It’s getting cold in New York. Last Saturday, after protesters marched on the Brooklyn Bridge and many of them were arrested, the usual daily general assembly took place in Zuccotti Park (AKA Liberty Square) with perhaps a thousand people present. I was wearing a sweater for the first time this fall. And I was cold. It might seem like an irrelevant thing but… if you are planning to camp out on the street until the capitalist system changes its ways… this is not the best time of the year to get started.
Today it was another story. There were way more than a thousand people. Liberty Square was so packed at the end of the march, that the occupiers of the space (the ones who sleep there) sat in their areas, marked with sleeping bags, looking as if they could not believe what was happening. I spoke to one of them. He seemed happy. But also confused. I suppose it has to be confusing to go from starting a small movement, with just a few hardcore members… to all of the sudden see news trucks, food trucks, and police barricades lining up around the square. Yes, there were a lot of food trucks today. Not that anyone needed them. If you were willing to wait in line for 15 minutes you could get pizza and/or bagels for free from Occupy Wall Street.
Going from a few thousand (at the most) to what we saw today is not a coincidence. It doesn’t happen just because CNN sent one of its anchors to make fun of protesters last week. Or because Michael Moore is tweeting from the square. This is not a new battle. And today, an old player entered the game. A long list of local unions supported the march, and asked all their members to attend. And I was glad to see that. When I was in Spain last summer, covering some of the protests there, I was surprised at how the 15-M movement made a constant effort to not be associated with any institutions (including unions). So I was glad to see that Occupy Wall Street was not going to reject the help of those who might have been fighting the same battle for decades.
I have no idea what will become of this movement. I do think that it’s a lot better than nothing. And I suppose that it makes no sense to hide that I sympathize with it. But I do feel that we are so far removed from anything that could be considered a fair society, that becoming one seems a bit unrealistic. That doesn’t mean that we can’t, at least, stop being a radically unfair society.
When it got dark, and the only way I could shoot video was using the lights of the professional cameras present in every corner, I figured it was time to get back to Brooklyn. It took me only one block to feel like the protest had never happened. Wall Street looking people raced down the sidewalks at the end of their workday. In the subway platform (Wall Street station, indeed) there was no sign that anything unusual was happening almost right over our heads. And then is when I was reminded that no matter how crowded the protest seemed today… there are still millions and millions of people in New York who did not go.
Maybe one day.