Occupy Boston: Day One

Guest Post by Mark Provost. Mark has more than ten years experience as an equity analyst, specializing in the semiconductor and wireless industry. Mark writes regularly about the US economy for Dollars & Sense, ZMag, Truthout, and Global Research.

Occupy Boston: Day One

My interpretation of the previous two days as a participant and journalist in Occupy Boston does not reflect the views of other members of the “99 percent” movement, or Occupy Boston as a whole.

The $64 trillion dollar question, “When will Americans hit the streets like people in other countries?” has been answered. Over the last several days, occupations have spread from Wall St., and erupted in more than 50 cities across America. The “99 percent” are rising to voice their grievances against an economic and political system which has disenfranchised them for too long. We share painful stories and common concerns, and want profound changes to how this country is governed—and for whom it is governed. See this and this.

I drove from New Hampshire Friday afternoon and arrived in Beantown to kickoff Occupy Boston. Dewey Square, the site of the occupation in the heart of the financial district, was easy to find thanks to police and media helicopters hovering overhead. But rush hour traffic and Boston’s circuitous one-way streets channeled me far from the site, to an expensive garage.

I asked a well-dressed young man exiting work for directions to the park. He didn’t know the location, and I didn’t tell him why I was going (fearing he may intentionally misdirect me). Unfortunately, my cover was blown when ‘Brian’ asked a coworker for the whereabouts. Brian pointed me in the direction of South Station and offered his opinion, “I work for an investment bank. I am a capitalist…but I don’t agree with American-style capitalism.” Without pause, he refined his thoughts, “I am a socialist.” I was running late, so I simply nodded. He repeated this heresy, and wished me luck.

Earlier Friday, a huge demonstration organized by ‘Right the City’ protested in front of Bank of America, demanding a moratorium on foreclosures and continued their march to Dewey Square. Most of protestors went home, but some stayed to help launch Occupy Boston. I met the acquaintance of three young men from Stoneham, one of whom just lost his job as an eyeglass technician. Luckily his friend, a marine biologist with $60,000 in student debt, just landed a job. “We switched places” they realized, and gave each other a high five. Gatherers mostly engaged in small groups without direction, waiting for something to happen.

The confusion subsided and we got down to business. The group began to communicate using the famed ‘people’s microphone’. When someone calls for a ‘mic check’, the whole group repeats their message in short sentences. We organized into seven separate teams: tactical, direct action, legal aid, food & medical, media, local outreach, and creative artists. Soon, Dewey Square was a rain-soaked and muddy experiment in direct democracy.

Our strength swelled to over 1,000 people. Ages ranged from 7 to 77, men and women, middle class and homeless, gay and straight, bisexual and transgender, anti-war activists and Marine Corps veterans, African Americans and immigrants, Arab and Jewish, Asians and Latinos, unemployed and overworked, working class and Ivy-League educated. We are committed to an innovative, democratic process which is a testament of our vision. The late Howard Zinn believed that the hallmark of a successful social movement is its ability to cultivate both democratic means and democratic objectives. One reinforces the other.

This is a leaderless movement without a central ideology. We are bound only by the understanding that we are part of the 99% of Americans getting shafted by the top 1%.

After we built our encampment and ate a hot meal, roughly 400 occupants hit the streets at 11:00 PM and declared our galvanizing message: “We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent! You are the 99 percent!” Countless cars honked in support, loaded Bostonians and passers-by cheered (and a couple jeers), some joined the march, while others grabbed smartphones and cameras to record the rebirth of America in the city that started it all more than 200 years ago. The 99% movement has been ignored and derided in the mainstream press—yet the overwhelming response from the people of Boston is revitalizing. If you join the movement, you will not be stigmatized. On the contrary, your dedication will be praised, honored, and thanked by fellow citizens. One by one, we will break the silence which has devoured this country.

Owing to the gravitational pull of truth-telling, the march returned to camp larger than when it departed. Suddenly, Dewey Park emptied as hundreds of us charged across State St. towards the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston We chanted “We are the 99%, You are the 99%” (pointing to the phalanx of police officers lining the front of the building) and “F*** the Fed!” The roar echoed from the thick glass walls and stone ground. It was tense, but officers remained disciplined while demonstrators played music, sang, and danced.

Unlike other cities like New York and San Francisco, the BPD has made no attempt to corral us, has not tried to block or channel our marches, has not tried to disperse us, and has entered the encampment once due to a medical emergency. So far, hats off to the BPD. If they respect our right to protest, it makes it easier for us to protect their right to collectively bargain.

By 1:00 AM, it was pouring rain and I told my new friend Murph that I would drive him home to Watertown in exchange for his help finding my vehicle. I returned to New Hampshire, caught five hours of sleep, filled my car with supplies, and headed back to the occupation.

So far, the media has largely ignored the 99 percent movement. A nationwide uprising focused on addressing extreme economic and political inequality is just not newsworthy. Journalists claim that we lack coherence, and ask in a quixotic tone, “Why are they protesting?” Have they not read their own articles or watched their own television reports. Each one of us knows why we are here, and we want to listen to everyone’s ideas. We are a multitude—and we are occupying Boston for a multitude of reasons.

The more relevant question is: Will you join us and contribute to the awakening?

See this and this.

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  • Jonas O.

    What’s all the uproar?
    It seems that most of Americans never bothered themselves to learn living within their means, save some money, plan for the future, get a decent education and avoid credit at all.

    The blame must be placed specifically on the so-called Baby Boomers, a failed generation who really enjoyed the prosperity of the 50s and 60s; instead, they focused all of their deprived intellect in experimenting with all types of drugs and having very promiscuous sexual lives. These people have done nothing for this country and now they are so scared of potentially not being able to collect their government entitlements (paradoxically, they are the majority).

    Therefore, America as a broken society is now paying the consequences of its own greed, lack of common sense and stupidity.

    Someone said that Americans are just a bunch of stupid animals easy to manipulate and subdue. The sooner the US economy collapses the better, so the ignorant populace will finally learn NOT to live beyond their means – and stop blaming the government, since they don’t give a crap about people’s grievances.

    Finally, educate yourselves about National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51, because Martial Law will be implemented in the United States due to the ongoing social unrest – and most Americans do not have a single clue of what this means.

  • Dave

    I hate to break this to all of you protesters, but real protestations don’t involve trying to shut down roads and evading police pepper spray.
    Can you imagine George Washington yelling into a loudspeaker running from cops, throwing a few rocks at them pushing over a few barricades or trying to block a street for a few hours until he got hungry and left (like what these kids are doing)?
    True change will take more than this people…

  • Jon

    Jonas, you’re a troll.

    What’s even worse is that you are probably one of the 99%, and you just don’t care.

    I am NOT swamped by debts, NOT underwater in a mortgage (I own this place outright), I AM a “boomer”, and I AM one of the 99%. I experimented with drugs, yes, and am glad I did. Promiscuous sex life? Not even close. Entitlements? Dude, I was diagnosed with cancer, am unable to hold a public job and instead of getting my ‘entitled-to’ disability I am making ends meet by creating work for myself here on this interweb thing. No, I do not make the money I was making a few years ago but I am NOT going after government candy and I AM succeeding in life.

    The BROKEN part of America is not its citizens, regardless of their age. The broken part of America is the values we have been legislating into our system, values like LYING ABOUT ASSET VALUES which was not only allowed but in fact required by FASB157 (2009). This isn’t a boomer thing, it’s a banker thing. It’s a political thing. And it’s extremely obvious to anyone who actually bothers to research the recent political/economic crisis.

    Your last paragraph should be enough to motivate you to the streets, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t motivate you because you have become jaded, cynical, the worst sort of American. You see the obvious writing on the proverbial wall, and all you do is complain about the folks who care. I’d like to leave you with a quote from my military days: “If you’re not going to help just shut up and get out of the way.”

  • It is no coincidence that the depression mark one happened during the time of prohibition mark one.
    And what do we have now? The depression mark two in a time of prohibition mark two.
    Prohibition severely corrupts police, courts, governments and financial institutions, just look at the Wachovia bank incident (now Wells Fargo). They were caught out with 420 billion dollars of drug cartel money, but they only admitted to 380 billion. And the government totally let them get away with it. If those guys are willing to deal with the drug cartels then no-one and nothing is safe from their greed and corruption.
    As a result of prohibition the police force world wide is double the size it should be and getting bigger. And criminal cartels, or are they corporations, now are as big as brand name multi-national corporations. And just look at the AG Eric Holder, he has been caught out in a fast and furious swindle selling arms to the same drug cartels he told us he was gunning for. It doesn’t get any more corrupt than that.
    We live in a world that is controlled by corrupt police, courts, officials and financial institutions working in hand with the worlds biggest criminals.
    The fact is that none of these guys give a damn for legitimate social management and even if they did they’re just not competent at it and no matter how much we protest about the current state of the economy and society, there ain’t gunna be no change for the good until we rid ourselves of this vampire called prohibition.