Your Own Personal Tahrir
There is a moment half-way through “Tweets from Tahrir” – the new tweet by tweet running quotation of the Egyptian Revolution – where the reader gets goosebumps. It’s when you realize, “I could do this. I could have my own personal Tahrir.”
The young people who ran up and down the honeycomb of streets around Liberation Square always found a way to return to it with more neighbors in tow. They solved a riddle that we all face. It’s a different riddle in Cote d’Ivoire, which is different than the riddle in Burma, and Orange Country, California, and the East Village of New York. But the riddle is there, placed there by old power – and every riddle has its solution, it’s freedom.
Here in New York, our riddle is armed and dangerous, the famous mix of militarized police, big money and high-tech marketing smiles. The riddle seems impossible. The last time we ran into public space and there were enough of us, we were resisting the Bush/Cheney convention of 2004, when we were arrested by the thousands and forced into old bus garages on the Hudson River. Even the local judges couldn’t get us out. The police had set up their lawsuit fund ahead of time.
That was 7 years ago. Ever since - the 1st Amendment Rights in the city of 9/11 have been traded in for a Hosni Mubarak-like idea of security. The Sphinx looks down at us with the face of a Beyonce and the body of a Rottweiler. Our progressive community resorts to doomed online petitions. We are resigned to watching the comedy routines of the Colbert Report, which is not much like direct action. Union Square, Washington Square and Tompkins Square, the three public commons in downtown NYC that were gathering places for social movements – are overwhelmed by corporate sponsors, wealthy gardeners, and Kafka-esque permit processes for gatherings of 20 or more.
But all those who face entrenched power have such stories – and worse. The riddle is always there, and riddles are solved. Our radical performance community – The Church of Earthalujah – now faces the Union Bank of Switzerland, the financier of earth extraction, the displacer of villages, the worldwide dark lord of toxicity. UBS takes the money of New Yorkers (and the wealthy everywhere) and blows up mountains, drills into aquifers, scrapes meadows into chemical vats. We have performed as angels, the choir with big white cardboard wings - in the UBS lobby across from Rockefeller Center, and we got arrested for Criminal Trespass. At our next court appearance on Tuesday April 19, we will gather on the sidewalk at noon, at 100 Centre Street in downtown New York. We will sing and preach and present our self-defense argument to the public. The “Necessity Defense,” in which our personal, physical interruption of the act of corporate violence is described by the plaintiff as the only alternative. And so we will face the riddle of another “green” but actually murderous company. Shout it, tweet it --- see if the Sphinx blinks.