Last night's march in downtown Manhattan brought the diversity Occupy Wall Street needed.
The march last night in downtown Manhattan was ostensibly about the unions coming out in support of Occupy Wall Street, but it was more about New York City imbuing the protests with some of its famous diversity.
Sure, I heard a few shouts of "SEIU supports you!" amid the standard chants. The signs that read "We Are the 99 Percent" or "Tax Millionaires" were printed en masse on posterboard rather than scrawled on the back of pizza boxes, and their messages were more straightforward than some of the long-winded signs you might see at base camp. But the march from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park didn't just feel like two groups joining up. It felt like the rest of the world meeting the relatively homogenous group that has set up camp on Liberty and Broadway. The march brought out a huge number of people—anywhere from 10 to 20 thousand—hailing from all five boroughs, from all professions, age groups, and ethnic backgrounds.
The unions gave an excuse for everyone to be there, and the invitation worked. Some of those people in regular clothes were certainly teachers and nurses, or old-school New Yorkers who have supported union causes all their lives. But many others, like my friends, were motivated to show up simply because someone had given them a date and time. People joined the march with their entire families and met up with their circles of buddies. The hordes of people brought a huge amount of energy—fun, celebratory energy—that has been missing from business as usual at Occupy Wall Street.
Shortly after we arrived at Zuccotti Square, the mood shifted a bit. Once again, I felt like I was on someone else's turf, encroaching on someone else's style. The joyful vibe got a little angrier and more hostile. People started getting arrested and cops came out swinging their sticks. But on the way there, the crowd felt like a peaceful microcosm of the country—which is exactly what the rest of the world needs to see.