When I covered the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall, I just couldn’t stay focused, despite the fact that people from across the country and around the world were traveling to that block-long half-acre park of granite walls and honey-locust trees in lower Manhattan to build a new mini-society. It boasted free housing, free food, free medical care, free education, and free music. Every day in Zuccotti Park there were thrilling rap sessions and you could watch direct democracy in action as people came together to exchange ideas in provocative new ways. To steal a well-worn activist phrase, it looked like another world was possible.
And there I was, staring across the street. While it seemed like 99% of the 99% were captivated by the excitement in the park, I was transfixed by the police.
Day after day, I would cover Occupy Wall Street and day after day, I would get hassled by members of the New York City Police Department. They didn’t like it when I asked questions about their Sky Watch tower — a two-story-tall, Panopticon-like structure outfitted with black-tinted windows, a spotlight, sensors, and multiple cameras that spied on the park.