Yesterday , along with my wife and daughters , I spent several hours at the wall street occupation. I have several observations to make and report of what I found there as well as my own attempt at activism, largely made up of talking with the police which surrounded the event in large numbers.
"Straw Poll on Direct Action" by Colin David Anderson on flickr.
Straw poll on the consensus to form a subcommittee to explore being autonomous actions leading to arrest
As expected, the vast majority of people I saw there were white and in their early twenties. Most were radical looking middle class youngsters who sat together looking somewhat frayed around the edges, having spent several damp nights hassling with the authorities, though the weather yesterday was better than nice , which I’m sure helped raise spirits. It is obvious that not many older citizens were able to attend due to the need to pay bills and mortgages , which the youth is typically exempt from for a time . Aside from a few construction workers , eating lunch in the park, there was no one who could be representative of those people,who made Madison Wisconsin so successful, working men and women and union members.
I commended the young individuals there. There were not more than a few hundred present at best and without their presence there wouldn’t have been anything happening at all , but as always , where people are concerned, they were not entirely homogenous in their attitudes .
While most were respectful there were also those who were more confrontational with the police, dancing into an area of sidewalk which the local authorities were compelled to keep clear , a woman who decided this was the right place to go without a shirt ,and someone holding a sign up with something along the lines of “GO FUCK YOURSELVES ZIONIST PIGS “, none of which IMHO did much to create sympathy from the passers by.
In addition to this scenario was the obvious fact that most of those present lacked enough information to truly explain why they were there and it was hard to see that there was any real spokespeople to represent the movement and accurately portray the reasons for the action. This could easily have been remedied though some printed talking points but as far as I was aware this hadn’t happened. Invariably the media focused in on those pushing the line over the side walk area that the police had been instructed to keep clear for pedestrians and the more unsavory looking and uninformed youths.
I spent between three and four hours talking to the police , all in groups of between two and four, asking them first what they thought of the protest and if they knew what the reasons were for it . Essentially none had any idea whatsoever but were polite and listened respectfully to what I had to say about income inequality, record poverty and profits, Citizens United and our loss of basic rights such as habeas corpus and rampant domestic spying etc.
At the end of each conversation I believe the police I communicated with were far more aware of what is at stake and why the action was occurring ,becoming both supportive of the occupation and somewhat shocked by the facts and statistics I offered in defense of my positions .
My question is are we going to bring working men and women, union members , people of color, religious congregations , other political groups and older statesmen into the fray or can we expect only the youth to carry the standard without clear talking points and a thorough understanding of the issues to present our reasons for attending ?
posted on Firedoglake, Friday September 23, 2011