Occupy Wall Street: The Other 99% Is Not 90% Men
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CodePinkers came and went from the square throughout the day and gathered for the march against police brutality at 5:30. After the march more members stopped by to offer support and delicious home-baked chocolate chip cookies. As night fell, I went to the nearby fast-food restaurant that has become our bathroom. It was packed with young women from Occupy Wall Street. One (Nicole, 20) watched me take out my toothbrush and nodded knowingly. I asked her how long she's been staying in the square. She said since last Saturday. She told me she didn't planning on staying, just came down one day to check out the scene, met some cool people, and didn't want to leave. "You can't capture that on camera, that sense of community. I've never felt so close to the people around me."
A woman I recognized from the encampment's medic committee reminded us that our cell phones will be the first thing taken by the police and instructs us to take down the National Lawyers' Guild number in case of emergency. We obediently pen the number on our forearms in pink Sharpie and wish each other luck.
As I consult with the Safer Spaces committee -- identifiable by their pink armbands -- where to set up camp, it begins to rain. I run over to where the General Assembly is meeting and duck under a big red umbrella with Sara Beth, a member of the speak-easy caucus. We reminisce over how the umbrella originally brought us together in a moment that seems years ago but was probably last week, when I asked to trade my red umbrella for her pink one. The rain gets harder and louder. A young woman in a poncho tours the square with a cardboard sign shouting like a newsboy: "FREE HUGS!" People huddle under tarps and shout jokes across the square to keep spirits up: "Two fish are swimming in a river. One slams into a concrete wall. Dam!"
I ask Sara Beth what she wants to do if the rain continues. We decide to stick it out. I duck from tarp to tarp trying to cover my belongings and rally together other speak-easies. Eventually we seek refuge in the WikiLeaks truck, owned by fellow Bradley Manning supporter Clark Stoeckley. Referring to our Occupy Wall Street-induced evolution from Twitter-following to friendship, I joke that I'll thank the bejeesus out of him on Twitter.
There's about seven people in the van already, only one of whom is a woman. They welcome us in joking that it'll make her feel better. This is not exactly the "safe-space" we were envisioning, but it is warm, cozy, and most importantly, dry. Someone pokes her head in asking if anyone would like a pair of clean, dry socks. A few of us hold back out of politeness before accepting. Wiggling our toes with glee in the too-large white tennis socks, we all agree: they are the best socks we have ever worn in our lives.
Around 11pm I receive a text from my husband asking where I am. I reply, "Still in Liberty," expecting him to text back that I should come home because it's pouring. Instead, he arrives about half an hour later with a huge Tupperware container of freshly baked brownies. More people stop by the truck as the night progresses, including members of the Security Committee, who leave us with one of their yellow walkie-talkies in case we should need them. Like many of the committees, they mention they are looking for more women members.
People returning from bathroom runs report back: "We have occupied McDonalds!" "They're singing 'This little light of mine.'" And, eventually "We have been evicted! Need to find a new bathroom!" We keep a running tally of the number of people in the truck, joking that we should adapt the restaurant's slogan: 17 served. Everything is funny to us. One of the served says he wants to make a big sign that says, "For the first time in my life I finally feel at home."
At 5am I return to the 24-hour fast food bathroom. It is as hot as a sauna, and we pack in, taking turns using the hand drier. Some are changing, some cutting each other's hair, some just sitting on the floor to get some warmth into their soaked bones. People tell each other they're beautiful, reunite, hug, and compare horror stories of the rough night we just survived. One woman jokes that tonight we should all just sleep here in the bathroom where it's safe and dry. "Let the guys figure out their own thing."