Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Goodbye to Occupy

I visited Occupy Boston twice. The first time, a few weeks after it began, the weather was warm and there had been heavy rains. But there were sturdy paths of cardboard and wood between the tents. I wandered around, and the guy manning the Medic Tent invited me to sit down while we chatted. As we talked, someone came by to ask, "Do you know where the Spirittual Tent is?" and was directed there. Everyone I met was friendly and welcoming, glad I was there, but casual too. The atmosphere both times was open, amiable, comfortable. There was no question of bad smells or litter. I counted about 120 tents.

My second visit was in December, just days before the group was evicted (none of us knew that at the time). I went to the Library Tent to donate my novels. It was very large, lined with books on every side, shelves all labeled. The guy in charge suggested I inscribe the books to Occupy Boston, "so that later people will see that and you'll make history." He told me about a troublemaker who'd been bothering people, and complained that the police refused to stop him . At this point the City had prevented the delivery of a sink and a winterized tent, clearly pressuring the protesters to leave. The City wouldn't even allow them to bring in a port-a-potty (which they paid for); so for bathrooms the group had to cross two busy streets to South Station.

But the same friendly, welcoming atmosphere prevailed. I was so proud of those people, proud they are Americans. In the end, I was proud of Mayor Menino too. Although I can't forgive him forbidding the port-a-potty, in general I think he handled the situation with respect and constraint.

To all those courageous protesters, wherever you are: I salute you and urge you on. You inspired us and changed the dialog in this country. You are pioneers in bold and refreshing directions. I am grateful to believe you represent my America.