Last week drummer Greg Fox, a departing member of breakout Bushwick-based metal band Liturgy, was preparing to finish up his last few gigs with the band and head in a different musical direction with a new project. Then an unexpected position came up downtown.
"I came down to Wall Street with a friend just to see what was happening, and five minutes later we were here working in the kitchen," he says, taking a breather from organizing the distribution of donated pizza, yogurt and soup to the new residents of Zuccotti Park. It’s been five days now and, while he’s about to head back to Brooklyn tonight to play a set with his new band Guardian Alien, his heart is here.
The Wall Street occupiers have left their home cities and neighborhoods to be in this crowded square, gathering as Americans to face down the country’s would-be owners. Everyone here is a member of this 33,000 square foot community, and that’s what counts right now. But while local origins may be of secondary importance, there’s been steady involvement from Bushwick residents in the past weeks, and something of the neighborhood is here. The self-sufficiency of our warehouse dwellers, the practical initiative of our community activists, and the creative energy of our DIY music and art scenes are the stuff this movement is made of.
Bushwickites show up in most of the newspaper tableaux of the occupation. There’s Christopher the anarchist photographer, Luke the goateed "protestor stereotype", and Rheannone the handcuffed teen. One name that’s appeared more than most is Victoria Sobel. She’s a 21-year-old Cooper Union student, and until the occupation began, she coordinated the distribution of Showpaper. Now she’s found herself in charge of Occupy Wall Street’s finance committee, a job that has snowballed with a flood of small donations.
"This is my day off," she laughs, shrugging as she checks her phone, juggles a thick sheaf of documents, and is introduced to a reporter from the LA Times. "That really just means I don’t have to carry the bag of money around."
Sobel shares a Bushwick apartment, but she’s been staying in the square since day one. Her own finances haven’t kept up with the money she manages, though, and she may need to relocate completely. "I’m going to need to sublet if I can, but if I can’t, I just have to move out. I can find other places to go later, but for now this is home."
In many cases, though, Bushwick occupiers are fortunate in having somewhere to go home to, and can leave the increasingly limited sleeping space to out-of-towners and others with no alternative. Melanie Butler, an organizer with peace group CODEPINK, returns to her East Williamsburg home most nights. Nevertheless she’s returned here every day for a month, dressed in the disarming pink of her organization. Today they’re passing around whiteboards with the slogan "Make _____ Not War," asking passers-by to fill in the blank: a recognition that this movement is built around known problems and unknown solutions.
"We’ve been here since a week before the occupation even began," Butler says. "CODEPINK was doing creative actions on Wall Street itself back when you could still walk over there." She gestures towards the police barricades that have overtaken the environs of the Stock Exchange. "We had something new every lunch hour, like one of us dressed as Marie Antoinette handing out pink cupcakes."
On another edge of the park, print artist Ray Cross is producing the occupation’s material culture with silkscreen stencils and a squeegee. Working with a cluster of other Brooklyn-based printers, Cross is printing Occupy imagery on anything the crowd hands him – in some cases, shirts stripped off on the spot. Cross’s own apron identifies him as a member of the Bushwick Print Lab.
"I live in Fort Greene, but I probably spend more time at the lab than at home," he says. The collective at 1717 Troutman Street has been involved here for more than a week, printing stickers and shirts, as well as a run of two hundred posters for last Wednesday’s support march by organized labor. "This is the first time I’ve been down," says Cross, "and the first time we’re printing live. And it’s great. But there are a bunch of people working for this all day, every day, back at the lab."
Not every exchange between Bushwick and Zuccotti Park has been voluntary. There was a brief reverse migration on the evening of October 1st, when 700 protestors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. 27 of them were taken to Bushwick’s 83rd precinct, where they were held until 1:30 in the morning. Many of them are back downtown, but can’t talk about their trip. They’re now part of a lawsuit against the NYPD.
Back in the kitchen, Greg Fox is adamant that this is a moment for the DIY culture of Bushwick to stand up. "But I think there’s a lot of this too-cool-for-school attitude, like you don’t want people to think you care about something," he says. "If you’re part of the music and art scene in Bushwick, Ridgewood, Williamsburg, and you’re not getting involved – I don’t get it. This is everything we’re about."