By Ashwini Hardikar
Is Occupy Wall Street an inclusive movement? I’ve discussed this in-depth with so many of my friends, colleagues and comrades over the past weeks. It seemed to me that while almost everyone felt inspired by the movement, many were reluctant to directly participate. I read notes from meetings and blog posts where people discussed the unsettling elements of racism, sexism and queer/transphobia that seemed to be present in so many of these “Occupy” spaces across the country.
And at Occupy Wall Street on Indigenous People’s Resistance Day, I unfortunately came face to face with some of these elements myself. Walking with my friend M, we greeted old friends, took pictures of signs, and discussed (unsuccessfully) what kind of clever slogan we could come up with as teachers. We circled back around to the entrance, and I stood there trying to read a sign someone had posted about “ground rules” for the space. I felt an arm circle me tightly around the waist, and then a hand grabbing and squeezing my hip roughly. I quickly disentangled myself, turned, and saw a white man, probably in his late 30s, looking very pleased with himself. And I went off.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You can’t just touch people without their permission. It’s not ok to be in someone’s personal space if you haven’t gotten their consent. I have no idea who you are, you can’t just touch me!” I was yelling, getting louder and louder. I wondered if anyone was listening.
“I was just giving you a hug. I’m not allowed to give people hugs?”