Archive for category Occupy Wall Street

The Rev. Would Have Been Booed Too

IT’S SAD TO SAY THAT THE MLK DAY HAS GONE AND PAST, WITH NOTHING MORE THAN AN EXTRA DAY OFF.

But to me, and to many others in my town. It’s not over.

Over the weekend I was asked to cover a story about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event  for my student newspaper the Horizon. Yes, of course, I respect and appreciate the work of the reverend, but I had never engaged in any activity that truly celebrated his work until now.

It has always seemed to me that MLK Day is celebrated just before Black History Month for a convenient reason. Now I just find it a coincidence. Or maybe a conspiracy…

True, he was a hero amongst African-Americans and a figurehead for all minorities. But more importantly, he was a hero amongst all Americans, a figurehead for equality and civil rights. His work not for any race to claim.

I realized this when I found myself downtown in a mid January blizzard, with a couple hundred other Americans in celebration of the reverend and his work. But it was not just a celebration. There was a purpose. The people in the streets were not the same townsfolk that meet for the local Ho-Down. They were demonstrators. They carried signs, they sang, they marched, and they were THERE.

They were not demonstrating racial equality (except for a couple with pickets that said so). They were demonstrating the same thing the people on Wall Street demonstrate today. Financial equality.

I admit, when I showed up to cover the event, my expectations were pretty typical: A sombre black man in a business suit at a podium, reciting, quoting, or otherwise repeating the words of the reverend. People snoring. That sort of thing. But what could you expect? The reverend is celebrated as a leader of racial equality.

He was assassinated before he was able to take part in his Poor Man’s March. The Poor Man’s March was aimed at eliminating poverty in the U.S. and creating financial equality.

And here we are today. In a battle between the extremely wealthy and the people who need showers. Where are our leaders? Our figureheads? What happened to inspiration? Camaraderie?

The reverend’s work and passion could not mean more to Americans now. Not just in eliminating poverty, but in creating peace, brotherhood and justice. One of his most basic principles that must be kept in the back of our minds today as we go about our daily lives:

“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”

Similarly, Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence:

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Or simply, don’t let the Man give you the Pickle.

Newt's face says it all

By no means am I pushing Ron Paul politics on anyone – but I find it disturbing that the man was booed off stage at the GOP debate for announcing the use of the “Golden Rule.” In what case are the American people more deserving than another nation’s people? Really. What makes us better?

 These are basic moral principles that are being rejected and neglected. For what?

But, just as Independence Day comes with a bang and sizzles into the horizon, MLK Day passes us with less recognition. It’s not a day for African-American people, and it’s not even a day about celebrating/promoting civil rights. It’s a day about doing something.

(For the record, there is no Ho-Down where I am from. At least that I am aware of.)

 

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Meet the Movement

PROTESTING IS A FULL TIME JOB. You can interpret it however you want. To the protesters occupying West Lake in Seattle, it is a true statement.

I decided to see what the protests were all about. I wanted to know what the hype was all about. As anyone my age would want: I wanted a piece of the action.

So at about 2 o’ clock in the afternoon, I walked down to West Lake with my girlfriend. I was a little anxious to see what was happening since I had been in Seattle for a couple days already and had not been there. I was excited, imagining angry mobs, molotov cocktails and policemen armed with fire hoses.

One of the many pickets I squealed at

I arrived on the scene to see a slightly different story: There was a speaker on stage, introducing a folk musician, and a widely diverse group of people who all began singing along with his tunes. There were police, of course, but they were unoccupied, and stood on the scene, grinning and murmuring amongst each other. The mood was happy, even on that cloudy day.

It was mostly college students and other young people, but there were scores of white haired professor types and young children. Some were modestly dressed in typical Rain City atire, while others wore arm bands and ski masks. It was what anyone would expect to see at a very liberal political gathering. But the scene was not just for liberal hearts – at least it was not meant to be.

There was a first aid station (I even saw what appeared to be a “medic”), a place for free food, a place to build your own picket, and an information center. It was an urban camp ground.

My girlfriend felt claustrophobic about the place, and I don’t blame her. The place was swarming with people who looked like they’d been hoboing it for the last couple months. We left.

I came back the next day, though, only to find a much different tone amongst the crowd. When I approached there wasn’t any joyful screaming; only the sound of a sombre saxaphone playing somewhere out down the road. Perfectly Seattle.

There were no speakers or folk singers on the stage. There were just large circular crowds of people around the area (most of whom I’d seen the day before.) And tents; several dozen of them all crowded together, bunched up, from front to back, of all different colors, sorrounded by pickets and signs hung up amongst the trees.

The information booths still remained so I walked around, talking to the people promoting them. They were socialists, anarchists, republicans, and other politically bound people. They all had interesting things to say.

A man from the International Socialist Organization invited me to their mettings and tried to get me on their email list which he claimed was just for “information.” Another booth had a guy my age dressed in all black with a flag exclaiming revolution, passing out “Fighting for Our Lives; An Anarchist Primer.”

The most notable thing I observed was a particular group of people. They were sitting cross legged near the tents with pads and pens and laptops, talking to each other in quiet voices. I walked a little slower as I passed them; eavesdropping. They were discussing politics. Not in the same drunken half-blitzed way I would at the local bar, but in a serious way where each person took their time to explain what to do next.

They are a little ragged looking, and maybe the list of demands is in debate amongst the figure-heads of the movement. Seattles, The Stranger, writes that they have “a very specific set of ideals in common.” Those being: Fairness, justice, and jobs. It sounds good to me. I find it more and moree difficult to stay off that band wagon everyday.

There are a lot of protesters who would make an ugly scene for people like me, who are unsure of what to endorse. There are a lot of people who aren’t protesting at all, but instead selling weed. And maybe the whole of them aren’t accomplishing anything at all by occupying Seattle, and are just wasting their tiem.

“It’s hard to tell,” said a socialist promoter, on whether the movement would last. Just before I left, he told me, physically, they will most likely disband in January due to weather, but the ideas and the spirit will stay with us.

 The movement has accomplished at least one thing: local grassroots movements across the world. It is anarchy at its kindest. As unorganized as it looked, and as haphazard as it really is, people are coming together to feed and care for each other for a good purpose.

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