New York- Within a few hours of departing Vermont I found myself photographing in front of a hospital on Wyckoff Ave in Brooklyn. Here was a place of struggle. The drying elderly, the stutter-stepping parents, and the children that smelled of diesel fumes and hot asphalt had arrived. They came out, not to defend a politician, not to uplift an audience, but to recognize one another in common need. Wyckoff Medical Center is the hospital where the Empire State Building looms in hazy distance between which lay thousands of boiling acres of brick, concrete, and dirty steel cable shimmering in the heat. There is a place called “Bedpan Alley” where numerous “luxury” hospitals exist for the rich. On Wyckoff Ave, where decision makers rarely venture, the call has been made to close the doors to make way for more profitable enterprises.
A sooty layer of black accumulates on my fingertips with every passing minute. Wyckoff Ave feels as much a forgotten back-water as is possible within sight of the jagged Manhattan skyline. Dozens of protesters, some of them doctors and patients, marched around the red-brick compound with an urgent tone of voice that rarely emerges.
This tone, curing for decades, is not of despair, loss, or grief. This tone, immediately understandable and perceptible, forged slowly, is a tone of time and anger. Given enough time, the anger and rage of loss becomes too much to endure any further. One of the doctors spoke of holding his soon for the first time within the walls of the hospital. A protestor spoke of the penetrating fear he felt when imagining the walls of other nearby hospitals bulging beyond their capacity to provide the sanctuary required to recover.
This emergence, beneath an unbelievably blue sky, was the fight of people to care for one another, to stand in solidarity with those unable to stand, will be forgotten. It won’t be remembered, it won’t be catalogued, and it won’t be recounted as a legend. Instead, the legacy of the protests and demonstrations will be of a community hospital where babies continue to be brought into the world, where elders are given the care they deserve, and where the roots of the community continue to run deep.
Hours later, as the last of a series of fireworks slowly descended from the sky, the gathered Occupiers at the southern tip of Manhattan began to dance. Leaping and bounding into the air, hands raised and opened towards the stars, bare and ashen feet pounded a beat into the pavement, and all the upturned faces closed their eyes. They started to sing. It was a song, a call to prayer, and a rising pulse: “Dance for democracy! Da-da-dance for democracy! Dance for that anarchy! Da-da-dance for that anarchy!” It was then that fewer they moved into the street.
Somebody unfurled bright yellow length of the last banner not hunted and destroyed by the NYPD. It read OCCUPY WALL ST in three foot tall black letters and spanned across 4 lanes of traffic. This was the banner if there ever was one. Leading the march on May Day, those who carried it aloft defended it fiercely, even as they police began to systematically break the thumbs of Occupiers who had linked arms around its steward. Now, the banner was unfurling across Broadway and walking into oncoming traffic. The drivers of an Audi, a BMW, and a Mercedes gripped soft knuckles into leather steering wheels as they reluctantly rolled beneath the banner and watched as a few tattered yellow threads trailed slowly over their windshields.
A new chant rose as they moved north. “Whose streets? NO streets! TEAR UP THE CONCRETE!” The voices reverberated at a nearly deafening volume from buildings and windows. “Ah! Anti! ANTI-CAPITAL-ISTA!” rose from the tired band, a tribute to the Los Indignatos, The Indignant Ones, of Spain currently under heavy threat from the Spanish government. The chant grew louder still until suddenly stopping… only echoing remnants reverberated on.
They had all abruptly fallen silent upon arriving at Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the movement and the site of several police riots against the peaceful occupiers. This was the home taken away, this was the dream deferred, this was hallowed ground.
They moved on, ignoring the scurrying of dozens of NYPD to their radios. Arriving at City Hall, the Occupiers set up their camp for the night. Like soldiers returning from battle, they wearily unrolled their tattered blankets sleeping bags. Some began handing out whatever food they had to one another, others took up the nightly safety vigil, and others still went in search of water. They laid down next to each other. Together in their struggle for change, they are together also in their struggle to survive from one day to the next.
In the dim glow of a few streetlights they looked at one another: This will be our home for tonight. Not sure where we’ll be tomorrow, but this is where we are tonight. Dream sweet dreams brothers and sisters; it’s all we have left. We’ll start again tomorrow.
For more photographs by Dylan Kelley visit his blog here.