Where am I?
I went to bed last night in the United States, but I think I woke up somewhere else.
When I went to bed, I was a law abiding, tax paying, overweight, middle aged teacher lady. I believed in democracy and the rule of law.
But today is a new day. A different day.
Today my sons are in New York City, back again with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. If you read my work very often, you know that I am in full support of the movement. I am a naive American, a student of history. I believe that free speech and the right to peaceably assemble are part of the fabric of our nation, part of what all of those wars have supposedly been fought to defend. So I am proud that my children dare to march and to stand up for what they believe.
I wasn’t too worried when I went to bed last night because my sons reassured me that they have no desire to be arrested (again). In my innocent little world of fantasy America, you see, that would mean that they could avoid arrest by following the requests of the police as they marched.
Today, though, oh dear. Today is a whole different reality.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I am able to watch the events unfolding in New York City via “Livefeed”. That means that a nice young man with a video camera is filming and giving commentary.
Its a good thing, too, because CNN is way too busy talking about Kate Middleton’s boobs to cover a big political protest in the financial capital of the world.
Anyway, I have been riveted to the computer screen all day, watching the marchers, listening to the chants and the music. And I noticed a few disturbing things right away.
First off, I noticed that there are almost as many cops as marchers. They are sure determined to protect the bankers from a group the press is calling “obsolete”! There are barricades and barriers and motorcycles and horses and riot helmets everywhere.
And second of all, the “requests” that the police are making are nonsensical and nearly impossible to follow. The marchers, as I watch them, are walking down a narrow street, under construction scaffolding, confined within endless rows of police barricades. They are ALL on the sidewalk (that was the old police demand, “Stay on the sidewalk.”) But now the police are yelling “Move to one side to let pedestrians pass.” Huh. There are no pedestrians trying to come toward the march. And the marchers are pedestrians, aren’t they? There is nowhere to move, unless they spill onto the street. Clearly the police know this.
I have been watching dozens of police filling the streets, often four and five abreast. As they literally fill the street, they are yelling through bullhorns that the marchers must not “Block vehicular traffic.” Um….?
The cops have stopped, redirected and turned the march three times now as I have been watching. The protestors have complied, for the most part, but they are being prevented from even walking past the New York Stock Exchange. How is this right?
I have seen one young man arrested for riding a bike on the street (scuse me?), one for crossing at an intersection, and five for sitting on the sidewalk. Several others were presumably arrested for stepping off the sidewalk.
Now, let me be honest and clear, OK? The police are not being angry, or violent in any way. They have been firm, but no one has been hurt. The marchers, too, are calm, not angry, completely non-violent.
But let me ask you this: What does it mean that we can no longer protest, peaceably assemble, seek a redress of our grievances unless we do it exactly where and when those in power tell us to? What does it mean that the job of the New York City police department is to prevent the bankers and money men from even having to see us or hear the voices of the American people?
Where the hell am I?
Writer’s note: as I was watching the live feed about an hour ago, listening to the police on those bullhorns and watching the crowd try to squeeze itself into ever narrower places, my computer screen suddenly filled with the profile of my middle child, and my blood pressure went up 40 points.