I’ve been down to Liberty Plaza about every other day since September 17, bringing baguettes and trash bags, usually in the dark; I come home from work exhausted and think I won’t go, but then I find myself on the bicycle again heading down. I’m less diligent with emails and phone messages than I was before the 17th, and when people ask “Where have you been?” I say I’ve been making night visits to my secret girlfriend, Democracy.
I remember the first time I ever saw the General Assembly hall at the UN, when my grandmother’s cousin brought me; over the years, as I watched the power politics of the Security Council compromise the General Assembly’s purposes, that “We the peoples” in the UN preamble seemed empty and sad. The first Liberty Plaza General Assembly I witnessed brought tears to my eyes, the speakers throwing out part of a line like a poem and the audience (but this is the wrong word, everyone is a speaker here) repeating, the faces sharp with listening, the hand gestures responding, that slack defeated posture of spectatorhood nowhere to be found. I’ve watched them Assemble calmly, and I’ve watched them Assemble in their thousands after the big march October 5, in the dark while police were beating and pepper-spraying their comrades a few blocks east, as they deliberated about whether to march more, even in the heat of the moment listening to each other, disagreeing with respect, making sure quieter voices were heard. It’s the promise of “We the peoples” come to life.
Saturday night, October 15, I was standing in the surreal spectacle of Times Square with thousands of others, shouting “We. Are. The 99%!”, under the same flickering video billboards that lit the pouring rain the night I was standing there in March 2003 when the bombing of Baghdad started. At one point we were all singing “This Little Light of Mine,” and someone was handing out sparklers the people held up. “What’s this about?” someone near me asked, and someone else said, “I don’t know. But I like the love.” And then the beautiful children of tomorrow were making me cry again, as someone started a kind of General Assembly, there at 46th and Broadway: ”We are here. To celebrate. The birth of a new world.”