OCCUPIED UNION SQUARE, NY – Four New York City Parks Enforcement officers stand on the outskirts of the park as the low rhythm of hand drums blend with a smooth jazz saxophone. The crowd, about 300 strong, is relaxed and chatting. It feels like the old days again. As I walk amongst the crowd, familiar faces and new smiles greet me and I decide to sit and chat.
The now-infamous yellow Occupy Wall Street banner, designed to replicate caution tape, hangs high and proud over a group of occupiers. Pillows, blankets, brothers and sisters converge under its framework, telling stories of the long winter, countless hours spent laying the groundwork for what is set to be a monumental spring, our humble beginnings in lower Manhattan and how much farther we must travel on our journey. Food donations have already begun pouring in, only reinforcing that feeling of nostalgia. The spirit of the Occupy Movement that seemed all but lost not long ago has burst back to life since the six-month anniversary and subsequent raid. It feels like coming home.
In speaking with some friends, I learn that OWS has once again found ourselves a loophole. We are quite resourceful for “dirty hippies.” Our latest occupation, now in day three, is allowed to stay because Union Square Park is patrolled by Park Rangers or Parks Enforcement Officers during hours of operation. This means the police have no jurisdiction over the park unless Park Rangers call them in to handle a situation – AFTER the park closes at midnight. Ironically, the exterior of the park, where we have set up camp, is mandated to remain open 24 hours as a major subway station is located in the square.
However, the NYPD can’t enforce anything other than open flame/noise violations or the congregation of more than 25 people having a single conversation (thank you, NDAA ) because the Park Rangers go off duty at midnight. It’s almost poetic justice. As I continue to scan the perimeter I see a few “white shirts” and the occasional patrol officer, but as before November 15, they remain removed. No barricades or wrist band-clad monsters lurking, not a single mainstream media source in sight.
As the evening continues, rather than the numbers dwindling, the crowd seems to have increased, spreading itself out along the south side of the square, mindful to remain in small groups to protect the occupation. We played sports, sang, danced — Spring Training in full effect. Sidewalk chalk turned the once-gray paving stones of Union Square into a canvas reminiscent of just a few days earlier in our “starter home,” as remnants of the once-sprawling OWS Library are set up on a staircase.
Six months and two evictions later, it seems we have a new place to call Occupied.
A relatively uneventful evening progresses at the new home of Occupy Wall Street, and I decide it’s time for me to depart. I had to work very early but promised friends, old and new, that I will be back tomorrow. My faith in Occupy and in my brothers and sisters continues to be renewed with each action I attend. As I sit down on the subway for my short trip back to Brooklyn, a smile spreads across my face. I take a huge bite from my fresh boston crème donut, courtesy of The Peoples Kitchen, and hum to myself, “This occupation is not leaving!”
A version of this story originally appeared on Occupied Stories.