Chris Faraone: Living with the 99 percent
WHO: Chris Faraone
WHAT: When the Occupy movement was raging last fall, Chris Faraone was there. In Boston. In Seattle. In New York. The 32-year-old Boston Phoenix writer and Jamaica Plain resident spent more time at the encampment here than any journalist, not to mention his visits to Occupy movements around the country, from Miami to New York to Seattle to Oakland. This month he releases his self-published book, “99 Nights With the 99 Percent,’’ and on Feb. 27 he’ll speak at Brookline Booksmith at 7 p.m.
Q. So what exactly was that all about?
A. Personally speaking, this is everybody I’ve been covering for the past 10 years. It was about various sets of disparate people who converged on Dewey Square. People were just pissed off in general. Now they’re angry about MBTA cuts. They turned out in solidarity in Oakland on violence against inmates. It’s a big tent. It’s not a circus tent. It’s a lot of different causes.
Q. Do you have one favorite memory from “99 Nights’’?
A. Yes, in the book, the West Coast chapter, it just smacked me in the face. My first Occupy moment was in Miami. The same hand signals, same language, talking about the same social issues. That’s when it hit me. You think about how much time it takes for a company to clone itself from one market to another, and this was happening in days. Seattle had like three levels, it was like an Ewok village. Same kinds of stories. In Oakland, at least 10,000 people were in this march. I remember one point, there were Black Panther legacies, next to them, tech guys, and on the other side of them are these union guys. It was natural.
Q. Will the Occupy movement have a legacy or will we just forget it ever happened a year from now?
A. I don’t think so. A year from now we’ll be on the heels of the presidential race. The convention will be crazy. The much more important sense, though, is that every generation has its things. The ’60s had anti-Vietnam. You see how many young people are interested in topics they weren’t before. Every generation needs the topics to inspire people to be social workers and teachers. Occupy has already done that. It’s changed the dialogue. But it’s also changed the issues.
Q. Critics of Occupy said it wasn’t entirely genuine, that it lacked any real purpose, it was almost too informal to achieve anything. Do you agree?
A. I was one of the critics. I respected the nonviolence; the movement would have been done if not for that. Your Cambridge-type progressives, it’s really easy to sit around and say, ‘What are you doing, accomplishing?’ They are bringing this message to the public. Nationally, Bank of America took two major lumps in November. Bank of America doesn’t take lumps.
Q. Listening to you talk, did you ever feel like you were crossing the line from observant journalist to Occupy protester?
A. At the Phoenix, it was something we all had to watch, we had to be careful about. There were a lot of things I wrote about that people did not like. I would come downtown from JP on the last train and go back home on the first in the morning. When I did the overnights, I saw a lot of crap at the camps. Of course I’m sympathetic. I ate at the camp till I started getting sick. But as far as being too close to the movement, no.
Q. Was there one character you will most remember?
A. Positive characters, Chris Anderson. We met in Seattle, an Iraq war vet. He had been injured overseas.
Q. Linguists named Occupy their 2011 word of the year. Does it mean something to you?
A. I’ll never be able to look at that word the same way again. It’s taken on a whole new meaning.
Q. Why self-publish your book?
A. Speed. And I wanted control over this project. I wanted to reformat it the way I wanted. Reaction was horrible from Occupy when they found out I was doing a book. ‘You’re profiting off the movement!’ I had to bite my tongue. I’m not exactly around the corner from being a 1 percenter.