During lunch today, I took a walk through Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement. I'd checked them out from outside the park many times, but I'd never ventured into the park itself, not since they moved in three weeks ago. Maybe it was the fear that I'd see or smell things I didn't want to experience. Maybe I was afraid I'd see a sign that struck me and I'd quit my job and join them. Or maybe it was the thought that the minute I waded into the mass of people would be the moment the NYPD decided to clear the park and arrest everyone.
None of those things happened. I walked through the park unmolested. In fact, it was enlightening. They have a kitchen area with plates and bowls, and a "greywater" system for cleaning dishes. They have a desk for registering volunteers, a library, and a cellphone charging station. They have a daily message board with the park rules (including quiet time from 10 PM - 8 AM, keep your stuff bundled and wrapped when you're not sleeping, keep the central walkway clear). If they don't have a cohesive list of "demands" or clear intentions, they at least have things organized down there. It's a real community now, not unlike something out of a William Gibson novel.
I had already decided that while some of the people there appear to be creative types looking for ways to express themselves, they're not all crazy hippies who are too lazy to get jobs. My quick stroll today reinforced my impression that they're from everywhere, representing everyone. I could be there, but for a few breaks I had earlier in my career. They seem like rational, thoughtful people. And I figured out after last Saturday's arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge that they're not going anywhere. Even if the police moved in and arrested everyone in the park for trespassing, hundreds of people would be back in the space the next day. The city, the state, and indeed the nation will need to figure out what to do with them.