by J.A. Myerson

… which even the Washington Post reported on.

I get there and take a brief survey of the crowd. A large group is being led in some chanting situation, another is on a make-shift office space, packed full of laptops, cell phones, and other devices that can connect to the internet. A sympathetic computer expert, it seems, has provided internet access for the camp. Another group hangs out smoking on Broadway. Some people play music, some make art and agitprop out of one of the hundreds of discarded pizza boxes. And there’s a huge stack of discarded pizza boxes. And there’s a table full of pizzas, which will provide many more boxes for the stack to provide many more canvases for the art.

An announcement is made at one point: “I have an announcement!” The crowd responds, in unison: “I have an announcement!” The announcer explains: “We have vegan pizza!” The crowd, jubilantly: “We have vegan pizza!” and the crowd all displays correct spirit finger form. This is at one of the community’s goodness-knows-what-number-of-hours-long meetings. An ever-changing cast of moderators runs down agenda items and hosts the stack. Anyone can join the stack at any time. Speakers speak in phrases of 10-or-so syllables and then pause while the audience repeats them, a method of amplification used under NYPD-enforced prohibition from the employment of any electronic forms. Assent and praise are expressed in twinkled fingers above the head. Points of order and so forth have their own hand-signals, well-known among the group and easily recognizable to the moderators. I mean, this is a well-oiled political system, if exhausting and interminable.

(I see a friend of mine, an organizer. “I can’t believe it!” she tells me excitedly, “The donations keep pouring in!” a statement contemporaneous to which, I notice the delivery of still more boxes of pizza.)

At one point a smallish faction of the protestors takes to marching around Liberty Plaza Park, where we are, chanting mainly, “All day! All week! Occupy Wall Street!” It eventually heads out into the streets of New York’s financial district. Liberty Plaza Park is sure a handy name for a square currently under the occupation of a group of activists inspired by the events in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, but it’s a bit eerie nonetheless, because most things in this area with names like “Liberty” are so named in tribute to the events of September 11, 2001, events whose most famous cite is only a couple of blocks away. In fact, it’s no longer called Liberty Plaza Park, but Zuccotti Park, so named for the financier of the park’s 2006 reconstruction, after its demolition by debris from the World Trade Center. Perhaps the only thing renamed from “Liberty” since 9/11, Zuccotti Park no longer houses rubble, but, as of Saturday, rabble, which tends to make one remember: the World Trade Center was populated mainly by Wall Street folks, which is why it was here.

After discussing, among many other things, the formation of a welcome center on Broadway with literature to recruit passers-by, the meeting wraps up at 7PM, whereupon another meeting is called for 9. As soon as the meeting breaks, more people get up to talk in front of the still-attentive crowd. This presentation includes an injunction that the phrase “Brothers and sisters,” a frequent opener for speakers here, propagates a gender binary with which many in the group take exception.

I tell another organizer I know that it’d be great to reach out to the unemployed, who might be tempted to join in (having weekday availability and beef with the ownership class), radicalize themselves a bit, get free food and meet some comrades. There is no leadership, so if that’s a move I think is good, I’m quite within my rights and even expected to go around peddling it to people and seeing if anyone had a friend working at a non-profit affiliated with unemployment. This organizer friend is selling folks on the idea that they ought to pitch the tents Lupe Fiasco donated to the occupation. There’s some concern of police activity if that happens. One protester (a real, live indignado, straight from Spain) comments that before incurring police wrath, the occupation ought to draw up a manifesto with specific demands and publicize it as widely as possible. It’s about optics, she cautions.

It really feels as though it’s one of those moments Marcuse wrote about and the Panthers created in the late ‘60s, when a piece of land is liberated from the empire whose law governs it, and a new law takes hold. Right now, for the denizens of Liberty Square Park are governed by themselves.

The dozens of cops on the perimeter are mostly well behaved while I’m there, but I gather from social media they’ve tried to deprive the group of fuel, which, I also gather from social media, was legal and safe. Then again, I’m not following any cops on twitter, so what I gather is just what I gather.

I take off for the night well in advance of the 9 o’clock resumption of deliberative democracy, (I live far, far away, see, at the other end of the island, in another world), and the marching crowd comes back.

And there are way more people in it.