Occupy uprisings demand change
I have just returned from NYC, where I participated in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has now sprouted up in hundreds of cities across the country. This is not a movement with one specific demand. It is an uprising, similar to what we saw in Egypt and Tunisia. The corporate media have avoided bringing news of this movement to the rest of our huge country. The first tactic is always to ignore such uprisings. The next tactic is to discredit them. The occupation is entering its fifth week now and the corporate media has finally begun to report about it, often with disdain.
Mostly, I suspect, you will see images of police violence, which seems to be all the media can find that is news worthy. You may read or see some random acts of vandalism on the part of the demonstrators. I’m not aware of any, but with good-sized crowds and open participation, there will always be a few provocateurs or demonstrators who are not committed to the nonviolent model.
You may read or hear that the movement has no single demand, is not centrally organized and wants a laundry list of changes. That would be correct. But rather than look at those descriptions as negatives, I suggest to you that they are attributes.
What is happening now is that hundreds and, on some days, thousands of people are coming out of their houses and apartments into the streets in New York City and across the country. In some instances, they are occupying spaces that represent deep corruption in our country. In NYC, they have created a community near Wall Street in a privately owned park thanks to the good will of its owner. They have areas for food, medical, necessities for everyone›s comfort (dry socks, tarps for the rain, coats, etc.), media, a library and rotating spaces for discussion groups and working taskforces.
When I was there, people from all over brought food – sandwich fixings, fruit, huge vats of hot prepared foods. Pizzas continued to arrive throughout the day. I couldn’t imagine who was paying for all the pizzas. Then I found out that people as far away as Egypt were calling New York City and buying pizzas to be delivered to the participants of “Occupy Wall Street.” All the donated food went to one designated area where participants lined up to receive their share.
Everything was orderly. It was quite a caring community. People were incredibly considerate of me, a bit of an elder now. They reached out to me when my footing was unstable, made sure that my needs were cared for and thanked me for my participation.
Every evening at 7, there was a general assembly in which everyone participated. It was very inspiring. The speaker would say a few words and the first ring of people would repeat those words together and then the second ring of people would do the same. Then the speaker would say the next few words and the process would repeat itself. It was the only way the whole group could communicate together without a loud speaker, which the police would not allow.
So what is all the ruckus about? It’s about how this economy is not working for most of us. Some call themselves the 99ers, based on the statistic that 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the wealth. We have many demands.
Those who have seen their communities destroyed by housing foreclosures want the foreclosures to stop. The predatory banks that sold subprime mortgages helped spark this international economic downward spiral. We want them to make things right.
Some want to end the wars that are eating up a grotesque amount of our tax dollars, stripping us of our civil liberties while providing us with little safety, resulting in thousands of dead and mangled soldiers, unimaginable numbers of enemies and further destabilizing our world.
“End the wars not Medicare. End the wars not education. End the wars not the price of a clean and safe environment. End the wars not our IRAs, pension funds and health-care plans. End the war not the middle- and low-income classes. End the wars so that we can create a better world.”
Some are students protesting the high cost of education and the student loans that are crippling their future. Congressional refusal to pass legislation allowing college graduates to repay their loans through service to America is of great concern. Through our federal tax dollars, the vast majority of jobs paid for are jobs for warriors and politicians. We believe those monies would be better spent hiring more teachers, scientists, farmers and health care professionals.
Union workers are in the streets objecting to the attack on collective bargaining that we are seeing in our country. Others are rebelling against our lack of real health care. Some are putting their bodies on the line because our government seems determined to invest more money into energy from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants instead of into new green alternatives. There are a hundred other grievances, I’m sure.
All in this uprising can agree on one thing: Corporations are not people, despite what the Supreme Court says. They do not have the right to give unlimited amounts of money in absolute secrecy to political action committees to elect people to do their bidding, not ours. We agree that big banks, financial institutions and corporations have no right to destroy our economy, or the world economy.
What will come of these demonstrations? Already, the Democrats on the budget committee have put the idea of taxing the very rich at a higher rate back on the table. Congress knows we are fed up and that they have to do something about it. If they get that message and we keep the pressure on them, we could begin to see the change we were promised in 2008.
The “Occupy” uprisings have come to Raleigh, Durham and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro communities. If you want change, I encourage you to join them for a few hours or a few days. Send them food, tarps for rain and whatever they need. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro occupation is at the Peace and Justice Plaza in front of the Franklin Street post office 24 hours a day. See you there.
Barbara Trent is an Oscar-winning filmmaker and seasoned activist.