Sunday, October 02, 2011
"Don't Be Afraid to Call It a Revolution"
I spent part of the afternoon at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in downtown Manhattan today. It's a few hundred people gathered in a small paved park roughly midway between Wall Street and the World Trade Center site. I found the gathering truly inspiring. It seems to get its energy from the overwhelming presence of young people, but it's drawn plenty of the not-so-young; while it seemed to be majority white it was by no means exclusively so. Having watched three years of so-called Tea Party protests on the news it was utterly refreshing to see — even on signs challenging President Obama — a complete and total absence of the dogwhistle racism foundational to the teabaggers' modus operandi. Here was real protest about economic issues (as well as social justice ones). Significantly I saw many trade union activists identifying themselves as such.
I've read hype describing Occupy Wall Street as an attempt to bring the spirit of Egypt's Tahrir Square to the United States; and while this movement is much smaller than that, I thought there was a kernel of truth in that. The energy at the encampment is busy and exuberant: some people were playing music together, others grouped together energetically discussing the issues. The encampment seems alive with consciousness and awareness. The signs are clever and inspiring: "Feel It Trickle Down?" "Arise and Seize the Day." Significantly just yesterday 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as the city's repressive forces displayed their no tolerance for disruption of traffic. Despite that act of repression the spirit of the Occupiers seemed completely undaunted.
I suspect the weather will shortly curtail the momentum of the Occupy movement, though a solidarity march this Wednesday is scheduled to bring the encampment the support of unionized workers and groups like the Working Families Party. Hopefully the spirit of this exciting movement can be kindled throughout the winter and bring us a real American Spring next year. It thrills me that young people are proclaiming "Don't Be Afraid to Call it a Revolution." Could people be starting to finally wake up?
I thought this protester dressed as the Hindu goddess Mother Kali was brilliant: Change Is Coming, indeed. I like how she's managed to so succinctly unite spiritual and political consciousness in one playful statement.
Occupy Wall Street has issued a declaration, crafted by a consensus gathering at the encampment. You can read the full text at Dangerous Minds. It was also published in their "The Occupied Wall Street Journal" broadsheet, just printed and being passed out for free at the encampment. In part it begins, "As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right..."
All photos by me. Click on them to see them larger.