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King's occupies Wall Street

I found myself in a greyhound bus full of hearts that deeply care for humanity and minds consciously opened to ideas of justice, community and organizing. As a group of 35 folks from Halifax, Moncton and Fredericton, we wanted to visit Wall Street to see and learn how we could create an even stronger solidarity with those protesting monetary greed and promoting political awareness in the financial capital of the United States of America. Enveloping our 22-hour bus ride from Halifax to New York City was the theme of supportive discussion; our ideas were being challenged as we sped along our country’s highways.
United by thought, frustrations and intrigue, our comparatively miniscule group was immediately overwhelmed by Manhattan. In contrast to our assumptions however, the people greeted us with warmth and gratefulness. Passers-by kept asking us, ‘Are you folks going to Liberty Square?’ ‘On your way to Occupy Wall Street?’ ‘Going to Zucotti?!’ Appreciative smile and words of gratitude welcomed us. I was definitely not expecting this. I’ve become accustomed, in Halifax, to defending the occupation.
We arrived at night, and externally, it was easy to see from where judgements arise. The square was packed. Zucotti Park is surprisingly small. People were bustling about their business; many were in line for food, some sleeping in their tents, some sitting on the fence holding signs. Tents were set up tight side- by-side with a distinct network of trails crisply organizing the space. There was a ‘people’s library’, an information/ media relations tent, a fully stocked kitchen run by bicycle-generated power, a meditation circle with a carefully adorned altar at the centre, a medical tent, a women’s safe space tent. To think that so many people lived full-time in this park with this weather, with all this noise, exposed to the elements, exposed to passers-by. It was definitely not luxurious; these people were here for a reason.
We were once again greeted with welcoming words, but also with grief in that there wasn’t enough space to sleep us all. Someone sent us two blocks north to a church that had offered occupiers their front step, 50 feet by 20 feet, as camp overflow. There we gathered and made camp for the night.
The next few days passed differently for all of us. Stories from all around recount beautifully packed days of workshops, meetings, lectures, a Joan Baez concert, discussions, cooking for the community and General Assemblies. The Occupy food tent was very impressive. Three times a day, meals were open to the public for no cost whatsoever. The line would wrap around the entirety of the park and people would hold their containers up to the generosity of the community. They tried for a vegan diet to please the most people, but there were complaints by some, so they decided to offer non-vegan options. Fresh fruits, veggies and breads were always made available to munch on during the day, and the meals were made with love, and with the important objective of keeping us all warm.
I felt guilty for leaving home to go learn about an organization of folks in another city, in another country. The United States, I have heard many people say, is in an extremely different economic state than Canada. People tell me that only Americans have issues that they should be fighting against. They say that Canadians are living in security and luxury. This mindset scares me. I know it’s important to be grateful for comfort, but our government enacts horrific and destructive projects, and most citizens are not aware of them. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing quickly. Our corporations exploit land and people all over the world. We recently reached 389ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere and Canada dropped the Kyoto Protocol.
The Occupy movement is infinitely complex, and brings everything into discussion. As a student of this philosophically-focused university, and as a person with huge amounts of privilege, I believe that it is my duty to learn about my country and to seek a way to do good for my community.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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