It's no coincidence that two of the biggest and most amplified anti-bank actions on record are taking place today in Boston. Actually it is a bit strange considering that the two demonstrations – Right to the City's massive afternoon march, and Occupy Boston's hardcore evening habitation – share no organizational ties whatsoever. But when you think about how many folks entities like Bank of America have sentenced to the poorhouse, people shouldn't be surprised if two million picketers showed on their Federal Street doorstep at the same time. One group built momentum for months. The other was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street romp in Manhattan. They all want the same greedy bastards to pay for the sins of the one percent (as opposed to the 99 percent of the population that does not subscribe to Robb Report).
The lead-up to today's disobedience entailed its own minor spectacles. On Thursday, MassUniting transformed bus shelters around Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea into neglected bank properties, leaving behind signs that read “THIS FORECLOSURE BROUGHT TO YOU BY BANK OF AMERICA.” On the Occupy Boston end, hundreds of mostly young people – many of whom have little if any sit-in experience – managed to design a feasible attack plan in a matter of days. They still have a lot to figure out – even basic things like whether they'll be allowed to use tents and tarps – but they've been on their grind for sure, in some cases working around the clock, and enduring meetings for five hours at a time. Critics have a point in that relatively few occupiers – here, in Liberty Square, or anywhere else – are educated about credit default swaps and other nefarious practices that crippled the economy. But my bet is that these soldiers have a lot more energy than, say, sympathetic academics who do understand financial systems. That school of progressives hasn't launched a direct action in four decades.
Occupy Boston's second planning powwow, Wednesday night on Boston Common, began slowly, with just 100 or so people gathered near the bandstand. But the crowd thickened quickly, and shows of hands revealed that more than a few on board were new recruits who'd heard about the action online or through friends who came the night before. Of course there were also stragglers – one dude tried to sell me on the Free State Project – but the larger group was disciplined enough to focus on critical issues like whether or not Occupy Boston should seek permits. That debate took a tedious two hours, after which the majority agreed that “Egypt didn't need a permit to bring down a dictator” – but the group took great pride in having reached a big decision based on common sense and consensus. After that, it took a matter of minutes for them to agree that today – Friday, September 30 – is the ideal time to move in on Dewey Square (near South Station).
By Thursday the soon-to-be occupiers, all in hyper-planning mode, had lost a bit of their communal bliss. More than an hour of the night's meeting was wasted by people reiterating obvious things – like that cops should not be antagonized – before getting to important stuff like Fifth Amendment rights, how to handle an arrest, and how dangerous it can be to wear contact lenses into battles where you might get blasted with pepper spray. It takes a lot of effort for this group to synthesize; if ever there was a cadre of hard-willed, righteous, and even obnoxious personalities – this is it. But while many are the type of outspoken passionate souls who raise their hand so much in school that they annoy teachers, by the time I left – about three hours in – they were back on track and crossing off agenda items. Hot vegan dinner will be served every day at 3pm – except for the first night, when the team will break bread a few hours after settling.
At this point reality seems to be registering for many of the occupiers – particularly those who have never camped out in a potential danger zone before. Last night's torrential showers didn't help; I overheard one boyish-looking student at the final meeting – which was held indoors, at the nonprofit hub Encuentro 5 in Chinatown – tell his friends that he hadn't thought about the rain. I left before they finished rapping about things like what Occupy Boston's message should be – last I heard, a lot of heads wanted to follow the example set by Occupy Wall Street, and identify a common cause after getting situated, if at all (here's the Open Media wrap-up). But despite having no official lord directing, so far these flies seem capable of instituting representative democracy - so long as everybody gets a chance to pitch two cents in the rhetorical jar.
Like some Boston activists who I spoke with right after Occupy Boston announced itself, I was initially concerned that they might piss on MassUniting's parade. At the same time, like I mentioned in that same dispatch, there's also a potentially annoying fad dynamic to the Occupy actions, which are allegedly spreading to several dozen cities (I'll be reporting from Occupy Miami on Saturday). Still I've decided to embrace all of the hate and spite directed toward Bank of America – no matter who or where it's coming from – and at other reprehensible institutions that bank on our backs, only to literally sip champagne while people suffer. The problem up until now has been that not enough folks give a damn. That might still be the case; but in this moment, with Boston on the brink of the most heated demonstrations that the city's seen in years, it's nice to imagine some business suit shitsucker, hopping the commuter rail to spend the weekend with his family, having to be reminded of how many lives he ruined so that his spoiled kid can drive a Lexus.