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Occupy Wall Street's Circle of Love

Demonstrators rally on Wall Street in lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.
Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg | Getty Images
Demonstrators rally on Wall Street in lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

"You people are elitist hypocrites!"

An angry man was shouting at a group of people at the Occupy Wall Street protests Monday. The group was meeting to discuss how to get fellow protesters to comply with the official no drugs or alcohol policy adopted at the General Assembly, the nightly meeting that is more or less the governing body of the protest.

"This country is falling apart and you kids are whining about drugs. You make me sick!" he shouted.

He was angry enough that people started to back away from him. He looked and sounded like he might become violent. He was well dressed and appeared to be about 40 years old. But his rage was clearly terrifying people.

I wondered how the protesters would handle this disruption. Would someone run to get the police? Would they flee? Was a brawl about to break out?

A few of the protesters not involved in the drugs and alcohol meeting started gathering around the angry man. One of them was so tall and broad-shouldered he looked like he could play on a National Football League defensive line.

"Circle up!" one guy said. "Let's get a circle of love going."

And that's what they did. About six men linked arms in a circle around the angry guy. They started speaking to him in soothing tones.

It worked. Without any violence or police interference the circle of love effectively shut down the angry man's attempt to disrupt the drugs and alcohol meeting. Occupy Wall Street has figured out, it seems, a way of keeping order without anything that we'd normally think of as an exercise of authority.

Eventually the angry guy departed, but not before giving one last rage-filled shout.

"You people are why I drink!"

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