Elizabeth Cook-Romero on Occupy Santa Fe

Photo Journal of an Occupier

The encampment in Zuccotti Park was five days old, when I read about it on the Daily Kos. I Googled Occupy Wall Street, enlarged every photograph and found what I’d been longing to see: a movement lead by young adults.

I shared my discovery with a friend who accused me of ageism. I defended myself, explained that sixty-year-olds cannot lead a revolution. She repeated the accusation.

A few days later, I attended a MoveON meeting and met a women who wanted to organize a show of solidity with Occupy Wall Street. Everyone there embraced the idea. The group chose a date three weeks away. The woman insisted we had to act now. Police were itching to destroy OWS. MoveOn members said rallies need planing. She left. Two days later she sent an e-mail announcing an Occupy Santa Fe protest that Saturday.

On Oct. 1, perhaps one hundred of us gathered by the Bank of America on Paseo de Peralta. Gray-haired men and women outnumbered young protestors, and many of the signs were left over from rallies organized by MoveOn or Uncut US. I had fun but didn’t feel I had witnessed the birth of a revolution.

The next Saturday, our number had more than doubled, but more importantly, we now represented a cross section of the community — young, old and every in between — professionals, office workers, artists, students. We were even joined by a giant puppet that depicted a politician, with one huge ear for campaign contributors and one tiny ear for constituents.

We occupied all corners of the intersection. We marched through cross walks on green lights and ran on red. Most drivers smiled, flashed an upraised thumb or honked. Big-rig horns blasted. A fire truck whuuuped. We screamed that we, the 99%, owned the street.

Only two drives shot me a bird. One yelled, “Get a job.” During the past four months, the only rebukes I have heard are get a job and take a bath. Clearly our opposition lacks imagination.

The next Saturday, Occupy Santa Fe, MoveOn, New Mexican unions and other progressive groups marched on the Round House. Three weeks of planning paid off. There were at least 700 protestors, a dozen information booths, even a soap box where nurses, students and union members stepped up and explained why they were there.

I recalled a time when men in hardhats beat protestors. This movement is different. At least for the moment, we are standing together. We all know we’ve been screwed, and we’ll continued to get screwed until we make it stop.

Some of us marched to the plaza. Word passed though our line that a children’s concert, which was scheduled to end a half hour before, was still going on. We entered the plaza silently, listened to the end of the concert and applauded wildly. A few kids seemed shocked by the ovation.

Later that day, we held a General Assembly in the park behind the Round House. Union members and curious passers by lent their voices to the people’s mic and learned the hand signals that have become hallmarks of Occupy’s horizontal democracy.

We celebrated, though knew we were taunting a monster. Since then — in cities across the nation — thousands of us have been arrested. We’ve been doused with industrial-strength mace. We’ve dodged teargas canisters and rubber bullets. We’ve been shoved, kicked and punched. Our camps have been overwhelmed by the addictions and mental illnesses that plague the forgotten and long-term homeless. We’ve splintered over which tactics will further our cause.

Yet in spite of it all, we are strong, and we’re not going away.

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