Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Why do I wake up feeling worse yes worse, worse again, especially the bloating and then my energy and today's May Day I want to go down to check out the protests but do I have enough energy? Thankfully I have supportive friends already who call me to tell me their plans, a queer dance party at noon is what I want to check out. I arrive at about 12:15, but apparently the queer dance party became part of the anti-capitalist march, which just left. That's the march I didn't want to go to, since I need to avoid pepper spray, the new tool of the cops to intimidate mass protests and yes, I'm intimidated, I can't risk all that pain adding to all the rest of my pain and remember I got bashed once with pepper spray when I was 19, directly into my eyes I didn't know what it was I couldn't see them when I could see it looked like someone used red spray paint all over my face I ended up in the hospital lying on a table while they pumped saline into my eyes for 45 minutes.

I didn't realize that the main Occupy protest is actually permitted, a stage with sound equipment and port-a-potties in the square and supposedly that makes us safer, at least I don't have to go to Macy's to use the bathroom. Although everyone is smoking – cigarettes, pot, something else – it's gross and overwhelming, and then some of the people come back from the anti-capitalist march, coated in pepper spray and vinegar to get it off and even though there’s no pepper spray in the air my eyes start to burn anyway, with the residue and the smoke and luckily I'm with people who understand, who are sensitive also, so we go across the street where there’s more air, sit down and eat snacks and meals and I'm impressed at how slowly Finn and Meghan eat, I'm always trying to eat slowly but never that slowly and Finn wants to know how I'm doing in Seattle and that's a hard question. Because I feel really excited about being here – I'm touched by all the support I've received with unpacking and hanging art and getting groceries and just dealing with the everyday world. But I feel completely awful, totally worn out, dramatically more exhausted and maybe that's because of the end of the tour although that was more than a month ago, or the paint fumes in my apartment, or all the smoke that comes pouring in, or the berberine extract I'm taking, or who knows but the truth is that most of the time I feel completely exhausted, drained, annihilated even, so it's hard to feel hopeful even if I feel like everything is going well.

That's the sentence I use – everything is going well, but I feel horrible. Socket thought that was funny – I guess it is a contradiction, right, the story of my life. When will I start to feel better? What do I do if I don't?

I've always hated permitted mass demos, so I guess it's no surprise that I don't really feel any connection here, I mean any connection with the crowd – the stage is run mostly by young people of color, certainly an accomplishment for Seattle, a string of performances and music but why? That divide between performer and audience, protester and spectator, why can't we create something else? Homeland security drives by; transit cops; cops in riot gear; cops on horseback; some mobile command station with a huge spotlight on top. Every now and then, a group of protesters is chasing someone out of the square, an undercover cop we're guessing, but no one knows. The level of police response is more shocking here to me than in other cities where I've lived, because not much that's confrontational is really happening. I guess the anti-capitalist march redecorated a Wells Fargo, maybe a few other stores – the usual scene of a crowd as cover and people throwing rocks from the back without anyone knowing first, maybe even straight guys and then the queers got the pepper spray or maybe it was all queers, who knows, and I know this is all intimidation, and I also know that I'm intimidated. That's what different than in the past, in the past when I wouldn't have budged: now I can't take the risk, almost like drugs in a way – the momentary excitement is not worth the horrors that would ensue. But worse: I can only imagine the long-term effects of pepper spray on my health. Actually it's four hours since I left Westlake, and my eyes are still burning: I wasn't even near where the cops were pepper spraying, that was blocks away. I can only imagine what would have happened if I was there.

At the demo, I was trying to figure out the best goggles to get, what kind of particle mask might work the most extensively – just to be prepared. Max says you can't do anything, if you don't take care of yourself, and she's right. And sometimes I feel like I can't do anything, even though I do take care of myself. What can I imagine that would have inspired me at these May Day protests today, that's what I'm wondering now. Something so fast and spectacular that the cops don't even have time to mobilize, yet somehow it still makes an impact – that's the fantasy in my head, anyway.


Anonymous said...

"it sounded like queers were in front, straight guys throwing rocks in the back and then the queers got the pepper spray."

What pray do tell was this about. Just want to know as I don't trust straights anymore.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, I don't know much more about this particular incident, although it seems to have become a big news splash with the fear of "black-clad anarchists," etc. – but, the common strategy of certain people using a crowd of others who may or may not know their intentions to smash windows, etc. always seems a bit vanguardist to me...

Love –