Eyewitness to History!
Hanging out with Spooky the anarchist, Amy the gender-bender, Sid the Nazi, and other occupiers of Wall Street.
Oct 17, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 05 • By MATT LABASH
It is Day 18 when I arrive at the Occupy Wall Street protests. When dealing with antiestablishment types, I like to let them get established. It seems only sporting, since the early moments of any order-changing upheaval can look like utter chaos. But being slow off the mark might have cost me. For by the time I get to lower Manhattan, The Revolution has been going on so long that the revolutionaries have already started selling out.
When I arrive at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) ground zero at Zuccotti Park, only a few blocks over from the World Trade Center ground zero, the first revolutionaries I encounter are two masked-up anarchists named Spooky and Newport. They wear studded leather jackets which bear hand-painted inscriptions like “Fight War, Not Wars” and are clad in black from head to toe. Except Newport additionally sports a chartreuse fright wig and sunglasses with reflecting marijuana leaves on the lenses. They seem to know they’re a spectacle, since they stand in front of a cardboard sign that reads “Pictures for change or a dollar.” Meaning the passing fanny-packing tourist hordes or smirking financial sector barbarians can get their snaps taken with Spooky and Newport as if they were mascots at Disney’s new Protester World Experience.
I point out that they are exploitative capitalists, no better than the greedy little gunsels at Goldman Sachs whose heads we’d like to microwave in order to feed their plump flesh to those who are hungry for change. Either you’re part of the solution, or part of the problem. You’re either part of “us,” the “99 percent” (as all the surrounding signage identifies us), or you’re part of “them”—the rapacious 1 percent, who are purportedly strangling our nation by holding roughly one-third of its wealth, even if they also pay 38 percent of all federal income taxes while the bottom 47 percent of the population pay nothing (a Revolution is no place for facts and figures).
Spooky is apologetic. “We’re travelers, we’ve got to capitalize on the whole thing,” he admits. “A lot of these guys are taking advantage of the situation.” Including him, I suggest. “Exactly,” he smiles. Or at least I think he smiles, since he won’t unmask. “I ain’t gonna lie about it. I’m homeless. I’m gonna take advantage of something like this. Not gonna pretend like I’m some huge political rocker ‘f— the government!’ when I know I’m not.” Don’t get Spooky wrong, he does believe in “f— the government,” he hastens to add, since he is, after all, an anarchist. “But I’ve already had a few people tell me this is a homeless man’s dream camp.”
Now that the protesters have hijacked headlines, impressing every leftoid from Susan Sarandon (who came down to the demonstration to be “educated”) to the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof, who went so far as to Tweet that this reminded him of Tahrir Square in Cairo, all the spoils of war are pouring in, from comestibles to cold hard cash. “You get all the food you want, you get all the clothes you want. These gloves, this scarf, and all this sh—? I got it all from here,” Spooky brags.
Spooky wishes he had a sob story to tell me about how he lost his gig in the Great Recession from bubble-bursting credit default swaps. Many Wall Streeters inarguably were ethically challenged plunderers, doing their fair share to help turn the American Dream into a waking nightmare (along with profligate government spenders, promiscuous lending institutions, and gluttonous consumers who were all too happy to buy high six- and seven-figure homes on five-figure salaries, slopping at the trough of easy credit and no-doc loans). But in the Great Rewrite that has followed the Great Recession, it has now become fashionable to blame Wall Street for everything from your dog getting hit by a car to your wife getting cellulite on her thighs.
Spooky, however, can’t really blame Wall Street for his living conditions. He’s homeless by choice, and is up from Orlando so that he can see “a real city.” In Orlando, he says, “It sucks to spange—that’s a hippie word [meaning to panhandle],” he explains. There, city ordinances make you do so while standing within preordained dotted lines on the ground. “Nobody gives you any money there, because they’re all money-grubbing Wall Street wannabes.”
Since the protesters promise to go on indefinitely, with the movement having spread to hundreds of other cities, he figures he’ll hang out here until first snow. Then he’ll probably winter some place southerly. Then he’ll come back. When I tell Spooky this sounds more like work than a job—why not just get one—he winces. “I like to come and go with no set time or schedule. I don’t even know what day it is.”