New York was my favorite city in my USA tour a few weeks ago. Manhattan is my new favorite place in the world and deep down I’d really hope to move there for a while. One of the most random things that happened in New York was my stumbling into 3 different protests in one day in different parts of Manhattan.
One of the spots I wanted to visit was the United Nations Headquarters. I was getting close, when I decided to double-check on Google Maps if I was headed in the right direction. Then, out of nowhere, a dozen or so cameras were taking photos and recording me, with my backpack and phone in hand. I was of course startled and didn’t know why, when I finally looked behind me, I saw a few dozen people walking with Tibetan flags. It was a silent march, to support 3 activists who were on hunger strike. It was a silent vigil, so I’m not a complete idiot for accidentally leading a procession of Tibetan activists!
I stuck around a little, and realized how random that had been. A cause we all feel so far away from, and I was in the middle of it without even trying. One thing I loved about this protest, is that it was the opposite of the Arab kind: it was silent, slow and very humble. No taunts, no chants, no burning flags or stepping on photos. It was calm, with urgent but unoffending slogans being held up.
After completing my tour of the UN HQ with 17 Chinese men who didn’t speak English and were more interested in replica coins than the Security Council’s meeting hall -_-, I walked out onto the street and heard faint chants in what I made out to be Arabic. Further down the road, on the corner opposite to the Free Tibet movement, I ran into 300 or so Syrian and Arab people protesting against Bashar El Assad’s regime. The new Free Syrian flags, lotsa families and even what looked like a fundamentalist sheikh, with a bluetooth headset, were present. Hilarious rhymes were hurled at Assad and even a rap skit by a young girl which fired up the crowd.
I stocked up on water and met a bunch of fun reporters and bid that protest farewell as it marched towards the Syrian envoy’s offices a few blocks away. It then hit me that I had just been at two protests, for two countries, on the same street, by mistake.
Occupy Wall Street
After watching a Broadway show later with my dear friend Yara, we decided a trip to NYC would not complete without catching a glimpse of Lady Liberty. So, we made our way to the Staten Island ferry, cause its route passes right infront of Liberty Island giving an awesome (and free) look at the Statue of Liberty. It’s also where I took this epic photo from:
On our way down though, we passed by the 9/11 memorial site, which turned out to be almost adjacent to Zucotti Park: the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was the 6-month anniversary of the movement, an after having some sympathy and faith in the movement, those glimmers of hope for them in my mind completely faded. The protest lived up to its comical stereotype perfectly: dirty hippies making drum circles and chanting moronic phrases like “fuck the police” and “wall street sucks” (which means either a 2 year old said that, or an up-and-coming rapper). There was even one guy typing on a typewriter, typing nonsense and interacting with no one, hoodie and all included. Heck, even the chalk graffitti on the the ground had one that said “I don’t understand”, which was exactly what I thought.
Also, one comment a bored police officer made to me was that “if they have 6 months to occupy a street, they could’ve found a job”. Later that day, the hundreds of police broke up the protest violently and that was that. I guess the turn out was that bad, cause most people preferred to go get wasted, after all, it was St Paddy’s Day!