Tony Song isn't big on specifics. He moved to Denver "a few months ago," he sleeps "wherever I can lay my head," and he joined the city's occupation "three or four days in, probably." He doesn't make plans. He's not sure why he picked Denver, but he does "like traveling a lot." So when he says that the igloo he built two days ago was "beautiful," and that he "thought it might change things," you should pay attention.
Eventually, though, it didn't change anything. Before the igloo he spent three hours crafting was bulldozed by the police, Stephen Lidanne was arrested for occupying it after park curfew. The igloo, originally created for warmth, became a mess in significantly less time than it took to become an igloo.
Song shrugs. "We're all stuck in this crazy little terrarium, it feels like, and sometimes that terrarium gets cold," he says. As he speaks, he's wearing a trench coat over a black hoodie shreaded at the wrists. "Our daily routine is full of projects to make the entire world better than what is has become, and we have to start where we are. We wanted to keep people from being sent to the hospital, but instead, it turns out, we sent someone to jail."
Although he's not entirely sure of the date, Song took a bus to Denver from Columbus, Ohio, somewhere around two months ago for the same reason he has moved so often in his adult life: He needed change. When he was a child, Song's family moved frequently because of his father's position in the Air Force, and he has maintained similar habits more or less since then. Five and a half years of Song's life were dedicated to two degrees, an associate's in electronics engineering technologies and a bachelor's in computer information systems, though he hasn't directly used either one since right after he graduated.
"I used to, right after I got out of college, but if I wanted to work in an assembly line and repeat the same activities over and over, I could just work at McDonald's. I believe that all jobs are equal. The people who live on the top floors of those expensive buildings," he points downtown, "they all buy their groceries from a clerk, too. The only trouble with jobs is finding one. That's probably why I'm here."
Standing behind Occupy Denver's front desk, Songs explains that his role at the occupation is one he fell into, not one he chose. He has spent the majority of his time here since he joined, but in the beginning, he was hesitant to become a part of a new society that shares many flaws with the one it's trying to replace. "It doesn't take many people to start something, and I've always been raised to lead by example -- to eat with the soldiers, so to speak," he says. He praises the occupation's diversity, but admits it occasionally makes decisions difficult. There's an in group and an out group even here. "I don't identify with groups, though, so I guess I'm on the fence."
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The 28-year-old remains attracted to the Occupy movement because of the number of opportunities involvement in it affords. Although he opts out of general assemblies, which he compares to "a pyramid scheme," he volunteers folding donations, cleaning up camp and speaking to newcomers. Around 10 a.m., a stranger walks up the street and rudely demands to know whether Song is Navajo or Apache. His later response, when Song replies, "South Korean," is a strange "Congratulations." Song shrugs again. By the time night hits, he has earned his place to sleep, though the ideals behind the movement mean that no one has to.
"People always act like they're in such a hurry, and I think we all need to slow down and identify what's missing, what's wrong here," Song says. What follows is a deliberately worded joke presented without a smile. "Just be glad a little tiny piece of debris doesn't come down from space and snipe you in the head. Everything else is pretty much trivial in comparison to your life."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Stephen Lidanne arrested for occupying an igloo after hours."