This is a report from a friend in St.Louis, who wrote it as an email without having the idea of it being published; but since he said "do whatever you feel like doing with it", I'm putting it up. Particularly as nobody else has even mentioned St.Louis. It gives a good flavour of the contradictions and excitement of this small but volatile assembly.
Email, Wednesday 5th October:
What a madhouse.
Haven't seen anything like it before. It's unclear where it's at now. As I was leaving last night they evicted the plaza after 5 days occupation - arrested 5-15 people (who wished that fate upon themselves) with a grand show of police force (some 50+ squad cars - twice as many officers).
I haven't been following it too closely in other places, so I don't really know how it compares. People have risen from the woodwork and it's a mess. What professional leftists/activists there are here have very little practice in political manipulation, so even after 5 days, what seems prime ground for recuperation, has stayed, quite frankly, a madhouse.
A friend described it as loads of people who, over the past couple years, have truly lost their faith in "the system" and it's devastating to them to believe in something so much only to be let down. And the popular outburst of anger/frustration caught many of our friends by surprise and failed to resonate with us immediately, because - well, the world crushed us what seems like eons ago and we forget what that losing of faith feels like.
It really is a mash-up of folks, many of whom were bold enough to come to the occupation on their own, without the safety of friends. People talk of the failure to communicate their excitement about the #occupy with co-workers or friends, so they come to the plaza to find affinity with people. Sure, lots of people come with their friends. but lone wolves are banding
I can't even start to describe the diversity of people down there. Black, white, men, women, children, homeless people, restaurant workers, trade unionists, conspiracy nuts, friends of friends, strangers, iraq war veterans... ok , i started. It makes almost no sense, why so many people have "joined"- why they see themselves as participants and not spectators.
Wonderful. and wonderfully unsettling.
This world has destroyed so many of us (mentally and socially, especially) and I think the movement can only be understood if that is understood.
There's many similarities to the anti-war movement that sprung up here in 2002-2003, but there's no war to stop - there's a "system" to stop. And when everyone defines system differently, it turns it into a cauldron of vague calls for revolution peppered with calls for (sometimes ideological) unity.
This 99% junk is responsible for a lot of this incoherence. A guy yesterday at a general assembly (a term that has now entered the vocabulary) explained how those between the 1% and 2% make $20 million per year. And instead of logically going on to say how ridiculous it is to be considered on the same plane as these people, he puzzles how to get them
to join us. And this was generally accepted as a part of the conversation of how to get more people to the occupation. But, from what I can tell, the make-up continues to be really working class in spite of this. Of course there's middle class elements and embodiments, but the craziness of it all, in my opinion, is keeping it from falling into some "preserve the
middle class" activism.
An important playoff baseball game finished several blocks away, and fans were pouring out streaming past the plaza, happy and drunk from the game. "Baseball game's letting out, lets go hold signs at the intersection!" - you
want your slice of upper/middle class america, you got it. A few drunk fans encouraging people not to be complacent any more, a few screaming "get a job"/"take a shower"/"my taxes subsidize trash like like you"/etc. First i was marveling, spectating. A furious demonstrator following/stalking some of the upper crust who had the gumption to insult the lower crust as he walked through our gauntlet. An old hippie responding with "fucking bourgeoisie piece of shit!" or something like
that. Then I joined - picked up a sign that said "tax the rich" and crossed out the "t" and stood on the street at this busy intersection wondering what would happen if any of my bosses or co-workers streamed by. Some nasty words exchanged by an over-eager friend of mine and an unsuspecting fan. Some chants of "gimmie your wallet." Some pleas of non-violence from some Gandhiites. Shit, we feel this way, what do we do with it besides hold a sea of ambiguous, rhetorical, and sometimes contradictory signs and scream our frustrations with this world? Some old protester guy screaming, "That's right - keep on walking, keep on shopping." Some youngster with tea party influence shouting "end the fed" like a broken record at the endless stream of fans. A black and red flag in the mess. A couple of traveling dirty hippie punks finding joy in walking against the tide of fans and watching them part for him "like Moses." But we weren't all a sea of 60s hippies. We were a fairly large spectrum of the population. Such worry in the meetings about our image, but then this. Just one more contradiction can't hurt!
There's been daily demonstrations. I went to one yesterday afternoon at a bank headquarters that was initiated by this activisty anti-foreclosure group who re-negotiate loans with banks. Lots of police behind fencing, boring chants, restless followers. Afterwards we navigated our way to a bank branch a few blocks away and the organizers jumped on board like it was their idea. No police. Nice lobby. Nice couches. Some trash thrown. Loud music (Bonzo Dog Band thrown in for kicks :) ). Paralyzed security guards. 5-10 minutes of spontaneity and back to the plaza.
Some of us awkwardly (better than not at all, I think) proposed we go to the wealthy neighborhoods and disturb them on Friday [note: today]. We'll see if it pans out.
When we got there yesterday there was a very brief scuffle with a businessman taking pictures of us getting out of our car a few blocks from the occupation. He thought we were tea party and took our photos and flicked us off. A friend tried to knock the phone out of his hand and both looked liked they were about to hit each other, but the man scurried off. In retrospect, an apropos start to the day.
The day ended by watching the mammoth police operation from across the street with an off-duty private security guard (who works at the federal building) who had come to participate. He joked about him and his girlfriend starting a famous high school riot over discrimination a few decades ago. I dont think mutiny is around the corner, but I'm understanding more what that looks like.
To give you a better idea, at it's max, there's been a couple hundred people, but probably over a thousand have been through at different times in support.
I just got word that there's 50 people down there now re-occupying it, for the daytime, at least.
As they say down here in nutterville - less serf, more surf!
Thursday 6th, evening:
It's still going on. Just as many people down there. I had a heated exchange tonight with a local Fox news crew for shining a bright light on the assembly. It was not taken well by many of the "organizers" or the crew itself. The reporter herself flicked me off. 99% of the year I keep my mouth shut, but I taste a little bit of freedom at the occupation - enough to where it's hard not to feel emboldened to unleash my anger at those who deserve it.
Trying not to get ahead of myself. Of ourselves.
But it's fucking hard.