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Sunday, April 1

'Open The Door And Go Inside:' Voices of #Occupy

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By Mickey Z.
World News Trust

Photo Credit: Mickey Z.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite.” --William Blake

Mar 31, 2012 -- For much of my radical life, I could've accurately characterized the activist scene as a series of separate rooms for separate causes -- with doors often locked. 

Until Occupy Wall Street (OWS), that is.

Today -- under the 99% umbrella -- a massive coalition is coalescing and this has created previously unimagined opportunities for militant mingling. 

Case in point: On March 24, I was at the Union Square OWS camp in solidarity with the protest against police brutality. As usual, I had my camera in hand -- taking advantage of the inexhaustible photo ops -- when I saw a smiling woman who happened to be in a wheelchair, carrying a sign that read: 

The Revolution Is Wheelchair Accessible

Between my long connection to the disability rights movement and my desire to share images that demonstrate the diversity of OWS, this was an automatic aim-and-shoot. I later posted the photo and tagged a friend in the disability rights movement. In a matter of minutes, this simple act resulted in my becoming Facebook friends with the woman in the photo: Michele "Equality" Kaplan.

This, comrades, is often how activism works. First, you gotta be there. Next, you gotta participate. Lastly (and this often where the proverbial ball is dropped), you gotta follow-through.

The follow-through part is how -- less than a week after taking that photo -- I am including Michele's story in my Voices of #Occupy series.

"When I heard about Occupy and went to Zuccotti Park," Michele told me, "I was so insanely excited to see what I was seeing. The energy and the people were so incredibly welcoming that I couldn't wait to come back. For me, though the only issue was the lack of wheelchair accessibility. Camping out was not an option, but I saw tons of potential. After all, from what I heard they had a women's only section, they had a non-smoking and smoking section. There was a sacred space area for meditation and defusing from it all. 'Why not create more accessible options of activists in wheelchairs?' was my thought."

This was the point when Michele learned just how DIY the Occupy movement is. She sums it up as such: "If you feel something is not right, start something and fix it yourself. The movement welcomes all kinds of groups."

As I've said over and over, this doesn't mean OWS (or any movement) is perfect.

Mic Check: To struggle for change is to risk imperfection.

Michele asked some simple questions in an OWS forum: "How can we make the movement more wheelchair accessible? Could there be a section on the park for wheelchairs and if not what are some alternatives?"

"I learned there are tons of trolls on the Occupy Wall Street forums," she explains. One response really got her motivated: "Are you fucking kidding me? This is a revolution! What next? A massage table?" 

"This pissed me off to no end and eventually led to the creation of Occupy On Wheels, which serves as a resource for the Occupy movement so they can make their events wheelchair accessible," Michele said. "That was when I also learned that there is also a great amount of solidarity, and that anyone can make an impact -- but you have to take the initiative. You can't just wait for someone else to do it."

Having an impact is exactly what all of us in OWS are doing -- each in our own way. If you want to learn this for yourself, well... interact with the mainstream. The same week I met Michele, I was waiting for a train at the Union Square subway station. On the back of my jean jacket, I had pinned a large 99% patch -- proudly displaying my "gang colors" in public.

The result was one man asking me what the patch meant. When I explained, he nodded and replied: "I don’t care what anyone says, what the cops are doing is wrong." To which a nearby tourist added: "Keep up the great work. God bless you all."

Okay, we've got doors and we've got a heavenly reference so... I'll happily accept this segue to one more Occupy story.

Anyone who's spent time at Liberty Square/Zuccotti Park or, more recently, Union Square Park is surely familiar with the image of a woman named Betty: holding a sign in one hand, her other hand held high in a raised fist.

When I recently saw Betty chatting with a couple of Mayor Bloomberg's soldiers, I had to ask her if she felt they "got" what she was telling them.

"Some of them certainly do," she said. "I have a good relationship with some of the cops -- even the white shirts." 

Betty went on to tell me how when her husband and other OWS musicians broke into Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," a white-shirted cop walked closer to tell them how much he loves that song.

"He stood there for a while, tapping his foot, until a higher ranking cop arrived," said Betty. "He moved away from us but stayed within listening range, still tapping his foot." 

Mic Check: We are cleansing the doors of perception but as Rage Against the Machine reminds us: "We don't need the keys, we'll break in."

"The Occupy Movement is like having a door that is closed," says Michele Kaplan. "There are no signs saying 'come on in,' but the door is not locked either. It's up to you to open the door and go inside."

Whaddya do once you're inside?

"Occupy is like a mural," Michele concludes, "and it's up to you to leave your community's mark." 


It's time we counter the media misinformation and 1% propaganda with a dose of reality -- the hard work, the community, the solidarity, the creativity, the innovation, and the durability behind the OWS banners. 

Send me a few lines about your experiences, etc. so I can continue writing a regular series of articles called: The Voices of #Occupy.

Let's open doors and knock down doors together so we can spread the word that this is the Global Spring and the 1% should fuckin' expect us...

#OccupyYerStory to me:
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

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