Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Occupy Wall Street: Scenes from a sleepy protest

One thing about the Occupy Wall Street protest in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park: Don’t visit too early. Like, before 2 p.m.

We made that mistake last week and arrived around 11 a.m. Everyone was still sleeping, literally curled up in their sleeping bags, and in one case, underneath a tarp. Dan and I were kind of disappointed in the vibe of the whole thing; I had expected to be so taken with the movement that I would throw my sleeping bag down there with everyone else. After all, this is my issue! I have a $40,000 debt and no job! Most of my friends don’t have healthcare! One of them only goes to the dentist when she has a Groupon in her hand!

But those who were awake couldn’t quite articulate why they were there, other than that they were angry and wanted change—which I absolutely agree with—but it was disheartening when one person we talked with told us he doesn’t vote. Most people here don’t vote either, he said. The logistics of the protest are well-organized; the manifesto of the movement is not.

In any case, Occupy Wall Street is truly all-American. The park is little, but it’s a cross-section of the country. We saw retirees protesting, business-types taking pictures with their iPhones, hippies beating drums, tourists gawking, police patrolling, vendors selling food…basically enough variety to rewrite modern, angsty lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas song.

A succession of double-decker tour buses rolled in to see the spectacle. It’s been tough for us to remember which city we’re in because of our ping-ponging around the country, but after that we knew we couldn’t be anywhere but New York City.


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