November 2012 New York: The Island of Manhattan.
Limerick city has been modelled after the grid street system of Manhattan and there was a synchronistic quality about my first visit there as part of my on going research on Social Practice. Moving from one city island to another.
Fatima, serene and calm told me of how she cares for the homeless on Wall Street, who gravitate towards the Occupy site.Our conversation covered many topics including the universality of homelessness and displacement due to escalating poverty.
A first visit to New York to the Creative Times Summit at the Skirball centre for the performing arts at NY University, brought a chance to visit Occupy Wall Street. I spoke with a policeman who was a solitary presence in Zucotti Park, where the tented assembly of' "Occupy" had been situated, prior to its dismantling by the NYPD earlier this year. I asked him if he had been on duty then and how it felt to be around the Occupy movement, to which he replied" well maam, they got to do what they got to do and I got to do what i got to do" we then spoke about the reality of his need for his job and income while having sympathy and some respect for those who are protesting the iniquity of the position of the 99%.
Zucotti Park, Manhattan
I was reminded of visiting the site of OCCUPY LONDON beside St Pauls Cathedral in November 2011 at the height of its action and meeting the community that had gathered there and feeling a strong sense of gratitude and connection with the people who would not "lie down" and whose resistance to the sweep of capitalism and the power of the global economic forces stood as alternative possibility for all those who came in contact with them. I heard stories of career activism and saw attempts to organise and support alternative pedogogies in the city tent university. See images below
I was told its legal to sleep on the streets of Manhattan, provided that the sleeper lies alongside of the building and the space occupied does not extend beyond approx 40 cms. A friend remarked " they would need a really tight sleeping bag" These images were made about a week before the hurricane "Sandy" struck New York with devastating consequences for those with homes. I felt strangely consoled to see the Occupy people still on Wall Street and there was a "Flash' type assembly near Central Park. The Assemblies are an important part of the sense of occupation and resistance by the 99%.
Above and below: At the Occupy London Site November 2011
Witnessing the contrast between occupation and the complete and utter erasure of the site in London was a powerful experience and a sobering one.
Complete and utter erasure March 2012