By Jack Jodell, October 10, 2011
Greetings to all, and long live this exciting new progressive movement called OCCUPY TOGETHER! I attended the OCCUPY MINNESOTA event Friday morning and afternoon, October 7, and I was very pleased at what I, one of the very many, saw.
(Here I am above with one of my homemade signs). Just as we have seen all across the nation, it was a very peaceful and sensible demonstration attended by a wide cross-section of NORMAL, AVERAGE people. There were students, unemployed and underemployed workers, union members, elderly people, veterans, professionals, and members of local television and newspaper crews. Even the mayor of Minneapolis, R. T. Rybak, and also former Independent Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura made cameo appearances at the very beginning, moments before I had arrived. And, of course, the police were there: I saw five different county sgeriffs looking on, and they were cordial and pleasant, with there being absolutely NO INCIDENTS, to everyone’s credit! I had barely been there 5 minutes and was talking, sign in hands, with a pair of elderly women when we were approached by a cameraman and a well-dressed reporter from our local CBS affiliate, WCCO-TV. The reporter asked, “Why are you all here today?” I immediately spoke up and said, ” To protest how the richest 1% are stealing all our wealth and destroying the middle class. They have engaged us needlessly in expensive foreign wars and are now telling us yhat WE, the middle class and poor, the MAJORITY of the country, have to cut back!” I learned later that my comments were not broadcast and that instead they used brief clips of students and elderly folks talking, but at least I got to speak my piece, one of very many that day, to the media. (Jesse Ventura is shown below, momebts before I arrived).
The morning started out partly cloudy and very windy. When I arrived at about 9:15 AM, there were perhaps 250 or so in attendance, many with signs and placards held high. Nearby a group of students were furiously creating new signs, one after anther in succession for distribution to any who wanted one. I hoisted mine up and joined right in. By the time I left in midafternoon, the number had swelled to over 400, and an additional 150+ joined the crowd after the business day and evening rush hour had subsided. People engaged each other in discussions all day about the lack of jobs, the economy in general, and the wars. A number of freelance photographers went throughout the crowd, snapping photos of signs they liked.
The signs were al-most
all done at home, using whatever each person had on hand to make them, and they varied greatly in size, color, and creativity, as you can see here. Total strangers politely talked about unemployment, the causes and proposed remedies for ending this horrible Great Recession which still plagues us, and they bemoaned the lies and hypocrisy stemming from Wall Street and its corporatist stooges in Congress. They shared a common worry about their own economic futures and those of their children. In Portland, OR, an astounding 4.000 people demonstrated and marched in solidarity with all the OCCUPY movements occurring elsewhere! I’ll bet our friend TomCat at the blog Politics Plus (http://politicsplus.org/) was overjoyed to see that happen right there in his own community!
Just as one might have expected, even a member of the religious right was in attendance. I watched incredulously as he admonished those around him that “Jesus is angry with you!” He launched into a diatribe about them all being sinful people, “shacking up” and being “fornicators.” Upon hearing this nonsense, I decided to have a little fun with that self-appointed evangelist. “What are you talking about?,” I asked him. “None of these people are fornicating, and none are advocating immoral behavior either!” To which he replied, “You don’t know your scripture” and he began spewing out numerous Old Testament Bible verses, all of which were completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. When he paused for breath a moment later, I chipped in with “Matthew 19:24 ‘…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’ – these people here today are simply agreeing with Jesus! YOU don’t know YOUR scripture, friend!” I then saw a young lady walk up to this guy’s right holding a hastily scribbled “Don’t listen to this guy” sign and everyone laughed. It didn’t faze him one bit, though, as he continued preaching to the wind. Later, I spoke briefly with a college student, loaded with student loan debt. The sign she was carrying was comically tragic. It read “Michele Bachmann has a better chance of being elected President than I do of getting a good paying job!” My heart went out to her for the sad, terrible truth so evident in her sign.
Midmorning, the event’s organizers and core members began to speak. Since public address loudspeakers and megaphones were not allowed, their words were shouted, sentence by sentence and phrase by phrase, in unison by all who were close by, so the rest of the crowd could hear, just as had been done in Liberty Park in New York. Toward morning’s end, the Occupy Wall Street Declaration was read to the crowd, with much cheering and fanfare at every point. As I left for a brief lunch at a nearby sandwich shop, I saw a 30s-ish man walking on the sidewalk talking to someone on his cell phone. I overheard him say, “It was disappointing. No big deal—I expected a lot of demands and recommendations, but it was just people complaining.” It struck me how insensitive and shallow his remarks were – he was merely parroting what he had heard on talk radio or some pathetic MSM television show, and had completely failed to grasp the full signifigance of what this event held. He had obviously come down for the spectacle of it all; for entertainment - and had failed to realize what was truly unfolding before his eyes.
For this is an ongoing, constantly-evolving MOVEMENT, not a single outpouring of emotion related to only one or two specific causes. It is incredibly widespread, occurring first as the Arab Spring earlier in the year in the Middle East, but had now spread like wildfire here to America and across the entire globe. Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, the United Kingdom – all these and many more have reacted negatively to lack of opportunity and wholly unnecessary austerity measures which have been adopted by their governments. It is a leaderless and anonymous phenomenon, yet it is for, and involves, the vast 99% who are not among the nation’s or world’s richest 1%. These protesters, from all walks of life, hit the streets because they have suffered greatly in recent years, not because they were manipulated with fear by billionaires like the Koch brothers, as was the case during the astroturfed Tea Party rallies of 2009 and 2010. These people can and do think for themselves! They protest in reaction to the oppressive nature of capitalism itself, which is creating an ever-growing disparity of wealth in all countries. It is about this abject failure of capitalism, an economic system which in previous times held the promise of riches and a better life for the many but now offers increasingly little to all except for those at the very top. It is a rebellion about the destruction of the middle class, the MANY – the MAJORITY - for the benefit of the very greedy few. It is a wholesale rejection of trickle-down, “free market” economics, as all have seen that deceptive program only flood money from the poor and middle class upward to the very wealthy. It is an expression of disgust for corporations, the nifty, malignant capitalistic device which has strangled worldwide small businesses, economically enslaved billions, and is now threatening to devour all political systems, democratic or otherwise, by attempting to replace them with a most undemocratic oligarchy. It is a rebellion against tax cuts ubfairly given those who can easily afford to pay more, and who SHOULD be paying more! As the movement evolves and takes shape, it will undoubtedly present specific political, environmental, and economic demands and even throw its weight behind specific political candidates. But now, in its early stages, it is reawakening the great progressive movement, which has been bullied and silenced by the upper 1% for far too long. It is also giving an intelligent forum for people to discuss and formulate new ideas and strategies. Best of all, it is giving the disaffected a chance to peacefully and sensibly vent its frustrations. Only good can result from all of this, and it should not be trivialized.
I laughed like hell when I saw Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaking before the ultra-conservative Values Voters Conference, talking about the “dangers” these organized “mobs” of people presented to America, and also notorious radio idiot Glenn Beck asserting that the inevitable conclusion of these protests would be “gas chambers.” What a pair of outright lying, paranoid idiot assholes! For the truth of the matter, as anybody in their right mind knows, is that the overwhelming, almost universal, majority of these protesters were average, normal, everyday citizens. The only things that drew them out to protest at all were wholly justifiable concerns about rampant crony capitalism, corporate power and greed, massively costly and unending foreign wars, corruption in government, the ever-increasing disparity in wealth, unreasonably high and sustained unemployment, and the lack of a federal jobs program. And BOTH of those morons pictured and mentioned above are responsible for creating and/or promoting those abhorent conditions! Rather than being portrayed as dangerous, rampant, out-of-control “mobs,” every one of those peaceful and intelligent demonstrators should be PRAISED for their RESPONSIBLE sense of civic duty and activism on behalf of all—they are true patriots in every sense of the word!
But instead, the Republican Party, the main tool of the oppressive 1%, will continue speaking its nonsense about “mobs” and “class warfare” being waged by progressives and Democrats. It is utter nonsense, of course, because the upper 1% have really been the ones waging class warfare against all beneath them for the past 3 decades, and have used these bought-out conservative Republicans, Tea Party extremists, and timid DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) as their primary mouthpieces.
These efforts by the top 1% to lie their way into maintaining power are failing miserably, and the proof of this can now be seen abundantly all across the world. In America, Eric Cantor will be a one-term House Majority Leader, just as John Boehner will be a one-term Speaker of the House. Mitch McConnell will never become Senate Majority Leader, either, because now the jig is up. Their miserable Republican Party, the party of obstruction and the bought-out party of the top 1%, will deservedly hemorrhage dozens of seats in next year’s election. For, by continually catering to the wants of the wealthy, they have seriously ignored the needs of the vast majority, and they will pay a fatal price for having done so. GOOD RIDDANCE, CONSERVATIVES AND REACTIONARIES, AND DON’T EVEN BOTHER COMING BACK!