On one table near an opening in the barricade, a small flier outlining the protesters’ etiquette hints at why their occupation has flourished: “Regard Liberty Plaza as a home we are sharing.”
To a bystander or passer-by, the mixed messages of many different voices can appear unorganized, as one occupier’s sign states: “We’re here. We’re unclear. Get used to it.” But behind the signs and the shouts on the sidewalk, there is a sense of communal unity as those with personal hardships come together despite whether or not they are protesting Wall Street for the same reasons.
With a leaderless demonstration such as Occupy Wall Street, the impetus for protest becomes personal for those involved. Among the overlying animosity toward the financial situation and so-called “one percent” of the wealthy are deeper individual reasons for occupation; issues like natural gas fracking, feminist rights, immigration reform, college tuition costs and marijuana reform, to name a few.
Some supporters walked the premises with brooms to take care of any debris and others separated recyclables and cardboard for new signs from the trash. There are signs around the flowers to remind energized occupiers not to trample them, and a shared system of collecting greywater to water them.
Signs advocating the need to remain sober as a whole group are spread throughout the park in order to preserve order and responsibility during the prolonged occupation. At night, food funded by donations is served in the kitchen area, where steaming vats of ziti and rice and vegetables lure protesters hungry from demonstrating into orderly lines. Pies from a nearby pizzeria are continually delivered and distributed within the crowd as the just awoken protesters shuffle out of their sleeping bags to grab a slice. After the pizza is eaten, the boxes are saved and used to make more signs.
Inside of the small city park, the feel of a community is undeniable. On one side surrounding the general assembly area, many occupiers, some with sunglasses and bandannas covering their faces, stand stoically, holding their signs. Atop a staircase on the other side of the park, a drum and bongo rhythm resonates in the air along with the smell of incense and cigarettes. People jump and dance to the beat in what seems like a celebration, yet the only thing celebrated is their ability to protest and their efforts to have their voices heard.
In circles around the park, supporters sit and calmly discuss issues while others stand up and yell their grievances and demands to everyone within earshot as fellow occupiers echo the messages down the line for the rest of the park to hear. Because amplified sound is forbidden, this familial “human microphone” system is a very simple, selfless and effective solution.
In a different circle people sit and meditate and chant as a whole, in unison, without any regard for the distractions surrounding them.
At one point the chant “keep the peace like a Buddhist” overtook the cacophony of the crowd.