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Welcome to the Occupation: An Interview with Chris Faraone

March 18, 2012

There has likely not been a sociopolitical phenomenon more heavily documented than the Occupy Wall Street movement. What took root in Zuccotti Park and quickly blossomed in over 1000 sites throughout the United States captured the world’s imagination, but also its cameras, laptops, iPhones, and Twitter accounts. No sooner had OWS celebrated its two-month anniversary, the first “Occubooks” began to appear, offering first cuts at making sense of the most exciting populist movement to rock the United States in seventy-five years. Unsurprisingly, they offered a mixed bag of quality and focus. A steady stream of OWS books has since appeared on bookshelves and Nooks. And while the latest publications offer increasingly strong and coherent narratives of what happened, they understandably privilege events that went down in and around the belly of the beast—Wall Street.

99 Nights with the 99 Percent, Chris Faraone’s engaging new book on OWS, takes a different tack. The most recent book in the proliferating Occupy literature, 99 Nights—a rollicking, richly textured collection of reports, profiles, photos, and poems—presents the most thoroughly encompassing history of OWS to date. Faraone—a reporter with the Boston Phoenix—spent the final quarter of 2011 zipping back-and-forth between coasts and camps, filing some of the hardest-hitting and most entertaining dispatches from some ten cities across the United States.  Along the way, he reported on many of the less talked about but arguably most important dimensions of the Occupy movement—issues of race and gender, crime in the camps, sympathetic police and the myriad characters and personalities that kept the movement ticking in its darkest moments. At the same time, 99 Nights never gets entirely swept up in the excitement and chaos of individual settings, presenting instead a broadly-rendered portrait of a national movement in all its diversity, beauty, and, at times, self-contradiction. The Advocate recently spoke with Faraone about his new book, the encampment era of OWS, police brutality coast-to-coast, and what the future might hold for the Occupy movement in 2012.

Let’s begin by talking about the book itself. 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and in fact your reporting generally, is different in a number of respects from other stuff out there on Occupy. Describe your approach and what you intended to accomplish setting out.

Basically what I wanted to accomplish was to present a sort of time capsule. All the chapters are kept in the present tense as they were when I was originally reporting on the events. No matter what happened before this—with other movements that led up to Occupy—and no matter what happens in the future, here’s the story of what happened in those three months. People will look back at the encampment era differently, especially in academia, where different interpretations will be offered that will depend on what happens moving forward. My book offers observations of what actually happened in the moment when the camps were going strong.  Of course, I am only one person who can only cover so much—about a dozen cities, with most of my coverage centered on Boston and New York—and so at the same time I didn’t want to lose the sense that this was huge, something that was really popping nationally. One number we kept seeing was that there were roughly 1600 American cities, occupied in some degree or another. I wanted to reflect, not each of them individually, obviously, but the general sense that things were really bubbling across the country, and I tried doing this by including the timeline made up of haikus.

Keep reading at the CUNY Advocate...

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