I participate in Occupy DC, but I’ve watched New York’s occupation only in the media, so I’ve seen them the way the media sees all of us. They mass and they march, menacingly unified, and clearly “anti” everything, or a lot of things. But who are they? And what exactly are they doing? News reports about the occupy movement answer these questions badly, making protesters incomprehensible even to sympathizers.
Colin Moynihan writing for The New York Times City Room Blog about Saturday’s Occupy Wall Street march and the subsequent arrests and violence is a perfect example. The details reported could hardly make the protesters seem more victimized. Occupiers are shoved, beaten, and arrested, with no better justification given than the need to keep things orderly.
Still, there’s disbelief that police could dish out violence without any cause. We hear from occupiers mostly after they’ve been victimized, but who can trust them? There must have been something in the nature of the crowd that called for it. Nobody really understands what happens at a protest anyway, so who knows?
This is the way a newspaper covers politics. The Democrats don’t want their intra-party fights and deliberations and day-to-day mundanity broadcast. We’re supposed to focus on the outcomes: the big events, the prepared statements, the votes. They want to be this inevitable, unanimous machine.
But focus on the social, mundane aspects of participating and organizing and occupiers will become human. And that’s what we want.
You have to start with what the occupied public places mean to participants. They form a combined social club and workplace, where you come to hear a teach-in, plan a march, or go to a businesslike twice-a-week meeting. It’s a social experience, and the people involved are excited, bored, confused, discouraged, and buoyant over the work that they’re doing and the risks they’re taking to improve the world in the multiple ways they think is best.