Occupying the Streets of New York

New York City plays the backdrop for a rookie journalist whose big city experience dazzles and concerns her.

The opening bell was about to go ring and the lanky, clustered buildings amplified a crowd of demonstrators.  Architecture was abundant and cool concrete was the theme.

I thrust myself into a crowd of protestors and walked alongside, stopping occasionally to photograph. Police officers shoved me along as another officer followed us yelling, “Keep moving” into a bullhorn.

A group of a dozen protestors exploded into the streets dancing and banging on medal pot lids. A tuneless blast erupted out of a plastic air horn.  A man played guitar while simultaneously blowing into a harmonica as another protestor waved an American flag that donned corporate logos instead of stars.

Bystanders looked like a group of paparazzi recording the scene with cell phones and others observed through the white steam that hovered over their paper cups of coffee. Men in three-piece suits pushed through the pack in disgust.

I walked into a confined space and panicked when I looked up across a barricade to see a brawny police officer with a teargas can the size of a 2 liter bottle on his hip.

When I had heard about Occupy Wall Street a couple days before, I knew I had to go. I thought it was going to be something extraordinary.  And it was.

What could make a better backdrop for a protest than New York City? I had arrived the day before to Bowling Green Park where a crowd of 700 people gathered.

Activists gathered around a college-aged man in multicolored, spandex leggings and a ponytail who appeared to be giving a pep rally. The scene looked like a coach preparing his players for a football game.

There were people carrying rucksacks, children, college students, spectators and a throng of journalists with microphones and cameras dispersed throughout the crowd. Numerous protestors looked as if they were planning a backpacking trip but the closest thing to a mountain that I saw were skyscrapers that surrounded us.

Standing on the footsteps of the Smithsonian Museum in the oldest park in Manhattan, a Santa Clause look-alike in a tie-dyed jacket caught the attention of the crowd.  His burley voice cut the chatter as he yelled at a cop who tried to remove him from the steps.

A swarm of reporters, including myself, surrounded the veteran as other protesters sought a chance to be heard by taking turns shouting into a megaphone.  I had imagined New York reporters would toss a rookie like me aside and I was surprised that I held my own.

Red double-decker tour buses plastered with advertisements drove by and camera-happy tourists snapped pictures or cheered us on.

When it was time to move toward Wall Street, protestors chanted in harmony, “Who’s Street? Our Street. Occupy Wall Street” and “The people united, can never be defeated.”  Being on display embarrassed me but feeling comparable to a tourist attraction connected me to the city. I was careful not to become too involved by playing up the role of a journalist and taking pictures as if I were a pro. I too wanted to chant at the top of my lungs but reminded myself I was there to observe. I was experiencing New York how I want to experience every city: by taking it hostage.

That morning I had stepped out of an historic building where I had slept the night before and into a sea of people making their way to work.  Important- looking men dressed in black pressed suits hurried by and women strutted in expensive leather boots.  The energy of the city and the cold air on my face were better than any cup of coffee.  At 7:30 a.m. the city was awake.

Sound bounced off walls in the financial district and I clutched my camera with authority. I rounded a corner to find five police officers huddling around a man they arrested.  A Brooklyn college student stood off to the side as he filmed the arrest and franticly explained how the man had been unfairly detained.

A young man rounded a corner in handcuffs with two police escorts behind and I pointed my camera in his direction as I photographed what was to be the second arrest of the OWS movement. For a moment I made eye contact with the man being arrested and he grinned.

Before leaving the city, I walked back to Zuccotti Park where a red spiderlike statue stood erect over three people huddled in sleeping bags on the ground.

As I turned away to leave the park the correlation between protestor and journalist became clear: We want to be heard.  I knew nothing would ever be the same.

I smiled.

(Video taken by Kendra Yost on Andriod- Poor quality but you get the point)


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