Solidarity on the Brooklyn Bridge

I’m sitting in my farmhouse home in Warren, Oregon, and watching live feed of the Occupy Wall Street protesters facing off against police on the Brooklyn Bridge. They’re crammed onto the bridge shoulder to shoulder, calling out slogans and standing peacefully, and the police are arresting them…one by one. One by one they’re cuffing the protesters and walking them over to a paddy wagon. Someone is filming all this from above, and I can see it all clearly. There’s no struggle, just an endless parade of quiet, unresisting arrests, while the crowd chants “Let us move!” and “We’re fighting for your pensions!”

The citizen media crew call out to each detainee, Hey you, guy being arrested, what’s your name?” Some respond, some don’t, some can be heard clearly, some can’t.  A man named Michael Burton takes his arrest calmly, his eyes seeming to meet mine as the camera zooms in, radiating quiet determination and strength. A young woman wearing an Invader Zim “GIR” hat, just a teenager by the look of her, is arrested, and someone shouts “How old is she, officer?” and “Oh, sure, arrest a child; see how THAT goes!”

My heart leaps. I realize that this is HAPPENING, this is REAL, and that this is more than a news item, or a political trend; these are human beings facing the forces of the mightiest government on earth, standing in solidarity and speaking truth to power. I realize I may, through the internet, be seeing the most important event I will witness in my life.

Niamh, not quite three years old, is watching cartoons and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. I suddenly realize that she needs to see this. This is one of the greatest things I could possibly share with her. When her show is over, I walk over to her with my laptop and show her the screen. She points at the video window and asks, “What’s that?”

“See all those people?” I say. “They’re all standing there on the bridge because they’re hungry, and they need food and jobs. And those police are taking them away, because…because the police are scared. But the people are just standing there because they love each other, and because they love you and me too.”

Niamh points to the protesters. “They’re not scared,” she declares.

“No, they’re not,” I reply, starting to tear up. “They’re very, very brave to stand there when those police are taking them away. They’re doing it for all of us.”

Niamh puts her little hand on the screen, and it just covers the video window. I feel as if she is actually touching those dear, courageous people. The tears are quietly flowing now.

“I love them,” I say.

“Yeah,” she replies.

A short while later, I put Niamh down for a nap. I sing her “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, one of her favorite lullabies. It seems appropriate. I return to the computer to write this. The Global Revolution livestream is silent, a black screen bearing the notice:

“fixing transmission – some of media team possibly arrested”

I gulp. Once again my heart goes out to those courageous souls. It’s chilling to think that the voice of the people might be silenced just like that. But then after a few moments the feed comes back in. A crowd, marching in the streets, is chanting:  “We! Are! the 99 percent!” I feel honored to be connected to this, even from afar. I chant along with them, though quietly, so as not to wake the child in the next room. The chant alters as someone adds in a descant of  “So are you!”

 “We! Are! the 99 percent!

“So are you!”

“We! Are! the 99 percent!

“So are you!

“We! Are! the 99 percent!

“So are you!”

I feel so grateful, so proud. I’m infuriated at the arrests, but the calm, compassionate comportment of the protesters fills me with joy. The solidarity and love give me hope.

Niamh is sleeping right now. What she will think, what she will remember, who can tell? But it matters to me that was real with her, and was able to forge a connection between her and those beautiful people who are fighting for her. I cannot be in New York. There is an Occupy Portland protest planned for Thursday October 6. But this is our moving day, and I know I must be responsible to my family, though it breaks my heart not to march.

But as my daughter sleeps in the next room, I know at least that I have done this.




44 Responses to “Solidarity on the Brooklyn Bridge”

  1. October 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks… I just started crying in a coffee shop and I’m a guy. Much love for this beautiful post you just made.

    • 2 Boston Occupier
      October 1, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      And I in my room, as I recoup from #occupyboston so I can return tomorrow.

      Thank you, Joel. Do not despair at your absence. Rejoice in your participation. We all do what we can, and that seems to be more than enough so far.

  2. 4 God
    October 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes, a beautiful post.

  3. 5 ZOO
    October 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you very much for writing this. It is incredibly moving and I wanted you to know that it touched me.

  4. 6 Joel
    October 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you, everyone. I’m crying all over again hearing about you folks crying. :) I’m so glad I could participate in this wonderful important thing in my small way.

    Thanks Brandon for the footage!

  5. October 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Yeah…I wanted to take my kids with me to the protests in Denver but my wife prudently counseled against it. But I kept thinking the same thing…”this is real, this might be the beginning of something beyond control”

  6. 8 Christine
    October 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Beautiful story. I also wish I could be there with the protesters. They’ve all been wonderful. I’ll be with them through my computer screen, however, as long as they are there and as long as my internet is up.

  7. October 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I have been watching most of the afternoon too…history in the making…beautiful and sad at the same time. I am also filled with hope seeing this…hope for my child and my two grandchildren. Peace, Mary

  8. 10 Joel
    October 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Somewhere in the live feed I saw someone walking along the bridge with a little girl riding on their shoulders. My heart went out for their safety but I was also glad to see that.

  9. 11 Occupy
    October 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Joel, I am a Occupy Wall Street protester, and I am here to tell you we love you and Niamh, too.

  10. October 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Hello Joel, we, PALISADESBERLIN would like to crosspost this great post/story of you in our Blog in Germany if this is o.k. with you ?

  11. 16 rosa
    October 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    HI FROM SPAIN! WE HAD THE SAME EXPERIENCES SOME MONTHS AGO. WE ARE STILL ACTIVE. JUST google “15M” (the day protestes started in several cities in spain)or “SPANISH REVOLUTION”, … everything was such an experience I´ll never forget in my life.

    peacefull revolution!!!!

  12. 17 maveet
    October 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Your article was linked on the globalrevolution livestream. It is so moving. Thank you.

    I’m a former Californian, living a long time in the sanity of Australia, in Solidarity.

  13. 18 Natalie
    October 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Beautiful, Joel! Thanks for sharing, I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly. I haven’t watched any feeds or broadcasts and won’t do so, but the bloggers and radio public broadcasting are doing a great job conveying the unifying tone of the movement.

  14. 19 Joel
    October 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Wow, I’m so honored and humbled to see this post spreading around the world. I was just telling my story, you know?

    Natalie, I agree; the tone of the demonstrations is wonderful and inspiring. My gratitude to all the broadcasters and bloggers who are spreading the word. This really looks like a movement of the people, at long last.

  15. 20 Suuport The Cause
    October 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    This link http://www.reddit.com/r/occupywallstreet/comments/kxx65/solidarity_on_the_brooklyn_bridge/ led me to your blog. That was an incredibly heart warmer read. I, as you, was becoming overwhelmed with emotions while watching that scene unfold. Thank you for sharing this, and take care.

  16. October 1, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I was on the bridge today and it was amazing. Such a great feeling. In their defense the police allowed those who wanted to leave to leave before the hundreds of arrests happened and at that point it was pretty calm and peacefully done. I don’t know what happened after I left if they just arrested everyone who chose to stay but it seems to me that people chose to stay knowing that being arrested was one of the only was to get mainstream media covering the story as all the big outlets seem content to completely ignore a pretty major new story happening. Sadly they still seem to be ignoring it….

    • 22 mary lou bethune
      October 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Stand tall and remember that it starts with you. Generations have their jobs as well as individuals.
      blessings and love from a member of the 60’s gen.

  17. October 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    i agree, very awesome post. However, i would like to request that everyone who was moved enough to cry, also be moved enough to act. If you can, find one of the occupy locations to go to, if you cant thats fine. But then you have the option of using digital media to further this movement. Facebook, twitters, blogs, and good old conversations are all meaningful means to bypass the media whiteout. even further, if you dont use digital media(but your somehow reading this) , there are plenty of supplies that could be donated:D This is getting big, but lets keep it growing:D From OccupyChi, keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!

  18. 24 LDM
    October 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    It’s a beautiful piece, thank you for posting it and thank you for linking it to us.

  19. October 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks so much for your post! I am writing from Mexico and sad I am not in the States to take part in such an important movement. I, like you, want those at Occupy Wall Street to know they are us and we are with them, even if only in spirit.

    Thank you.

  20. October 1, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I was on the bridge tonight and wrote this account of what happened (includes links to video): http://carlygsdrafts.wordpress.com/

  21. 27 clairedeplume
    October 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Soon, our voices will be heard across the world. Nothing and no one can suppress the truth.

    Power to the People. Without us, there is no Power in the Economy.

    I will post this Blog entry to my Facebook Page, with Thanks.

  22. 28 TheRealKeori
    October 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Much love to you and Niamh from #OccupyBoston, Joel. Thank you for witnessing, and for imprinting that in your little girl’s memory. Solidarity.

  23. October 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Then there is me, sitting over here in Johannesburg, far from this powerful event, crying like an abandoned orphan. Thank you for being a part of the solution. Much Love… Patrick

  24. October 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks joel for writing your heart out.Let’s keep our eyes and ears on #occupywallstreet and #occupyportland. We can hope this will trend to #occupymylife in the tangible ways that make for a true shift in a dysfunctional system of greed and power.

    Keep writing!!

    (Just subscribwed to your blog!!)

  25. 31 Joel
    October 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Amen, Pam! I feel like the scales are finally shifting. Whether it will be gradual or swift, clean or messy, who knows. But the times, they are a-changin’.

    Thank you to everyone who’s given your thoughts and love. And an extra large thanks and love to all who stood in New York, Boston and everywhere else today! You are my heroes. You are ALL of our heroes.

    It appears from the New York Times reporting that 700 of the 1500 people on that bridge were arrested. 700! Imagine, the act of cuffing and leading away that I witnessed 4 or 5 times in the feed, repeated seven hundred times. Insane.

    I don’t know if they have been released yet. The reports coming in on the Twitter stream seem to indicate they have not, and may even still be holed up in police vans. My thoughts and prayers will be with them as I go to sleep in my warm, convenient bed.

    On another note, the NYT has altered their news story, which originally indicated that the cops had allowed the crowd onto the bridge, then barricaded them in to arrest them. The story now leads with a statement implying the protesters stormed the bridge:


    Fortunately the internet is ever-vigilant in exposing such deception.

    Good people! And good night!

  26. October 2, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Sending love from the 99 percent in the UK. What these brave Americans are doing is strong and inspiring, it is an example of leadership and the world must know.

  27. 35 Susan Hathaway
    October 2, 2011 at 4:01 am

    I was with those who marched in the rain to the Brooklyn Bridge today…a mom with three grown sons who has been trying to “speak truth to power” since the 60’s. For the past two weeks, the young protesters have been peaceful, the police have been intimidating, and yet, to my dismay, the “older” people have been missing in action. Would there be so many arrests if parents were demonstrating along with these students? Weren’t we all screwed by the rigged system that has brought our country to the brink of destruction and threatens to steal the future of all our children? From my heart to yours, I thank you for what you’ve written…and for restoring my faith that there are other parents who feel as I do. You may not be able to join us in NYC, but I will share your solidarity with those who are Occupying Wall Street.

  28. 36 Anna Fritz
    October 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Here is what you also did: you tipped the scales for me. I will be at that protest in Portland because I read your blog post. I’ve been out of touch with the happenings in NYC because I’ve been in the middle of moving, but your post moved me to tears and reminded me of how important it is that we stand up for each other. Thank you.

  29. October 2, 2011 at 9:20 am

    THanks so much for writing this. I am on the media team and after the arrests we ended up forking out the cash to get a 1 bedroom hotel as an “office” so that we could have power outlets not soaked in water to ingest footage and start editing. It brought tears to my eyes reading this. I sat in that room with people I hardly knew and felt like we had just experienced something pivotal in the history of our current civilization… reading this really brought all of my emotions to the surface. Thanks for posting, we love you, solidarity, ryan

  30. 38 Joel
    October 2, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Big beatific smile over here, basking in the love. I’m so glad my words are helping fuel the fire that the Occupiers have kindled.

    Daryl, I’m overjoyed to see this movement taking on a truly international quality. This is the kind of change that, in another universe, 9-11 could have been.

    Susan, you’re absolutely right; an inter-generational movement is essential. I’m enriched to hear your perspective from the protest culture of yesteryear. I’m heartened that you’ve remained steady in that justice-loving spirit all these years, and are bringing that to the movement of today!

    (aside: I saw a Tweet late last night that there were two teenagers arrested, and their mother came to ;pick them up from the clink with an approving smile. Tickled me pink!)

    Anna, I’m glad I could help. If there’s any way I can be there on Thursday and not leave my wife in the lurch for moving, I will. If not, my thoughts will go with you!

    Ryan, thank you and your comrades so, so much for the footage! Your vigilance is what made this experience possible. The live feed made the difference between reading scant news reports the morning after and thinking “good on ’em,” and moving on with my life, and deep connection that I experienced instead. I love you too!

  31. 39 Joel
    October 4, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Here’s a beautiful photo of the teenage girl I watched getting arrested. Her smile fills me with so much joy!

  32. 40 Joel
    October 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    And here’s a nice video that summarizes the whole thing, from entering the bridge to the arrests. Sound’s a bit rough, though.

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