PRITCHARD PARK — From street level, it’s difficult to tell how these things start. The chanting crowd came through the echo chamber of College Street to the surprise of passersby. I circled around the Kress building to get in front of the march.
Summer is gone. Fall is anything but lighthearted. It’s a harsh wind that threatens to run off with my hat, and I can’t help but think — in that way that October makes you think — that things have gotten more serious.
The Occupiers have brought buckets of warm soup and other food. Asheville’s traffic is an inarticulate, bleating mass. Like anything else in the scene, the honking is up to interpretation. Maybe the drivers are down for the class struggle. Maybe they’re late.
Interpret as you will. This is what I saw: The Occupiers hold a “General Assembly” without agenda or procedure. Handmade signs carry messages about taxes, love and betrayal. Vigilant figures wave black flags. As in New York, the Occupation is said to be without form, a soup of many issues; without violence, a peaceful demonstration; without organizers, a spontaneous grip on the street.
But someone paid for the soup. Someone labored to make the largest banner, a crimson piece of fabric with a black, clenched fist. In the bottom corner, where the banner drags the ground, is a claim of responsibility: “International Socialist Organization.” It’s the only sign, anywhere, of the Occupation’s genesis.
A few people eat, unconcerned with the politics or the honking horns. Photographers circle the park, waiting for some pathos to document. We all have our motives.
Currently, my motive is warmth. Whatever these Occupiers stand for, I don’t envy them the weather. On Broadway I stumbled into this:
Even if the world is going to hell, young couples in love are still foolish enough to marry. The wedding party is lined up for its entrance, but the bride and groom are nowhere to be seen. The ladies shiver in their dresses. Their bare shoulders, among all those black tuxedos, suggest that chivalry is dead.
A cheer goes up and I turn around to see a vintage white automobile, caught in Asheville’s Saturday night protest traffic. Horns honk anew, and again it’s hard to tell if the drivers are congratulating or cursing. The young couple waves from the window. It’s the end of the engagement, and the beginning of the hard work.
It’s the first of October. Maybe it’s the day of just another protest in Asheville, maybe it’s The Day It All Started. Either way, it’s some couple’s anniversary, the day they took the plunge. The time for talk is over. Like the journalist H.L Mencken said: “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”