Today at 4pm I went to E5 to help distribute the 3rd edition of the Boston Occupier, the official newsletter of Occupy Boston.
Outside Boylston Station I saw a young man standing outside in the rain holding a sign that read, “Why do we feel the need to hate?”
I approached him and asked if he knew the way to Harrison Street — the location of E5 where I was heading to pick up copies of the Boston Occupier. He said he didn’t, and hadn’t even heard that people were getting together to hand out the papers. I went back in the station to ask the MTA officer for directions, and came back out to see if Ricky would come with me. When I got back outside an older man with cuts and bruises on his head stopped to read the sign, and stared at Rick and I for a few seconds. On his right wrist was a hospital band, and on his shoulder was a big green duffel bag. Rick broke the silence, ‘how are you?’ he asked.
“What does your sign mean?” he asked back.
“What does it mean to you?” replied Rick.
“I was a soldier. It’s impossible not to hate. And it’s impossible to try and topple some government, and..”
Rick interrupted him, “It’s not impossible.”
They were both starting to raise their voices a bit, so I stepped in and asked the man how long he had been a soldier. “For four years from 1974 to 1978.”
I asked him what branch of the military he had been in – it was the Army.
I asked if he had heard of Veterans for Peace, and told him he should look up their website. I told him a little bit about the group, and Rick said we had a meeting to be at. We said goodbye and started looking for Harrison St.
As we walked through the afternoon rain we talked about why it is that people have lost faith in themselves, and how to change it. Rick was camping out at Dewey Square for about two months. When the Occupy site got evicted he started staying with different friends.
We found E5 and went inside.
We walked in to find someone sitting down at a desk working on a computer, munching on an apple. “Wow, haven’t seen you in a while,” he said. His name was Matt and he was one of the main media people for Occupy Boston. Rick went on the computer next to Matt and I pulled out A People’s History because no one else was there yet and it’s overdue from the library.
I was reading for a few minutes before a few people started trickling in. A man named Texas sat down opposite from me and we started talking about Occupy and the Walk Away From Uranium Mining Towards Aboriginal Sovereignty. He was friendly and nice, but admittedly I was more excited to talk to him because he was the first person I met of the day who wasn’t white.
A few other people walked in and started talking about distributing papers, I stood up and introduced myself. I got a T pass and Ian (an editor of the occupier), Texas and I were going to head to the JFK/UMASS stop and pass out papers. Texas and Ian had never been to UMASS Boston so we ended up going to the student center and dropping off a few papers (which I feel really good about) before heading back over to the train stop.
After about an hour we headed back to Downtown Crossing to hand out more papers. It was there that I rain into Elana, another Occupier who was wondering what was happening and how to organize more effectively. She was one of the people who got arrested the first time the cops tried to take down Occupy Boston. For the second time today, I had seen a random person on the street and mentioned the single word, “Occupy” and we instantly greeted each other as friends. It’s really empowering, and while I still don’t know how I completely feel about Occupy, this revelation alone (as brought to my attention by Elana) is a reason I can continue to support it. We talked about, ‘the movement’ for a few minutes before she headed off to a Hanukkah celebration at Dewey Square, she told me to come along.
I found Texas and Ian and asked how they felt about heading over to pass out the newsletter at Dewey and check out the celebration. Texas had to head back, but Ian came over with me.
We were passing out newsletters at the subway entrance when a cop car pulled up presumably to make sure none of the people tried to re-Occupy or anything else too radical.
I walked up to the cop car and offered them copies of the flier. They begrudingly took one and I think they thought I was trying to mock them or something. Oh well. If this movement is about the ‘99%’ then we need to reach out to the enormous demographic that is being left out. Divide and conquer is the reason that for centuries a few elite have been able to claw their way to the top and stay there. We have to realize what we all have in common, as minorities and oppressed people.
But I digress.
As Ian and I were handing out the Occupier we had a few really positive responses.
One man was getting off of the train with his Aunt who had just gotten into the city. He was asking where all the occupiers were. I guess earlier on in the Occupation he had been helping out with substance abuse/the medical tent. He was a huge supporter, and his aunt had taken part in (or at least witnessed) Occupy Chapel Hill. They both thought that the Occupiers had a good point.
“Someone needs to stand up and be heard, I think it’s a great thing they’re all doing,” one of them said. They promised to check out the site and were enthusiastic about reading the paper.
Another really positive experience for me personally was when a black woman in her mid – late 30s took a paper. She was asking what the occupiers were doing now and was really pleased to see people still out for Occupy. “I’ll try to continue to support you in whatever way I can,” she said.
I realize pointing out someone’s race is irrelevant and you can call me as many names as you want, but in my life, in the activist world, most of the people I work with are white. It’s not some kind of outrageous, racist statement, it’s a fact. They are old and they are white. I always get really excited when I see people of color because they are the most important people in these burgeoning Revolutions. I have seen enough movements where white students spoke out against corporate greed and war, I want some black people on the mic! Shit. Where are the Muslims, where are the gay people? Where are the immigrants and poor middle class, 35ish year old conservative poor Christians? Where are the drug addicts, sex workers, and people suffering from mental health issues? Where are the public servants?
These are the people who are most affected by all of this economic inequality, and these are the people whose voices I rarely hear. Maybe the Occupy Movement needs to think about why that is, and how it can reach out to them, or provide a space that they feel comfortable in, and a movement that they can relate to. That’s when we’re going to get real change, folks!
After we passed out a few more of the papers the long awaited 10 foot tall Menorah arrived and we all gathered around to start the ceremony.
I was excited but also pretty nervous about how many people I was instantly going to alienate myself from. I mentioned to Ian that I couldn’t take part in celebrating a Jewish Holiday without bringing up the horrendous atrocities that are happening to Palestinian people on Palestinian land as we celebrated.
We stood in the rain and sang and couldn’t properly light the menorah because of the rain but it was good to see people in Dewey Square. After the story we all broke into groups and talked about re-dedication and the miracles we had witnessed over the course of Occupy. Marion, an organizer from the Jewish Labor Committee spoke first about the women of Egypt last night who marched against the brutality of the soldiers and the men who stood with them.
“Are you Palestinian?” she asked. And I had a shining moment of super pride and again thought of wearing a keffiyeh hijab daily in solidarity. I told her I was not.
She said they support the idea of a two state system and while they don’t approve of brutality or human rights abuse anywhere, they did approve the idea of a Jewish homeland. She said Zionism means many different things to many people.
I thanked her for not being defensive and left to get more cider. It made me realize that I have to do more reading about Zionism. I am absolutely, 100% on the side of human rights, freedom, justice and compassion, which in this situation means I completely support Palestine and think that what Israel has been doing (for decades) is sheer insanity.
But it was interesting for me too, I didn’t know how to bring it up. Is talking to Jewish people about Israel the same as all of the racist Americans who think somehow all Muslims know each other and have some kind of ability to stop ‘the terrorists’?
Or is it my responsibility to speak for people who don’t have a chance to speak?
Obviously I decided the latter, but either way tonight gave me a lot to think about.
I met some incredible activists (that I hope to see again soon) and created a bit of a relationship with the Occupy Movement.
Oh, that’s what else I wanted to say.
Tonight me and the other people I knew distributing papers have not been a part of the Occupy Movement from the beginning. We were not camping out and suffering and enjoying the actual day to day experience that Occupy Boston has been. We are not the original Occupiers, and as such don’t really have a right to be claiming that title.
Is it really an exciting thing? Is the Occupy Movement such a faceless, giant Revolutionary idea that people can come and go and the movement will live on regardless?
Or is it that the original Occupiers who laid the foundation for us to be able to speak about this movement have been pushed out and can no longer relate to the movement/no longer know what is happening?
I’m really not sure.
Either way I will continue to show support, because as long as people are taking to the streets decrying the corruption of this society it is my duty to support it.
peace outskies. More pictures later (maybe).