Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Marches through Lawrenceville

Through writing and photographing for the Lawrenceville Patch I have met a lot of new people and have had some different experiences. I've learned to say "YES!" when asked if I could cover a story and worry about the details later. So when my editor was on vacation and his supervisor asked me if I could take a couple of pictures of the Occupy Wall Street movement as they marched through Lawrenceville on their way to Washington, DC I jumped at the opportunity.

Rather than waiting for the group to find me in Lawrenceville, I asked Don to drop me off en route in Princeton. I walked with them for two and a half hours, covering a distance of about 10 miles. For the most part the group moved. I asked them to stop by the Welcome to Lawrenceville sign so I could get a good picture for the Lawrenceville Patch. They welcomed the stop.

It was at this point -- after walking on pitch black semi-highway with a tiny shoulder in Princeton -- that we gained a police escort. It was also at this point that the group decided to walk across the Route 206 to discuss whether or not to continue to Trenton. Someone shouts MIKE CHECK, everyone echoes MIKE CHECK. Then everything the speaker says is echoed. Yes, it is enough to give one a headache. As I see it:

PROS for going to Trenton:
  • Someone from Occupy Trenton moved their bags to Trenton
  • Occupy Trenton has hot food and a place for them to sleep
  • Occupy Trenton is excited about them coming and has set up a media event for them (Revolutionary War re-enactors to march with them for photo ops)
CONS for going to Trenton:
  • They don't have to go just because someone has done all of this for them
  • Their feet hurt and they were tired
Granted, the day's schedule called for a 29 mile march (or was it originally 23 and grew to 30?). Original plans (and those posted on their website) called for walking on Route 1. It was changed because someone told them it was illegal to walk on Route 1, or was it changed because Route 27 to Route 206 passed through Rutgers University, Princeton University and Rider University where they might gain some students to join the march. (Several Rutgers students walked for the day, or until their feet gave out. No one from Princeton joined. They didn't pass Rider until 10 or 10:30.) 

Website describing their plans:

The Google Docs directions calling for them to march down Route 1:

They decide to contiue to Trenton.

This was only day 3 of a 14-day march.

Each time they stop for a MIKE CHECK adds to the time it takes to finish that day's marching.

Along for the march is Liz Flock, a blogger with the Washington Post. I actually joined Twitter (JacPillsbury) so I could follow her journey. The next day she twittered that they group spent an hour discussing which route to take that day. They also debated whether or not the faster walkers could split off from the slower ones. Makes me wonder is their goal just to get to Washington, DC by November 23 (when a vote in Congress is set to take place) or is the goal to show a cohesive front. If they just want to get there -- take a bus or drive. If they want a cohesive group, then stick together.
I left them in Lawrenceville after taking a few more pictures of them on Main Street, just after they started arguing with Lawrenceville Prep students and "Occupied' a restaurant that was kind enough to allow the marchers to use their bathroom. Yes, indoor plumbing would slow me down from doing a 2 week march, as well as lack of other ammeneties. 

There are 21 people committed to marching from NYC to DC. The group changes in size as people join the march for anywhere from a few blocks to a few days. Many of the people marching have jobs -- especially those marching for shorter distances. They are peaceful. I found them very welcoming.

I also found them lacking sanity. One marcher told me "I bet this is the most exciting thing to happen to Lawrenceville." Um, really. 40 people walking through town unannounced, under the cloak of darkness is the most "exciting" thing to happen to my town. I'll admit, I couldn't think of anything more exciting (we live in a town where front page news lately has been whether or not to keep the stripes on Bergen Street), but I doubt this registered on anyone's radar.

I also found them tired. Picture how you feel after going non-stop for a few days -- no access to indoor plumbing, meals, or a comfortable spot to sleep. Of course they were cranky. Unfortunately this was only day 3 of a 14 day self-inflicted march.

I wish after 2 1/2 hours I could say I gained an appreciation, or even an understanding about their cause. They seem to be doing this because they can. No real thought or organization is in place. They do not seem appreciative of people helping them (if they did, why debate about continuing to Trenton where people are waiting for you). No one is in charge. I spoke with two different people about when to expect they would be in my area. Of course, I had two wildly different answers. I felt like asking: do you want press coverage or not? They are practicing "horizontal leadership," which takes a long time even with only 40 people in the group.

One person (according to Jason, they are not protestors) told me Occupy Wall Street sprang up as a result of seeing people in Egypt organize themselves for change, so people in NYC thought they could do the same. The big difference is the Egyptians had a goal (oust the president) and those in NYC want "change."

Yesterday my sister, Rebecca, wrote a blog about Occupy Wall Street: Sounds like they developed a mission statement yesterday. Unfortunately my eyes glazed over reading it.

Yes, change is needed. Yes, this group is making us talk about it. I just don't get it.

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