Last fall, Boston reporter Chris Faraone chronicled Occupations around the country.
Scenes From "99 Nights With the 99 Percent"
As a staff writer for the Boston Phoenix , Chris Faraone—an unabashed lefty—typically writes about the social and economic issues that affect Boston’s working-class and poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The arrival of Occupy Wall Street in mid-September dropped right into his wheelhouse.
“I’m unbelievably sympathetic to the movement and I was driven to cover it because when Occupy Boston started I looked around and it was my Rolodex from the past 10 years of covering shit in Boston—every activist, protester, community organizer,” he says. “They’re talking about things I write about and I care about.”
But Faraone didn’t find it difficult to maintain objectivity, and sometimes wield a critical pen, in his Occupy coverage. “I wasn’t just going to be a cheerleader for the movement.” In his book, 99 Nights With the 99 Percent: Dispatches from the First Three Months of the Occupy Revolution , Faraone documents his experiences covering Occupy encampments all across the country. Below is an excerpt about the beginning of Faraone’s journey along with his experiences at Occupy Philly. (Michael Alan Goldberg)
Zuccotti Park was first. Dewey Square followed. By the time the “Phoenix” staff showed up at Occupy Boston to hold our weekly editorial meeting last Wednesday, the Boston squatters were no longer the new kids on America’s occupied block—and the protest was escalating before our eyes. Occupiers were facing off with cops wielding fistfuls of plastic cuffs, busloads of union nurses were arriving, and Cornel West parachuted in to lay down some throwback Civil Rights vocals.
I looked at my editors. They looked at me. This thing was live and spreading up and down the coast like red tide. I knew there was only one thing to say: “I’ll leave in the morning.”
I would fly down to Washington immediately, and train and bus my way back toward the heart of the outbreak in Manhattan, stopping every place along the way where the 99 percent has taken hold. I wanted to see where it all might be headed—if, in three weeks, Occupy Boston might look like Occupy Wall Street, and if the other mass actions spawning in the Hub’s wake might come to resemble the scene unfolding here.
PHILLY: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8
Occupy Philly is like Occupy Baltimore without Ritalin, and with a whole lot more tents, people, and percussion. Just two days in, Dilworth Plaza outside of City Hall is already host to a 1000-plus Philly bash to rival Will Smith’s “Summertime” video, with teach-ins in mid-lesson, animated Hare Krishnas bouncing like deflated basketballs, and an overall mood that’s more festive than organized.
Even cops can’t help but nod to the drum circle’s rhythms, while cliques of pot crusaders, war veterans, and other breeds of radical proudly reflect on an earlier group march to the Liberty Bell. It’s the party of the week; a cadre of Temple co-eds, who are not at all involved with Occupy, tell me that they came to watch the freaks before going out clubbing. They’re drinking vodka cocktails out of not-so-clandestine Gatorade bottles.
This place already has the most sophisticated tech department I’ve seen yet – powered by eight slabs of solar thrust – and it’s a good thing that they’re wired. Already there is little chance of accomplishing much at Philly assemblies; tonight’s devolves into poorly projected mayhem at the get-go. Around the perimeter, dozens of punks with dirty dreads and painful piercings talk over the discussion, while emotions start to fly in the front as grievances are aired over permit issues and how to picket the imperialistic Columbus Day.
I cup my ear, attempting to hear what folks are saying in the frazzled assembly, but can’t make much out. So I ask a volunteer from the book table for a synopsis. He didn’t hear either, but assures me that’s okay. “As a group we’ve got no clue what the hell we’re doing,” he says while stroking his beard, “but there sure are a whole fucking lot of us.”
Letters to the Editor