photo from funlimited.co.uk
Good ol’ Twain said that Cincinnati is always 20 years behind the times. But I think this time we need to give the Nati a little more cred—a mere two weeks after Zuccotti Park turned into a confetti of pop-up tents and cardboard signs, Cincinnati followed suit with their own Occupy protest.
Number 17 on my bucket list has always been “participate in a protest.” So once I heard about Occupy picking up some momentum in the Queen City, I realized now was the time to take out my red sharpie, cross-out number 17 and get some picket-action going on.
But first, I had to do a little research.
I turned to my trusty media steed, the Huffington Post, to absorb the lingo I would need to know in order to go balls-out on one of these protest. I kind of treated the process like when I get ready to go to a concert, I download (oops, I mean stream online) all of the music so that I know at least all of the smash-hit singles of the bands. So, I had to at least know the smash-hits of Occupy Wall Street.
After reading a few headlines and watching some video of those “college hooligans” playing a game of Woodstock circa ’69 in the park, I contemplated bringing my guitar. A lot of the components for Occupy looked just like a Friday afternoon at Bonnaroo—tents plus beards plus acoustic folk plus blazed-out twenty-somethings equals music fest and/or protest.
Except for one difference.
I browsed an article on The Huff that talked about donating supplies given to protesters, how nice of people to donate food, sleeping bags, blankets…swimming goggles…? Oh shit—to make sure they don’t get pepper sprayed? Ohh. What am I getting myself into?
At least I have some welding goggles.
My driver (okay, roommate) Tina and I barrel around the turn onto Garfield from Vine Street in a silver Lexus SUV on an October late afternoon. We had just perused the racks of vintage clothing store Atomic Number Ten in Over the Rhine, and after dropping 20 scholarship dollars on a vintage Fendi handbag, the only plausible after-shopping activity was to stop by Occupy Cincinnati, of course.
We park the luxury vehicle next to the infamous Izzy’s sandwich shop, with the little logo of Izzy in his paper restaurant cap smiling down at us while he’s holding two gigantic corn beef sandwiches. With my new Fendi bag swinging at my side, Tina and I stroll through Garfield Park up to Garfield Statue, the Capitol Building (okay, statue) where Congress (okay, protesters) meet for official business. They meet at 6 pm sharp, or whenever they can get off work, every day.
At first all I can see is a lot of beanies, combat boots and flannel. But this isn’t an Urban Outfitters Fall catalogue shoot. A large man with a thinning hair line holds up a sign written on cardboard ripped from what looks like a Husman potato chip box that says “Honk for 99 percent. If 1 percent— shame on you!” With the exclamation point using an “x” to mark the period. Perhaps the “x” used added even more emphasis, enough to put shame on those rich bastards to stop their Wall Street Trading.
About 20 feisty protesters are sitting and standing around the monument, eyes and ears intently focused on a woman in olive green and purple pants. Her frizzy grey fro wobbles from side to side as she introduces the agenda for today’s meeting. She says that we’re having some special guests—lawyers willing to represent the people who were arrested the previous Saturday night for their peaceful protest.
Suddenly a gigantic flock of hands jolt in the air, wiggling their fingers like jellyfish tentacles.
At this moment I’m not sure if I’m at a séance or a protest, and I look at Tina with a quizzical do-you-think-we-look-out-of-place look. She hides behind her Jackie-O sunglasses and is too busy taking out her camera to take some snapshots. She wants to add the pictures to her “Fall” photo album on Facebook.
A short, grey-bearded man in a bandana and cargo pants approaches us with some print-outs. He asks us if this is our first meeting, and before we can say “yes”, he’s handing us papers on the Occupy Wall Street jargon necessary to be a participant in their endeavors.
“Okay, so if you agree with what the speaker is saying,” the man grunts with an enthusiasm muffled by his cigarette habit and yelling at the one percentile,
“You put your hand in the air like this.”
He proceeds to thrust his hand up in a swift motion, creating a little gust of air, and wiggles his fingers feverously in the air.
“Then if you kind of agree with a statement but you’re not all for it, you stick your hand out in the middle like this.”
His hand juts in front of the slope of his gut, and he wiggles his fingers in the same frenzy as the latter.
“THEN if you disagree with something the speaker is saying, you do this.”
Same hand. Same wiggle. But this time his hand is pointing to the pavement.