Come out and spend some time suspended 30 feet over a freeway, holding signs of resistance while cars and semi-trucks roar by, upsweeping their roadway winds that smell of cement and gas. Their honks are our evening symphony, from rude etude of angry reactive blasts to delicate democrabeep counterpoint. Some idiot on Friday night pulled over to stand and yell obscenities at us. That takes someone really committed to a cause, or perhaps needing commitment to an anger management program. "Freeloaders! Freeloaders!!!" he yelled, up at the bridge, at the sky, at the world, shaking his fist, giving the finger that forever confuses sex with rage. The lights of our letters asserted WALKER IS A CROOK. We write the anti-ambiguity manifesto. We were getting a lot of response...
We select a location, and send a request for Holders of the Lights to our amazing list of volunteers. We select a message based upon the number of holders, the letters we have or can relatively quickly create, and the general sense of buzz in the news: jobs, corruption, voting, unity, division. We pack up and show up, await the arrival of the dedicated and ever-shifting crew, and hit the bridges.
We've been getting around twenty volunteers per action recently. This is usually on a two or three day notice and has been two or three times a week. This is astounding. It means we can do longer and longer messages for each side of the bridge. It is a powerful sight to behold the people standing and waving and doing the "air horn fist pump" to the traffic below. It is a happening, an action, a performance, a witness. And, it is really fun: a Friday night to remember. I think we are the best cheap date in the state.
The chorus of honks begins when we first step onto the bridge. Even before the signs are displayed. People know, the trolls pounce quickly. Complaint calls hit the police stations soon thereafter. We're not always visited, but are quite frequently. The various police forces have been polite and professional, some friendly, some more officious, but I have no complaint. We understand the rules (to not affix anything to the fencing, and to not block the walkways) and are scrupulous about them. The police always seem surprised when they see a bunch of young to middle-aged to elder adults laughing and talking and being friendly. I'm not sure what they expect, but I know it isn't this. They always seem relieved when they ask, "How long do you plan to be here?" and I can look at my watch and say, "Uh, 25 more minutes, until 9:15. We go exactly 90 minutes from sunset." We are very disciplined, in a self-organizing and richly organic kind of way.
A police car rushes by...
The police arrive to talk with us...
Who's in charge? Your name? Are you working for anyone?
Your phone number in case we need to contact you? How long will you be here?
Someone on Facebook offered the following comment about this photo:
"Cool looking photo: it's different from all the others I've seen because you're the primary "subject" of this one. This photo does a good job of showing you being singled out as one of the originating authors of an intentionally communal project which stands defiantly in the background."
One of our members, Joe, sets up a "field office" with his laptop in order to quickly upload photos to Facebook or twitter. We get a lot of people taking photographs, and we distribute them widely. A video we did the other day (below) got picked up by various Occupy networks, and had 400,000 views within 2 hours of its posting. We were interviewed on the bridge by a local and respected radio show host for Wisconsin Public Radio. This was interesting to me because shortly thereafter we were "interviewed" by the police. I need a communications manager to keep it all straight!
Joe doing uploads while Jenna looks on.
Badscience being interviewed for WI Public Radio. The hat protects her from attack.
We had our first "bridge birthday party" last Wednesday, complete with an "Overpass Cake" which was pretty amazing, and was shared with some lovely little kids in the neighborhood. On that day, we had selected WALKER=JOBS FAIL, since his dismal jobs ranking has been in the news a lot lately. It was a pretty mellow evening, with no police interviews - though their presence was clear as a patrol car parked on a turnout and watched us for a while, flushing one of our ninja photographers from the underbush like a hound dog motivates a rabbit.
Our first Bridge Birthday Party. Nice cake!
The "crash recovery" site seemed appropriate for the message last Wednesday.
We have new people join us each time, along with regulars, many of whom have become valued friends. It reeks of cliche, but this project belongs to so many different people. It is all about communities, and there is a fairly complex network involved in these actions: the community of holders, of potential holders, the located communities of the neighborhoods near the bridges, the transient distributive community of passersby as they move throughout the state, the virtual communities of social media and its amplification potential, the community of writers and readers on Kos and other blogs, the Occupy network which has taken notice of our tactics of visibility, and the vague and fuzzy rhizomatic quality of word-of-mouth and "buzz."
Last evening, we went to a statewide Occupy event in Fond du Lac. I didn't know what to expect, though assumed there would be a certain amount of jaded and jejune projections of hipster ennui - that weird youthful dance of engagement (We are occupying, after all!) and detachment (all politics suck, so what is the point of action?) that can lead to a certain amount of hand-wringing and brow-furrowing among the elder set. But what I found was light and hope and energy.
At Occupy Fond du Lac we brought out a new message.
Chants reverberated from side-to-side while people sang labor songs.
They're finally getting that "wave" thing down!
It was a daylong event with a lot of people attending, marching, assembling. The stalwarts stayed for the evening and OLB. We had a great time holding new TAX OUR RICHEST 1% signs and making a ruckus on the street corner, flags waving and lights blazing forth. I talked with some older Veterans for Peace reformers who are engaged in Drone Protests, but mostly it was great to be a part of a group of young activists, faces painted, guitars playing, chants and counter-chants echoing through a lovely little civic park which was paid for by tax dollars, from times when towns were built, times less constricted by the pinched notions of individual worth parked in the garages of isolated exurban McMansions, windows blanked and pitiless, objects accumulating in nests like bower birds frantically displaying for a mate who never arrives.