes of removing its pressure from my rib cage. I’m nauseous, and have been feeling like I might vomit on and off for hours. My feet ache, my head aches, my throat is sore from shouting, and all I want is to lay down with my partner and close my eyes, but I can’t. I’m all lit up inside. Not with anything particularly productive or clear, but I’m awake. I want to write about what happened, but all I can think to write about are the straight, boring facts of the evening. I apologize that I don’t at this time have the wherewithal to create something with a more interesting narrative. For now, I can’t touch on the media blackout that kept all media from recording what actually went on in the park tonight; or the intricacies of dueling mic checks; the complicated consensus process that probably fucked things up pretty good toward the end; or the series of events that took place from 11pm to 4am. Maybe all that will come tomorrow…
For now I’ll say that a few hours ago, around 4am or 5am, I stood in the center of Broadway at Pine Street and locked arms with fellow occupiers and occupy supporters. Zuccotti was already cleared. We watched from a distance while objects were lobbed from the park into dump trucks. Occupy Brooklyn, and others, had just joined us. Hundreds had marched down Broadway from Union Square, and we’d greeted them with straight up jubilation. They more than doubled our numbers, I’d guess.
When the cops screamed in my face an order to move to the sidewalk, I replied, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that.” A moment or two later my face was smashed against a plastic shield and I had hands all over me. I was pressed against batons and cops in front of me, and pressed from behind by the crowd resisting our dissemination. At one point, my feet didn’t touch ground, and I was swept along by the pressure of the crowd. I fought it for awhile. I screamed. I screamed words at first. Words like, “Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Think about what you’re doing.” I’m not sure what I hoped to accomplish beyond a) shaking off some of the rattling tremor I acquired during the violence and b) hoping that some small part of what I was saying might resonate with the cops assaulting me at some later, quieter more private moment. When words started to feel like a waste of my time, and when the violence became a bit more intense, I just screamed like hell. Like a girl in a horror movie or something. I wasn’t sure what else to do, and I didn’t want anyone forgetting I was there, lest I fall to the ground and be trampled.
I felt the jab in my chest – it was the heel of a hand, I believe, but it could have been an elbow – and then immediately got the billy club in the ribs, which took the wind out of me. Because of nothing more than reasonable instinct, I reached up to push the club off me, and that’s when a cop hit my hand, right over my knuckles. I called out a few times. A feral kind of thing happened where I just wanted to make noise, any noise. I fought back a little. Pushed my hands out in the hope of creating some space between myself and the masses. I got pushed hard, then. There were hands all over me after that, and a guy next to me screamed, “Don’t you dare do that to a woman!” which, honestly, was weird and not helpful. I may like my men to hold my doors open, but if I’m putting myself at the front of the herd and locking elbows, I don’t expect defferential treatment…
The cops jabbed clubs at us again and again, and one cop reached through the gear and shoved me on my shoulders, my stomach. Just, everywhere.
It was right around then that I took my own advice, and asked myself why I was there. For the life of me, in that moment, I had no idea. Camera flashes were strobe lighting all around me. People were screaming, pushing. I knew we were on Broadway and Pine because it was the closest we were able to get to Zuccotti. We wanted to hold our ground there because it was the closest we could come to holding the park, which was by then, entirely lost to us. So why were we trying to hold a park that was already lost? What did standing in the middle of Broadway accomplish? What had seemed so essential just a moment prior suddenly seemed absurd. I didn’t know why I was fighting. So I stopped fighting. I went as limp as I could go while still standing on my feet. I let the crowd, and the cops, push me wherever they wanted to, and I breathed as deeply as I was able. A moment later, things stilled. I was on a curb, and the weirdo beside me was asking me if I was okay. He put his arms around me, and sort of stroked my face. Not sure what that was about. He might have just been a nice guy, but I extricated myself asap, and stood face to face with the helmeted, face guarded cop who’d been on me the whole time.
I looked into his face. He was so stoic. Totally unemotional. I trembled like something delicate in a strong wind, and there this cop was in front of me like a somnambulator. I looked to the dozens and dozens and dozens of riot geared-up cops behind him (there had to have been hundreds, really) and I saw the identical glaze behind identical shields.
The cops had been clever in their strategy. They’d pushed into the middle of the herd and clovered it out, separating us into quadrants. We were separated then, into several groups, and we couldn’t communicate. No one mic check could be heard by all groups, and we weren’t able to cross the streets to get to one another. We were fractured. I milled about for a little while, approaching people I recognized to be organizers, asking if they had ideas about what to do next. There was a lot of shrugging at that point. Soon the cops announced that there was an approved area where we could stand.
I was there to occupy. Not to stand politely in the police area. The other option was to remain, and be arrested. I’m not opposed to the idea of being arrested, but at that point, it seemed fairly useless. I reminded myself that while cops are the most present and tangible representation of a system I occupy in order to eradicate (or at least overhaul), the cops on their own are not the problem.
A little while later, about six hours after I’d arrived, I decided to come home. And here I am now, dopey and inarticulate at my computer. Awake for 24 hours, solid.
The livestream is offline at the moment, but it appears that things are continuing from Foley Square, which is where we should have gone at 4am when it became clear the riot cops were tripling and quadrupling in number to push us off Broadway. But no one could agree on where to be…
I’ll get some sleep, and after a day of work, I’ll head back downtown later. Hopefully by then there will be a new park, a new camp, and a stronger stage of Occupy New York City already in the works. And if not, after the necessities of my life have been put to rest for the day, I’ll do what I can to help it get where it’s going next. I’ll also see to a related blog post that might have more of a point than this one has…
I’ll close with a Facebook comment reply I just posted:
The movement has an opportunity now to rebuild in a new camp as something stronger, more cohesive. If I ever decide to finally get some sleep, I’ll eventually wake up and head back downtown with the hope of helping that to happen. NYC is the base. As long as there’s an occupy, there will be an occupy NYC.
Thanks for reading, friends. Peace.