by EJ Fox – @mrejfox
The Occupy Movement is the largest mass movement for social change since the 60s, and if it maintains momentum it may eclipse its predecessor in both brilliance and effect. But that’s only if we keep pushing. In retrospect, it’s as if the movement practically exploded out of New York in the fall, propelled by pictures of a vicious NYPD cop pepperspraying female protesters, foreshadowing scenes we would see reenacted all across America. I’d just moved to the Bay Area from New York to join a startup, and I remember telling my best friend about the news I’d read that some protesters had moved into a park to “Occupy Wall Street” – I was ecstatic, but disappointed as I’d just driven across the country.
“The revolution’s starting, but it’s all the way in fucking New York,” I said. I had no idea.
I was aware of and had passively participated in the activist community in New York for as long as I could remember. First as one of those kids you see marching along, on the shoulders or holding the hands of their parents. I have memories of marching through the streets of Manhattan to protest the about-to-begin invasion of Iraq, as New Yorkers waved out their windows and sat on their fire escapes cheering us on.
My first vivid memory of a protest was the Republican National Convention in New York the next year in 2004. The New York Times called it the biggest protest NYC had seen in decades. I was 12, but for the first time I was old enough and conscious enough to be pissed off about George Bush, and I had something of a purpose as a marcher. As I walked with my mom to meet up at Union Square where the march was starting, I convinced her to take me into a CVS and buy me 2 disposable cameras. People interact with each other so differently at a demonstration, and I couldn’t help but want to photograph it. I still can’t. Whether it be protester to protester interactions, offering me or each other food, water, or a sign to hold. Whether it be onlooker to protester, running the gamut of clapping support to attempting to grab protesters’ signs. At RNC 2004 I became aware of a conservative group that specialized in counter-protesting demonstrations called Protest Warrior. They did just that, ripping a sign from the hands of a protester who had infiltrated the convention floor and I remember feeling the anger around that story. For me, most interesting were the interactions with the cops, which I was for the most part kept far away from. But I was hooked.