While the New York Review of Books offered their urbane gloss on things Zuccotti Park and you, Dear Reader, may be in the City to observe for yourselves, we turn to the twin occupy efforts in D.C. for a glimpse. The twin D.C. outposts present a unified facade to the casual inquirer, but pushing separate websites, general assembly meetings and the like show realities.
The Occupy D.C. outpost has grown about 15 tents. The library is much bigger. The National Park Service rules to obey in the park are encased in a plastic shell along walkways like at the National Air and Space Museum. Today at least, Occupy D.C. also features alot more young twenty somethings hanging out with their friends and video cameras. The interlopers are easy to spot and most, when a camera comes out, scoot or tell the Stiftung, “Please don’t take my picture, I am just visiting.” As with Facebook, the young seem less worried about privacy or the whole provocateur/police informant thing. At least they are there, adding their bio mass to protest The Man.
Occupy D.C. has people wise enough to explain tents and food are available to anyone willing to stay. They, however, are a far cry from Blake and ‘always be closing.’
Since our last visit the cardboard signs have multiplied. Occupy D.C. sends out emails hours ahead of time for a meet up and march to somewhere to protest, whether the nearby Chamber of Commerce or some bank. Those crowds remain modest but their commitment notable. Otherwise, like today, the place can look deserted except for the Stiftung and other tourists.
The October 2001 Freedom Plaza encampment on Pennsylvania is still there, the earlier threat of police shutdown averted. The tents seem fewer although laid out to appear more numerous. Here, more than Occupy DC, the Stiftung catches glimpses of the old hard core anti-Vietnam War protest movement. Visible personnel at the information booth, etc. are silver haired and speak in Old Left code. The Stiftung pushes their buttons instinctively on sight and certainly by the questions we ask, which are a deliberately opaquely invasive nature. Particularly regarding some of their out of town protests against various facilities. Amusing to leave them thinking they’ve spotted and shut down The Man.
By contrast, the Occupy D.C. camp site has always had a softer, more welcoming Lollapalooza vibe – that a game of hacky sack might break out at any moment. One advantage October 2001/Freedom Plaza has over Occupy D.C. is that they don’t need generators. They are able to tap into local electricity grids. And the numerous hotels and other entertainment venues across the streets all offer various forms of free WiFi. As the weather worsens these kinds of things will loom large.
We still conclude it’s premature to proclaim OWS and its offspring have ‘changed the debate’ or more. Even granting that the City encampment is unique and we’ve yet to visit. Rather, our take is all of them around the world opened the door for possibilities. We’ve yet to see who or what steps through.