Update: The following is just one tiny slice of what I heard on Tuesday. For a very detailed account from Zoltán Glück and Manissa McCleave Maharawal, head to Racialicious.
I woke Tuesday, as many others did, to Facebook posts and emails and headlines about the police raid on Occupy Wall Street.
I turned to Twitter. I found it helpful to scroll through Baratunde Thurston’s tweets from the night, so I retweeted one of his. (Later, Baratunde created a slideshow of said tweets, helpful both for its navigability and the mid-tweet slides that he added later for context.)
(Note to my mom, who’s learning to use Twitter, and anyone else who might be unfamiliar: the # is called a hashtag and you can add it to the beginning of any word. In this case, if you’re on Twitter and you click on the #OWS hashtag or do a search for it, you’ll find all of the most recent tweets that folks have tagged as being related to Occupy Wall Street. Also, the “RT” stands for retweet, which basically means that you’re sharing something tweeted by another person with all of your followers. Sometimes people put their own commentary at the beginning of a tweet and follow it with the retweet text.)
I kept an eye on Twitter and retweeted a couple of things that resonated with me.
Emails poured in, mainly from my RISE family. One organizer was in Liberty Square much of the morning and I couldn’t resist sharing one of her lighter dispatches:
After work I went down to the General Assembly, or GA, meeting at the square. There were a lot of police and a LOT of people.
It was my first time really experiencing the human microphone, or the people’s mic, in all its glory. Hundreds of people listened and parroted the announcements and rallying cries. Some related to logistics – should OWS keep people in the park awake, all night, and occupy in shifts? One guy pleaded with the crowd to explore the idea of finding “a space with a roof” and turning OWS into a “legitimate, real nonprofit.” This was met with a stonier reception, but he had his time to speak. Another person described the lewd treatment of women in jail last night, and invited anyone who didn’t think women should be treated that way to march in solidarity immediately following the night’s General Assembly. At various points the facilitators would ask the crowd to sit down on benches or the pavement if they were able; this makes it easier for the sound to ripple back.
I tweeted some people verbatim (or as closely as I could). In reverse chronological order, here’s someone issuing a call for stories for this Thursday’s Day of Action:
I like this idea. I’m going to document some of those signs tomorrow.
Next, some folks from one of the working groups suggested that this enormous crowd break into groups to talk about possible steps forward.
But this was relatively short-lived. On one side of the plaza, some groups did begin to meet. On the other, something happened—I was a little too far away to understand what—and folks started chanting at the cops. And meanwhile, the facilitators were receiving conflicting bits of information.
Still, facilitators encouraged folks not to give up on the dialogue. The emphasis was on talking, talking, talking to one another.
Meanwhile, the mic checks continued with people “on stack.” Someone declared that, as a resident of Harlem, she could spend five nights a week at the square and give up her bed to others who might need it. Another person got up and asked that those of us who cannot attend the day of action this Thursday at least start a conversation with our coworkers about what’s happening.
Then Heidi’s name was called. She got up on a bench and began.
She spoke as a native New Yorker and the powerhouse organizer that we at RISE know her to be. She urged folks to recognize that this is not about one group of people who were arrested last night; this is about people who are arrested every day, the organizing that takes place around that and other issues every day. “Occupy the Hood,” she implored.
I took a bit of video before my phone battery died. The echo makes it really hard to understand, but I can make out: “If we wait (if we wait…wait…) for more permission (…more permission…ission)…and more injunctions (…unctions)…we will NEVER succeed. Talk to each other. But then find some people who are going to keep the lights going outside of OWS. We need to occupy everywhere!”
I stayed for a few more speakers after that, including one CUNY/Hunter College General Assembly member, who announced:
“On November 21 students from all CUNY schools “will be marching in solidarity to Baruch College at 4:00pm where the board of trustees will be holding a hearing on five year tuition hikes for CUNY schools and for health insurance or the lack thereof for adjunct professors who only make an average of $3,000 a semester. We will not accept that. We do not accept that. We invite you to march with us at Baruch at 4pm. If you have children, if you have student debt, of you cannot afford an education, this is your moment. Education is a right. Thank you.”
I left around 9:30. The mic checks were still going strong.