Occupying Wall Street at KGB
1. Christine Utz grips the audience in an important discourse on spirituality at OWS. Editor of OR Books, Colin Robinson, is thoroughly engaged. 2. Ed Kearns, Brooklyn-based writer and 99%er, is responsible for getting contributor Jon L. Peacock out of bed in the early hour of the movement’s eviction from Zuccotti Park.
The book that breaks the scene wide open is stacked on an old wooden bar table. It is raw, unapologetic, unadorned: a primary document. The early birds and KGB bar regulars browse its contents. The room fills. Soon, it’s packed. Colin Robinson, co-publisher of OR Books, steps up to the mic to introduce Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America.
The book was a completely collaborative effort, authored by “Writers for the 99%,” a group that came together under the collective desire to document the movement. The group makes no assertion that this book is in any way the “official statement” of Occupy Wall Street. However, what it does provide is a cohesive, inside perspective, generated by a diverse group of approximately sixty contributors, many of whom remain active in the movement.
1. Amity Paye contributed to the enlightening chapter on the role of the People Of Color Working Group at OWS. She is a journalist with the Amsterdam News.
With such a varied and extensive authoring, the book covers a lot of ground. Travis Holloway read a portion addressing the presence of art at OWS. He mentioned the conception of the Poetry Guild, a gathering of writers who sought not only to “demand for democracy, but to perform it.” A sort of open-mic occupy. In addition, other collectives, including art-based and performance art-based groups were formed, pointing to the solidifying of community at OWS.
Christine Utz discussed the important role that meditation and a spiritual life played, highlighting the work of Meditation Flash Mob, Occupy Wellness Group, and Consciousness Working Group in creating and maintaining the “sacred space… of Zuccotti Park… used for self-reflection, yoga, chanting, prayer and meetings with a spiritual focus.” Utz read with a conviction that brought to mind the historical and undeniable link between protest and meditation — that spirituality is at the heart of any significant movement.
Jackie DiSalvo spoke about the involvement of students and worker’s unions, enunciating with what must have been the voice she demonstrated with at OWS itself. She read about OWS protestors infiltrating Sotheby’s auctions and disrupting sales. She made it clear just how much student groups and unions compose the backbone of protest.
1. Jon L. Peacock read from the chapter on the eviction of OWS from Zuccotti Park. He is a writer and actor and teaches at various colleges in NYC. 2. Keegan and friend, both active OWS supporters, energy bike enthusiasts, and friends of Electric Literature.
Amity Paye shed light upon the racial realities of OWS. She discussed the People of Color (POC) Working Group that was created to bring ethnic and racial minorities to the occupy movement, which, at the outset, was an overwhelmingly white male majority. Minorities were alienated by the racial hypocrisy of “The 99%.” Occupying Wall Street quotes Jodi, a member of the POC Working Group, saying, “The POC’s purpose is to keep the movement accountable, to keep these progressive white activists accountable, to have them understand that just because they are now feeling the pinch and the burn… it doesn’t mean that peoples’ worlds haven’t been in turmoil for decades, for centuries.”
1. Travis Holloway talks about the empowering art community of OWS. 2. Jackie DiSalvo brought the spirit of demonstration to KGB with her words on the contribution of students and unions to the movement.
Concluding the evening was Jon L. Peacock’s crushing narrative of the eviction of OWS from Zuccotti Park. In a dramatic swoop of cold air and barricades, Peacock illustrated the scene with collages of dire protest chants, NYPD dirty looks, and scattered bits of exclamation. “‘My house is in that dump truck!’… ‘They’re stealing our shit!’… ‘You’re sexy! You’re cute! Take off that riot suit!’” Mayor Bloomberg was reported to have said, “Now they’ll have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.” At the end of this chapter in Occupying Wall Street it reads, “the protestors prepared to do just that and more.”
Occupying Wall Street: THE INSIDE STORY OF AN ACTION THAT CHANGED AMERICA
— Jesse Katz is a born-and-bred New York City writer and musician. He edits the local monthly zine, Having a Whiskey Coke With You.