Made it to Occupy Providence at Burnside Park tonight. I hadn’t been downtown since it started 11 days ago, and coming up to it in person was much different than just seeing photos and the occasional video online. I felt a surge of inspiration, seeing the small city park full of the tents and gear of earnest, no-bullshit Occupiers. This was significant, as I am generally pretty cynical about conventional forms of activism, for various reasons I won’t get into right now.
It was a quiet, mellow, gray-autumn afternoon, small groups of folks hanging out, talking, skateboarding, playing with dogs, a few showboaters but nothing too obnoxious or intimidating. My baby was his usual charming self, and a few people said he made their day. So that was our contribution, boosting a bit of morale. 🙂
One issue. Within a half an hour of my getting there, a fight broke out, right by the fountain. It started verbally among a group of a dozen or more, then quickly escalated into a physical fight between two women in the middle of the group (I think just two, it was hard to see through the people). The fight was broken up pretty quickly, but yelling and threats–and melodramatic shit-talking–continued for some time.
It is possible that the fight was not among Occupiers, but just people who happened to be hanging out at the (public) park. However, it seemed to be among a group that gathered during one of the Occupy announcements… This is currently being addressed on Facebook, I will edit this post if I get a satisfactory answer. [Update: No satisfactory answer.]
If it was among Occupiers, which it looked like to me–it was pretty damn disheartening to see, considering the important focus on nonviolence of the movement. I realize that nobody’s perfect, and that “these things happen,” but it brings up one of the aforementioned reasons for my cynical attitude toward activism: If we can’t get our own shit together, how can we possibly expect to make the world a better place?
PS. My friend Jake wrote a good piece, accolades and criticisms, on the Occupy movement, on the Black Mesa Indigenous Support Facebook group. I travelled to Black Mesa and volunteered on Thanksgiving week, 2008 on the Navajo reservation with Jake, who has been going there for years, and for much longer stretches, so I can tell you he knows his shit.