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Friday, December 9, 2016

In a square named after a Spanish-American war hero, crowds of middle-class youth stuck in economic despair listened to slogans about and speechifying on raising taxes on the wealthy and waved signs quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A stray person on the outskirts handed out the lyrics to socialist anthem “The Internationale,” more in the hope than in an expectation that it would be sung, while the crowd of around 150 stood on improvised sidewalks of plywood over mud to hear the words of the speakers over a rickety PA.

But this wasn’t 1933. It was yesterday in Dewey Square in downtown Boston where the Occupy Boston protests continued onwards, an eclectic mix of humanity ranging from polite college students bearing signs about their questionable job prospects and certain student loan debt to anarchists hiding their faces behind black bandanas. Aside from the mentions of Roosevelt, there were no other mentions of political figures, unless one counted a t-shirt for “Bill Belichick for President 2004.” Nor was there any structure: All decisions are said to be made “democratically” by a group named General Assembly, which meets nightly for around three hours at a time. Even the guy wearing the tie who originally seemed like a professional organizer turned out just to be a minor YouTube celebrity from January 2008.

When the first of five busloads of members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association showed up, a representative of Occupy Boston with a scraggly beard walked up to them excitedly and asked if they wanted to march on Mass General — Harvard’s massive main teaching and research hospital. The nurses demurred. Instead, they agreed to stroll around a block of downtown Boston’s financial district.

“Garbage,” said one of the bankers or traders milling outside as he saw the protestors walking by. “They should get a job,” he said, which was, of course, exactly what many of those demonstrating wanted.

Others were more appreciative, with some people stepping out of bars and coffee shops to applaud. One sympathetic spectator who worked in the financial services industry downtown told me that he worked his way up from washing dishes. Now, because of layoffs, as he put it, he “was surrounded by empty cubicles.”

I spotted one sign during the walk — outside the towering skyscraper at 100 High Street was a sign asking all who entered “use the revolving door to save energy.” It was a striking counterpoint to the crowd walking by. They might not have an articulable list of demands, or a clear sense of how to go after “Wall Street,” but they knew one thing: a revolving door was not going to bring them change they could believe in.

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Copyright 2011 The National Memo