Sunday, in an attempt to “humanize” the protest and engage the surrounding community, the Occupy Queens movement set up shop next to the Jackson Height’s farmers market.
Occupy Queens is a group associated with the Occupy Wall Street, a movement that has been protesting wealth distribution in Zuccotti park since September, 2011. Occupy rallies have been the sites of violence, arrests and police brutality— but yesterday in Queens, the scene was more street fair than protest.
Carolyn Ristau, a former professor at Barnard College, stood by a little table near the Occupy Queens banner. Wearing a ladybug themed apron, Ristau handed out free lemonade to all those who walked by. But this cool drink is more than just refreshment, she explained. It’s a way to humanize the protest.
“Things start from the bottom up. Jackson Heights is probably the most diverse entity in the entire world, what we’re trying to do here is say ‘hey people, enjoy each other.’ We’re Occupy, but we don’t just wear smelly clothes and lie on the street.”
The organizers of the Occupy Queens movement set up in Jackson Heights with the mission of promoting unity among Queens citizens.
There were girls helping kids screen-print ‘Occupy Queens’ t-shirts, a woman in an orange dress who read Tarot cards for passers-by and children playing on a make-shift playground in the middle of the street.
“Here we have a “free market,” people can bring things or pick them up as they need them and they can donate them. It’s promoting share-ness too. My free lemonade says ‘Hey, you’re hot. Have some lemonade,” says Ristau.
When not distributing free lemonade, Occupy Queens is also known to take action. The movement has staged general assemblies to confront issues like defending public education, confronting police surveillance and engaging in youth outreach. Ristau, along with many of her Occupy Queens compatriots believe that unity within the community is crucial to their cause.
A bit further down from Ristau’s lemonade stand is a table that holds printed pamphlets. Most are literature about anarchy and famous anarchists. Some are about other forms of government, human decency or how to repair bicycles. It is a hodge-podge of literature and ideas. The young man at the table is certain that the availability of these pamphlets will help the Occupy cause.