99.5 percent of "the 99 percent" at Occupy Wall Street are good people, interested in participating in something bigger than them and making things better for all of us.
Tonight, I met the other 0.5 percent.
There was a dude at the General Assembly clearly up to no good. Like, holding his lighter like a gun and "shooting" people. Then stomping across the middle of the seated gathering. These weren't political acts in any way, just disruptive.
Then he steps on the kitchen table and just starts grabbing handfuls of food. Some people call security (OWS has its own security team), and I made that call, too.
Then a thrown slice of pizza hits me in the side of the neck / shoulder.
Yeah, it pretty much looked like somebody puked on me.
I just glare at the dude because (1) I'm not interested in fighting him, (2) this doesn't seem like the place for it even if I did and (3) I figure security (dudes bigger and scrappier than me) will handle it.
What happens instead is that one of the peace-hippies is like, "Don't do anything, I'll handle this." I think he started to try to calm the guy down.
As things were tense and people were milling, one of the facilitators was like, "If you don't need to be here, please clear the area." He said that generally and to me. So I left. Why didn't I say, "That guy just threw a slice of pizza at me, so I think do I have a reason to be here"? I guess I thought he knows what he's doing, and this is his home not mine. But that's not right.
And a few minutes later, after the dude caused another disturbance and made like he was going to hit people and the peace hippie walked him away and the dude could be overheard saying, "I can be here. I'm a good person" -- why didn't I say, in the presence of actual cops just five feet away in case things went down, "If you're a good person, will you apologize for throwing that pizza at me?"
I didn't really want his apology, but I wanted him to learn a lesson or leave or get himself arrested. But I did nothing.
Does that make me a pacifist? No, I think it just makes me a sap.
I hope for the sake of everyone else there that the peace-hippie modulated this kid's attitude, but still he should have been made accountable in some way for his act of aggression -- and I should have sought that accountability. If I believe in justice, if that's what I'm down there for, then I should demand justice for me, too.
(I guess I oughta take my grievance to one of the Working Group meetings. I mean, if throwing a pizza at a person isn't enough to get someone ejected from the movement and protect the safety of everyone, what is? But maybe the moment for justice has passed.)
I debated not telling this story because I don't want people to get the wrong idea about the OWS scene. It also felt wrong to keep this a secret. Draw your own conclusions.
If nothing else, the notion of personal security -- like the notion of passing controversial proposals about the when the drum circles can perform** with "nine-tenths consensus" (sort of a contradiction in terms) -- reveals the natural difficulties of managing....governing for lack of a better word.... a large, diverse and growing group of people. I keep reading stories from pundits about how the movement being "co-opted" by the Democratic party or Michael Moore or fill-in-the-blank-here is going to break up and kill off this movement. I haven't heard anyone who's actually been down there express this sort of sentiment. More likely it will just be the petty stuff that starts to fester. (That said, it doesn't really require living there full time to embrace the movement, and the petty aggression is most felt by the cats who are living there full time. So maybe it won't even be that big a problem.)
I hope none of this makes me sound naive about what's going on out there. I don't think I am. Frankly, I'll take a night of disappointment and a sauce-ruined shirt if it means people will speak out about the problems in our country and we get some change.
** the great drum circle controversy sounds silly, I know, but it's a big deal to these guys. Uh, I'm not helping make them sound serious, am I?.....but really, it's all caught up with freedom and fears of outsiders trying to fracture the movement, and....ok, I'm done talking.