Thanksgiving at Occupy Wall Street

By Anne Marie Roderick 11-25-2011

If you thought all of the occupiers would go indoors for Thanksgiving, think again. In spite of the recent police raid, hundreds of occupiers, activists, and community members are breaking bread together in Zuccotti Park. 

The OWS Kitchen working group estimates over 3,000 meals will be served with the support of local families, restaurants, and organizations who are opening their kitchens to the movement. 

When I got down to Zuccotti Park around 2:30pm there was a joyful calm in the area—friends and strangers eating together on the now bare marble benches, others walking around offering pecan pie, vegan meal plates, and other holiday snacks to anyone interested, and a small group of folksy looking people singing “This Land is Your Land” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” with guitars and cymbals. 

A nice reclamation of the Thanksgiving meal—less like the oppressive tale of pilgrims and native people we learned about in school; more like Jesus feeding the thousands, the beloved community, etc.

A little before 3:00pm I headed down to the other end of the park where a man named John was playing the drums while others clapped and moved around him.   Soon a few police officers approached John and asked him to stop the drumming: “I’ve been listening to this drumming for five days and I’m sick of it,” one officer said. “The people who live around here are complaining about the noise,” another added. 

Dozens of protesters quickly encircled the small group of police and musicians and then at least ten more police pushed their way through to the middle of the crowd.  Protesters shouted as they closed in, “Drumming is not a crime!”  “Police go home, it’s Thanksgiving!”  “Everybody, keep your cameras on the cops!”

As tension mounted, I tried to foresee an end to the confrontation. We all saw the photos of the recent police clear out at OWS, and the chilling video of police pepper spraying students at UC Davis last week. This is probably how those events began, right?   

Just when arrests seemed imminent, a young African American man (whose name is Dwayne, I later learned) stood up and shouted, “Mic check!”

“Mic check!” the crowd echoed. Using the human microphone system, Dwayne stated the demands of the police—that drumming cease for the rest of the afternoon so that nearby residents could enjoy a quiet holiday—and asked the protesters for feedback. 

“Can I get a temperature check?” he yelled. 

The majority of the crowd wiggled their fingers toward the ground, a sign of discontent. 

After some further negotiation, and proposals from individuals in the crowd, Dwayne called “Mic check” again.  

“John says he will stop drumming today.”

The crowd repeated the statement, so everyone could hear. 

“But we will be back tomorrow at 2:00pm,” Duane continued.  “And we’ll drum then!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!”

The crowd dissipated soon after, some satisfied, some still angry. None of us know what the future holds for the Occupy movement, but today is about keeping the peace.  Happy Thanksgiving. Marie Roderick is an editorial assistant for Sojourners

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