Inside #OccupyBoston: The Marches, Meditations, and Messages of the Movement on Dewey Square

It's 11:30 am on Saturday in the location formerly known as Dewey Square, which has been, for the past 24 hours, the headquarters of OccupyBoston. It had rained hard the night before, and now patches of grass between tents on the Rose Kennedy Greenway have turned to mud puddles; the occupiers have laid down cardboard walkways to minimize ground damage. The morning's general assembly is in session and the occupants whoop with excitement after voting unanimously to establish a library tent.

[Full Coverage: Catch up on all this weekend's #OccupyBoston tweets, video, photos, and more

I'm searching for Gaetano, an occupant I've decided to pseudo-sponsor to ease my mounting guilt for not braving the harsh living conditions alongside these folks who are voluntarily submitting themselves to physical discomfort for sake of the greater good. Making my way through the 50 or so tents that now comprise the encampment, I notice many familiar faces from the night before - many still smiling, one now rocking pink face paint.

I find Gaetano talking with a friend outside the tactical tent, a lean-to now flush with supplies and groceries stacked under a giant tarp.

I hand him a coffee, some dry socks, and a marble crawler I bought from a mom-and-pop diner in my neighborhood. He starts gushing, recapping for me the rest of his night. He says about 70 people stayed, and he's crazy enthusiastic for someone running on hardly any sleep. Along with several other occupants, he'd gone dumpster diving at Trader Joe's in Alewife, returning at 3 am with a heady bounty. "We got so much food we have to give some to Food Not Bombs!" he says.

They also returned with several discarded bouquets of roses, which they intend to give the police as a peace offering.

Previously: #OccupyBoston Is Winning: How Day One on Dewey Square Went Down

12:00 pm: A meeting is held to discuss rearranging the tents in order to optimize space, and to deal with the flooded foundation of this growing city-within-a-city. Greg Housh announces he's brought tarps for campers to put beneath their tents in an effort to stay dry. Another occupant points out that tarps will surely help water puddle under the tens if it rains again. Creative problem solving ensues. (The forecast is not pretty - according to, it's expected to rain every day until Wednesday.)

After the camp-restructuring meeting, occupants begin uprooting their camp sites and replacing them - it's Tetris with tents. An announcement is made for an eye-flush training meeting going on at the medical tent. About 50 gather to watch a facilitator take some saline to his face. He warns only to use saline, water, or LAW (liquid antacid and water) in the case someone gets pepper-sprayed.

"Make sure you tell your patient when using LAW they will go blind for 30 seconds . . . It really freaks people out when they aren't expecting this."

Another announcement is made about trash pick-up. Housh tells me the city will be coming daily to collect trash from the occupation. Another session is scheduled for 2 pm to help people learn how to lead.

3:00 pm: It's an hour before a scheduled march to CollegeFest. The sun is trying to come out, and the Occupy Boston sign (those words, no more, black marker on blanket) is hung at the entrance to Dewey Square Park. I meet a transgender occupant and listen to her philosophize with one of my friends about the plight of paying student loans. "You can repossess a car," she says, "you can repossess a house, what are they gonna fucking do, take my brain out of my head?"

Her sign includes the word "homeless." She is happy to tell me about the new safe-sex tent, which is also apparently full of supplies.

4:00 pm: A small group of occupants marches in a circle along Atlantic Avenue. The BPD estimate a "couple hundred" are present.

4:15 pm: A facilitator hops on the people's mic. For once, it's not working very well - occupants are splintered between group tents, residential tents, and marching. Time doesn't really mean shit here. There's no stress - but there is mounting confusion. An awkward ambiguity hits the group again, and it reminds me of a feeling  from the night before, outside the Fed. This facilitator is suggesting they post-pone their march to College Fest until 8pm because there is to be a food delivery at 5pm. Occupants start chattering; most seem shocked and a little angry. Hands shoot up with points of process almost instantly. "But what time does College Fest end? BUT WHAT TIME DOES COLLEGE FEST END?"

"7 pm."

Another occupant shouts, "I KNOW A TON OF MY FRIENDS IN COLLEGE ARE GOING TO BE THERE TODAY!"  An older lady occupant dressed both fancy and patriotically tries to explain, loudly, that we need to march now. This goes on about five minutes.

Once again, when there is dissent in the ranks, music takes the lead.

An occupant with a drum starts shouting with a voice of authority, slapping the drum at random. He's not angry, but firm. "DO YOU WANT TO TAKE PART OF THE REVOLUTION? I SUGGEST WE MARCH ON HYNES NOW."

It's clear he's got the bug. And you can tell in these young adults' eyes when they've caught it. To me it feels like the same conditioned optimism that went viral (#Jan25) in the Middle East during  Egyptian Spring, as if that season had now shown up in Boston and driven these occupants to fight diligently to maintain morale.  These occupants are exhausted. They've been working for hours.

But the hunger to be part of something bigger, to sustain their revolution, seems to be stronger than their hunger for food - stronger than the thought of not having to march almost two miles to Hynes, and the two miles back.

People listen to the drummer's pleas. Smiles start to return to faces, and their attention has been diverted from that original facilitator who tried to get this group to postpone their march.

Here, people take control when their leaders fail to offer what they need.

The newly realigned marchers are ready to follow the drummer to protest. There's just one problem. "WAIT," he cries, with mock urgency. "Which way is Hynes?" Everyone cracks up laughing.

4:22pm: Commence march. The marchers set out single file, lined up along the brick walkway of Dewey Square, forming a protest line that stretches from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to the Fiduciary Trust Building. Their signs all denounce capitalism - but for different reasons. The Occupy movement is a collection of alienations - and each individual can tell you exactly why they think capitalism is most fucked up.

 "IF YOU FEAR FOR YOUR FUTURE, JOIN US" reads one sign. Another: "IT'S SIMPLE MATH - 99 > 1." And another: "END THE FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY"

 A young woman dressed what in something like couture holds a sign that reads "BRING DOWN THE OLIGARCHS! BRING BACK DEMOCRACY!"  

The march starts with slow, deliberate steps and even slower drum thumps.

The march stops traffic, and honks of support outweigh those in anger, and the protesters' energy level rises. Their chants are loud and impassioned, echoing through the alleys between concrete skyscrapers in the Saturday-dead financial district.

In Downtown Crossing, as the marchers approach, little girls run scared to their mothers and little boys run laughing. Passers-by take pictures, or smile , or pretend they don't see the giant mass of protesters making their way up Summer Street towards Boston Common.

The protest now looks like a real force, something not to be fucked with. They march up the developed side of Tremont Street while I run along the Common, snapping shots of onlooker reactions.

I think back to the January 29th march for Egypt that trekked along the Common with signs and flags supporting the revolution and celebrating the downfall of an oppressive dictator. Today, Egyptian flags hang on tents at the occupation site, and at the far end of Dewey Square, at a major focal point of the encampment from which the facilitators speak to the crowd, there's a giant Egyptian flag hanging on the wall.

One of the women on the OccupyBoston media team says, "America is getting a lesson in Democracy from Egypt."

5:00pm: The march turns onto Boylston Street, and proceeds to College Fest, where it leads to a chanting dance party outside the entrance to the Hynes Convention Center.

A woman working inside, wearing a janitor's uniform, dances and waves to the protesters from a second floor window. She flashes thumbs up and peace signs. The occupants cheer back at her.

Two young college boys with shaggy skater haircuts come out of the Fest and run up to the marchers on the very end of the protest, as it snakes off to return to Dewey Square. They ask what's going on, and if they can get involved.

But aside from that encounter, most of CollegeFest-goers I saw were unphased by the protest. One wears a white tank-top that says "SEX, DRUGS & DUBSTEP."


7:45pm: After the walk back to the occupation, I'm astonished at the new organization of the mini city. There's an information tent immediately on the right as you enter, to welcome new occupants and visitors. Next to information, the legal tent. And next to that is tactical; there's a poster on the outside of the tent listing needed supplies, with only a few items crossed off. Adjacent to tactical is food, and at the end of the gravel walk is the massive media tent - now equipped with enough electricity to power at least five laptops; Al Jazeera has reportedly been in here editing video, and earlier I ran into a photographer from AOL.

A sign hangs from the medical tent that reads "I HAVE ANSWERS." It is well stocked with supplies, and it is located directly adjacent to the street in case of need for an ambulance. A little ways up from medical is the spiritual/calm tent, right next to the library tent.

9:00pm: I sit cross-legged with a circle of super-chill occupants under spiritual calm tent, after happily removing my shoes (rule) before entering. The tarp-covered ground is layered with squishy yoga mats and sheets, with glowing orange electric candles that flicker automatically, with protest prayer books, and with reflection journals open for anyone to write in. Moments after I get comfy in my seat next to a hooded man, the sky opens up with more rain. The hooded man is named Baba; he's been leading yoga sessions and meditations all week. (Next session is Monday at 4pm.)

After scribbling the first entry in one of the reflection journals, I sit cross-legged and talk to a dozen enlightened occupants who are choosing to support the movement by means of ancient Hindu/Buddhist/Native American/New Age spiritual traditions and philosophy. In the Occupation, all shared beliefs are treated as equal. Their goal is to generate and maintain positive energy in the face of global human suffering - much of it, they believe, stemming from the actions of American banks and investment firms whose offices are visible from our circle.

Baba turns to me and says, "We should really do something right now."

I agree. We collectively agree. Baba leads us on a guided meditation that ends up lasting 40 minutes, but felt to me as if it took no more than 20. It was one of the best group meditations I've ever experienced, and I'm still in shock at the fact I was able to sit for that long - a slab of calm in the middle of that South Station intersection on a Saturday night, horns honking, sirens screaming, the steady echo of protesters voting in the background, the occasional drunk Bostonian yelling sidewalk support.

Baba tells me he doesn't live anywhere in particular, but invites me to where he plans to stay for the night - a party themed "anything but clothes." He decides to wear an Occupy Boston sign as a butt flap.

11:00pm: I thank Baba for the offer, but tell him I need to use the energy boost from our meditation session to get me to my bed. After two days of chasing protest marches, wandering around Boston's newest up-and-coming neighborhood, my legs are barely working. But Monday is a new day, and I'll be back for yoga.



All photos by @ArielShearer.

READ MORE: #OccupyBoston 


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