With cold biting through two pairs of pants, I look up at the New York sky, hoping the sun will emerge from behind a skyscraper. Thousands of demonstrators converge on this plaza at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Police put up barricades that will soon be swamped by a torrent of people from dozens of countries and states across the country.

Activists are gathering here at noon on Feb. 2 because the World Economic Forum (WEF) is in town, a cocktail party for the greediest members of corporate elites, where dangerous ideas like the World Trade Organization hatch and then are foisted on the rest of us–like it or not.

But at the rally, speakers are saying “no thanks,” calling for global justice and highlighting issues of democracy and oppression. They decry corporate rule, racism, capitalist exploitation and ecological destruction. Giant puppets with colorful cardboard faces and floating hands sweep by. Billy Bragg’s guitar strumming fills the air as the English protest legend sings out, “Are you listening?/Can you hear me?/No power without accountability!”

A few minutes later, I take the stage as part of a skit that explains why we’re protesting the WEF. My friend Antonia (whose day job is policy expert for the International Forum on Globalization) plays the “Truth Fairy,” complete with wings and a magic wand. She names the negative effects of the forum on the “things that matter: water, air, food, work, health and the power to decide.”

I take the mike and fling my poetry to this roused crowd of radicals:

In every nation we’re losing patience with corporations

‘Cause who knows what all they’re in on: arms. oil. Enron.

But since the Earth can’t take too much more I’m

bound to put a check upon this economic forum.

And since the people can’t take too much more I’m

bound to put a check upon this economic forum.

It’s time to reject the hypocrisy, connect direct democracy

so I drop my philosophy at terminal velocity.

We need to be wary or every year it gets scarier

now justice just is a barrier to their free trade area.

And freedom is no longer cost effective–

Attention, shoppers!

Freedom is no longer cost effective–

Attention, shoppers!

Democracy has been genetically modified.

As the rally winds up, the thousands merge with other streams of activists, forming a mile-long march (estimated by organizers at 20,000 to 25,000); a human flood of political protest–a river of dissent–chanting, exuberant, outraged, snaking through the streets of New York City.