WE WERE HOPING FOR PEOPLE WITH JOBS. We weren’t targeting them, or a specific “look” for the not-average protester. It wasn’t a bias, either. Before The Observer and our trusty photographer started out at Zuccotti Park around 5PM last night, we didn’t have a target person in mind to look for so much as a target mosaic. We wanted to continue to help develop a de facto census of who’s going down to Occupy Wall Street.
But we had to hope for people with jobs. Not so much out of political interest, or vested sentiment in what’s been happening in Zuccotti Park, but because it would otherwise be a long, torturous five hours. Five hours, of trying to interview people and ending up on the receiving end of cliched, dreadlocked, meandering bongo drummers’ varying Phish-inflected political manifestos, who have been so reliably portrayed in much of the media recently as the vast majority of those down there.
That would be a long, awful five hours. That is not a plum assignment.
What we found instead was the opposite. Were those people there? Surely. But they were in far lesser numbers than many have been led to believe. And yes, we spoke with protest celebrities, and people who would give cause to the import of cliche.
Yet, more often than not, we found people from all walks: a military veteran, a New Yorker photographer, a media consultant, someone who works on Gossip Girl, someone who’s actually been profiled by the Observer, an architect, a doctor, an aspiring corporate lawyer, a guy who works on a trading desk, and more than a few small business owners, among them. And we didn’t have to look hard: Zuccotti Park gets particularly interesting at night, where people who most definitely have the same obligations that many of us do are choosing to spend their after-work hours there.
Not all of them felt strongly about any particular issue. Most of them didn’t want capitalism to go away. One of them was even patently annoyed at the protest he was attending.
But he was still there. That point, so obvious at face-value, will eventually emerge as crucial to a nuanced understanding of this thing, which it’s impossible not to walk away with after talking to fifty of these people for five hours: strangers making themselves a part of something. If there’s one definitive, common thread we observed, it’s that everyone was glad to be brought together with strangers they’d otherwise never meet, even if it is by a general malaise. It was, cynicism aside, rather incredible to watch. Ideally, the following fifty people will help illuminate Occupy Wall Street’s emerging narrative, or at least the one we found: frustrated strangers, being exceptionally kind to one another.
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(All photos by Marielle Solan)