Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Protesters Unite in Zuccotti Park

As we strolled through Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the scene laid out before us brought flashes of déjà vu as we were vaguely reminded of iconic images of the 1960’s. A long-haired hippie in a soiled t-shirt lounged casually on a dirty mattress, cardboard signs propped up haphazardly around him. American flags waved proudly in the breeze amid colorful signage. There was a faint musk in the air and a sporadic soundtrack of bongo drums.

This time around, however, the war isn’t in Vietnam, it’s on Wall Street.

Currently headquartered in Zuccotti, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement boasts an organized front of a motley mix of characters and agendas. While Flower Children of yesteryear may be quick to snub this new generation of protesters, we were stuck by the sense of community that had obviously been fostered in these past two weeks. A makeshift living room complete with chairs and carpet almost looked inviting enough to kick back in. A craft services area was stocked with snacks, fruit, and coffee. Blue collar workers unified in their neon green t-shirts shared smokes with boho artists and musicians. Despite constant blasts that the effort thus far has been disorganized and ill-founded, a technology hub of laptops and a taping of a round-table forum seemed signs of the contrary. While no main agenda was resoundingly clear, different groups passed out literature outlining their particular platforms and a charmingly haphazard “front desk” at the edge of the park listed the daily events. Hipster engaged in conversation with business suit and everyone from police officer, to journalist, to tourist was tolerated. While things took an ugly turn during the march to Union Square, the loudest thing on our visit was the long gallery of signs that formed the colorful border of one side of the park. Ranging from bland and straightforward to hilariously clever, these signs gave each artist the chance to be heard. Is this park a pleasant green space in the urban jungle? Not currently. But it did strike us as one thing: decidedly New York.