Morning In Zucotti Park

by Sebastian Briglia


I believe in a peaceful revolution,” said Michael Angelo Bosch, a muscle-bound middle-aged man with sunglasses on and a beret covered with badges. The badges are tiny, and before I get to their message I resolve to read the sign he is holding, which is a full manifesto on a four by two placard. It starts with “Everybody wants to change the world but nobody wants to change.” True enough, I think to myself. I see the word “love” all over it, and on his shirt, so I decide I should speak to him. Just staring at him with my camera trying to read everything seems a bit awkward, and awkward can make some people angry, which I generally stay away from when large muscle towers over me. “I think with the power of unity and the power of love,” Bosch continued, “we’re not only going to help to change what’s happening in this country but also globally. You see a global awakening that’s starting already…”

So what is happening in this country that we need to change? As I understand journalism, a blog entry is an opinion piece, so here are a few ranting paragraphs filled with my own opinion (it’s a sort of a landslide so brace yourselves):

A man in a Guy Fawkes mask held up a sign by the entrance at the lowest point of Zuccotti Park, by the Freedom Tower site. It read: “What is our Demand? Better Health Care, Decent Wages, Stop High Mortgages, No More Rent Hikes, Racial and Sexual Equality, Leaders that Represent the People, No More Useless Wars, Balance the F**king Budget, Education + More.” I would have easily dismissed such a list of demands as too general, a “sludge” of “every left-wing cause,” as Fox News producer Jesse Watters said on the O’Rilley Factor. I would have rationalized that it’s not so simple, although having no training in economics none of this can possibly be simple to me. It would have been easy to do that if a few of these topics did not incidentally drop into my life around this time:

Rent Hikes. I left the ghetto a year ago even though our landlord offered us a lease without an increase. I didn’t realize how “gracious” this was until this year, though even if I had I still wouldn’t have put up with death-threats from our drunk neighbors who were simply drowning their disappointments in their own way… This year our rent went up. My salary did not. It hasn’t in almost four years. I’m young, so this was the first time I realized how important a cost of living yearly increase is. We asked for a raise at work and were told that because of the economy, nobody is getting one. I did the research, and as far as our income bracket was concerned, they were right. “Decent Wages” – check.

I called the landlord and told her this, and she said that it’s not up to them. The Rent Control Board has authorized the rent hike. I guess it seemed obvious to her that she would increase the rent as much as she could, and although she took ten dollars off upon my phone call, it still went up. So here is a government commission authorizing owners to increase rent every year regardless of the economy and the interests of those affected by it. “Leadership that Represents the People” – check.

New York has a constant flow of wide-eyed youngsters who are willing to pay too much to get to live here, until they realize in a year that they can’t afford to, so the market is flooded. Much like the New York tour-bus industry, of which I was a part of, landlords don’t need to provide good customer service – the hype of the city itself assures anyone who has the capital to get into that kind of industry can do what they want. So much for the free market’s self regulation. And speaking of raises, the very employees we bailed out with our taxes, bank CEOs, are getting bonuses again. Phew. Enough about the issues. Back to the magic of Occupy Wall Street.

Michael Angelo Bosch, the muscle-bound activist, seemed very confident in his convictions. He went on to put his personal mission at Occupy Wall Street in a nut-shell for me and we’ll get back to him later, but most of the people I encountered before him were less assertive, like me. They just knew something was wrong, their energy was more like someone who was tired of oversleeping and was up early in the morning, but before they could do anything they had to show up somewhere, so they showed up there.

In fact it was early in the morning. Sort of. Just before 9 am. People were waking up, sweeping, adjusting their tarps and thermal foil.  Two young men were already busy at the info center – a barricade with some cables behind it . They were helping residents recharge their phones. Later their role would change: “We can tell you our message, but I suggest you walk around and talk to people if you want to find out what we’re really about,” I overheard one of them say. Not to a media representative, but to a young man with a stranger-in-a-strange-land look who no doubt had a message of his own. The kitchen had donated pastries put out on folding tables. A man in a yellow reflective vest with a red cross on it was setting up the medical tent. His first customer was rubbing the sleep from his eyes while helping himself to some chap-stick.

The library was already open by 9 am – a clearing with Tupperware containers full of books arranged very nicely indeed. The clear-plastic box labelled “Health and Wellness” prominently featured two books on top of the rest. They were “Cracking the Millionaire Code, Your Key to Enlightened Wealth” and “How to Clean Practically Anything.”

A man with piercings and a gray hoodie said “Looks like the pictures are coming out nice and clear” as I was scrolling through them on my camera in the crowd.  I figured he wanted me to interview him. His name was Gregory and he had just turned 41, and was there because he had gotten into a disagreement with his family and needed a place to stay. Through the camera I saw a searching look in his eyes, as if he had some questions for me too. I could have told him that I was in his situation six years ago, and if I was going through that today I would have probably come to Occupy Wall Street as well. Instead I thanked him for spending the night there. He was going to look for a halfway house the next day. The mere presence of so many people at Occupy Wall Street who do not know where to turn when things fall apart is, as I see it, the strongest testament that something in the way America is structured needs to change.

“I think this not only calls attention to the injustice of corporate greed in America,” Michael Angelo Bosch went on to say, “or the lack of understanding of the people’s needs by our politicians, but I think it supports a global awakening to the injustice that’s happening around the world, and people are coming together. Hopefully we can see some change happen. We don’t have to resort to radical movements like the 1960’s where you become physically violent or anything. I think with people power, with understanding, with people coming together and the power of love, things can and will change.”

By noon professional camera crews with their anchors and stage lights dominated Zuccotti Park. It’s amazing how quickly a heated debate among people who have made themselves comfortable amidst the insecurity of tents in the middle of downtown Manhattan morphs into a self-conscious display of uncertainty when suits, microphones and bright lights are present.

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