Anyone who has ever traveled underground in NYC knows the dislocating feeling of coming out of the subway. On a normal day, I wait until I get above ground and look at the street numbers or the size of the buildings to locate myself, but tonight it is the noise that directs me. There’s a party happening and the joyous sounds echo down the streets.

We are heading to Liberty Square (also known as Zuccotti Park) to surround ourselves with those involved in the Occupy movement. Although this wasn’t the plan for the night, Matt looked at his watch at 11:45 pm and declared we would not make it to our second engagement—Prospect Park. Instead we would bring in the new year on the subway if we didn’t get out soon. I didn’t really care where we were as long as we were together, but as fate would have it, the next stop was Fulton Street.

“How appropriate,” we both remark, “where better to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.”

2011 was marked by activism, revolutions, and protests around the world from Tunisia to London, Bar Harbor to Oakland. Time Magazine even named the person of the year THE PROTESTOR—what an honor. For me, the revolutions brought relief—“Finally,” I remember thinking, “it’s time.” Finally people are refusing to live in a global system based on oppression and inequality. As signs now say around the world: you can’t silence an idea whose time has come.

In my mind, that idea is love, equality, freedom. My dreams are full of chants. Obama promised change, and when that didn’t happen, people moved to the streets. They are refusing to leave until things start to change. So what’s changing? The law? Not yet. But public consciousness is changing, I’m sure of it. How can it not?

“Finally” turned into nervous anticipation as videos were uploaded of pepper sprayed students, violent crackdowns abroad and domestic evictions. One night I watched police tackle a man in Oakland, CA. Officers quickly formed a circle around the policeman fighting with the protestor. They all held guns. But around them, protestors formed another circle. In unison, they shouted “shame, shame, shame.” And in their hands they held different weapons: cameras. 3,967 other viewers watched with me that night. Hope moved in.

But after the evictions from Liberty Square and the relocation to an inside public space (which is closed from 10pm-6am with people forbidden to sit on the floor), the movement in NY seemed to lose momentum. However, after visiting and attending a few meetings, I found dedicated people still working to have difficult conversations and create change, a good thing for sure.

Tonight barricades still surround the park and police watch everyone a little too carefully. Folks still carry posters with serious messages, but the tone is different—it is New Year’s Eve after all. Many are singing and dancing; one group has collected extra barricades, piled them on top of each other, tied them together with police tape that reads “OCCUPY” and are standing on them chanting, dancing, hugging and kissing. Every few minutes someone blows a horn and I feel physically ill. I can’t tell if the police are using noise canons or if it’s just folks having a good time. Either way, those horns should be illegal.

Someone starts a countdown a minute too early or the projection on the building next to the park is a minute too late so there are two countdowns going and I take out my camera and suddenly everyone is screaming and I’m covering my ears and Matt is kissing me and we’re laughing and Matt’s covering my ears and I miss my family and people are hugging and I’m still holding my camera and there are more police than I’ve ever seen in my entire life and I think about 9/11 and about the kid from Utah who wrote to the police and firefighters and said “don’t worry, you did your best” and a horn blows and people start singing and I’m glad to be here, glad to be alive, really. 2012, we’re ready.

-Julia De Santis