Today was my first protest. It was exciting, fun, and, to be honest, a little disappointing at the end.
I went with a friend to take part in the Occupy the UP protest in support of the world wide October 15th demonstration day for Occupy Wall Street. There was chanting and sign waving and speeches on a soapbox. There was definitely energy in the air. My favorite sign was one stating, “Corporations are not People.” Citizens United v. FEC was a mistake!
We protested first outside of Wells Fargo and then outside the post office. I don’t think there was any symbolic reason to protest outside the post office. It’s just a place a lot of people protest at because of the high traffic, I’m sure.
We got a lot of honks of support from the people driving by. I think that was my favorite part. It was cool seeing that we were out there standing up for what other people believe in. I felt like we were doing the right thing, acknowledging and making known that the American people are upset, even in the UP.
The part that was disappointing was the meeting after the demonstrations. It was a smaller group of people, and a lot of them seemed very concerned with defining a creed for the group. My thoughts were, “Wait, what?”
How are we supposed to define a chapter of a movement that has no real definition and no definite leader? Isn’t that, while the biggest criticism, also the biggest strength of the movement? There’s a bunch of different people united for a generalized reason, we’re mad about the government catering to those with the money, when they make up only a small percentage of the population that the government is supposed to serve. These corporations, these financial institutions, take our money and do who knows what with it and we have no say. We don’t get to influence the laws that govern what happens with our dollars, the corporations do! We are all united in that voice that we aren’t going to take it anymore, but by trying to define the Occupy movement by declaring its members (like it’s a club) either democrat or republican, or in favor of that law, or against this candidate, tends to just draw lines and begins to alienate people.
I thought this CNN article on Occupy Wall Street was just fantastic and really nailed it:
“In fact, we are witnessing America’s first true Internet-era movement, which — unlike civil rights protests, labor marches, or even the Obama campaign — does not take its cue from a charismatic leader, express itself in bumper-sticker-length goals and understand itself as having a particular endpoint.
“Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system — and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem.
“Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning. There were young people teaching one another about, among other things, how the economy works, about the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, the history of centralized interest-bearing currency, the creation and growth of the derivatives industry, and about the Obama administration deciding to settle with, rather than investigate and prosecute the investment banking industry for housing fraud.”
- Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it. by Douglas Rushkoff, Special to CNN
I really think that a small group taking it upon themselves to declare an agenda for everyone as a whole just isn’t going to work and will only inadvertently divide the people. And as far as taking on additional causes, why not get behind those organizations that are already in place and provide them with support? For example, why don’t we help out Save the Wild UP or the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve instead of recreating our own environmental committee to take on things like local pollution and protesting the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine? It just seems we would be spreading resources too thin and trying to redo what has already been done.
In all, I have mixed emotions about the Occupy the UP movement. Relating to the book The Starfish and the Spider, I’d like to think of Occupy as more of a starfish, not a spider.