Last weekend, I participated in the Occupy Rochester protest that was part of the Global Day of Action against big banks and government failure to create an even-remotely-close-to even distribution of wealth. This was my first time participating in an Occupy action, but I have been following the movement since a couple weeks after its beginning, and I am proud to say that I finally had the chance to join the cause.
Media coverage of the Occupy movement has been inadequate and mostly biased against the protestors, so I am going to give some background for those of you who may have not heard the full story (or any story at all).
Since September 17h, people of many different backgrounds, age groups, political parties, and lifestyles have staked out Zuccotti Park on Wall Street. The movement was inspired by Adbusters, but has no one person or organization as its head organizer or speaker. Despite popular descriptions by reporters, these people are not "dirty hippies" or an unorganized, ignorant, purposeless group. They are the recent college graduates who are $100,000 in debt from student loans and cannot find anything but a minimum-wage retail job. They are the single mothers who eat one meal a day so their children can eat three, and work full-time dead-end jobs. They are the teachers who have lost their faith that the education system could provide bright futures for their students. They are the 60-somethings who are terrified of retirement because their promised benefits are dwindling. They are the disabled who cannot afford to not work, or those who suffer from life-threatening illnesses and cannot afford treatment. They are the young couples who believed in the American dream of homeownership only to have their houses foreclosed upon by big banks. They are America's tired, hungry, disenchanted, broke, scared, and angry. They are the 99% of the population who are trampled on by the 1%, the country's richest and most clueless inhabitants. They are ready for change.
Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are part of the 99%. If you are my friend, my relative, or even just my acquaintance, you certainly are. You know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck. You owe money to the credit card companies, banks, or maybe to your own friends and relatives, or you fear that one day, you might, when your company downsizes or you are diagnosed with cancer or your parent or child falls on hard times and needs your financial assistance. I do not expect all of my readers to get up from their couches or desks right now and join the fight, but I do want you to understand that these people occupying Wall Street and cities all over the world are not "the other," not violent, horrible people, but your neighbors, coworkers, and fellow citizens who have burdens like yours.
These people are exercising their rights as citizens in a democracy. Will they succeed in bringing about change? It is unlikely, I'll admit, but only time will tell. If we can get enough support, show the 1% that we mean business, maybe something will happen. At least, if you do like I did and stand outside in the freezing wind for hours marching and holding a sign, you can know that your voice was heard by someone. If the movement can grow enough and manage to resist efforts by the police forces and other government parties to stifle it, I'd say we have a good chance of making something happen.
Here are some good resources for information and news updates:
Occupy Rochester 10/15
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