So, I paid a visit to Occupy Wall Street on Thursday October 27. It was NOT what the media would lead you to believe. First of all, a miracle has happened, a miracle that may have been caused by the absence of white shirted police supervisors; there were tents up yesterday.
The weather in NYC was horrible; that kind of cold, soaking rain that makes you want to do anything to avoid going outdoors. The blue shirted police in their rain gear looked cold and miserable and were probably consoling themselves with daydreams of the good old days spent in warm, snug patrol cars. Every conversation we had with the patrolmen suggested sympathy for, and even solidarity with, OWS. So maybe that’s why they turned a blind eye to the tent city that sprang up like mushrooms in the rain.
We got there around 5PM and aside from one little corner with drummers, the place had a quiet hum of purposeful activity. There were an unusual number of people with brooms and pans sweeping anything that looked like dirt or litter. There was a guy with a ball of twine telling people to tie their stuff down in case the wind picked up. Mostly people seemed busy, like they were in an office getting a project done.
Around 6 I had to dial into a Bar Association conference call and went looking for an indoor space to sit quietly with my cellphone. I found an indoor atrium in the lobby of an office building and sat in a corner by the FedEx box to have my call.
While I was there the most amazing thing happened. People began streaming in and moving chairs into circles or grouping tables together. They stood by these arrangements and held up signs that said things like “security” or “legal” or “media” or “demands.” The meetings filled up pretty quickly. The meeting organizers ordered what looked like soup and bread from the merchants there and, voila, an ocean of meetings began in the giant atrium. It looked like a huge beehive. The size of the groups varied, the demands group must have had 40 people and legal was probably less than a dozen, but I’d say the average size was 20-25.
There were probably a dozen meetings going on simultaneously and when a few would complete and dissolve, some of the participants would regroup into a new meeting. These people are organized! They came with pre-printed agendas, took meeting minutes, had time limits on how long one person could hold the floor, and kept the meetings moving at what seemed like a brisk and efficient pace.
If it weren’t for all the rain gear and the jazz hands, you’d think you were at a corporate working retreat for some really well run company. The educational credentials and work experience of some of the people who were speaking, and the expertise they were bringing to bear, was impressive at times.
These are not aimless hippies frittering away their autumn dancing to the drum circle. These people are focused, organized, efficient and doing long range planning. They have their act together. This is just the beginning and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
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