Civil disobedience is in my blood.
As someone who is passionate about inequality and rising poverty in the United States, Occupy DC was the protest for me.
Or so I thought.
Armed with a clipboard, stickers, flyers and talking points – all aimed at spreading the word about reversing the Citizens United decision, I wandered into Freedom Plaza on the first day of the rally. When I heard the iconic drum beating and folk singing, I knew I had found the right place. I felt certain about the cause behind this movement from what I had read and seen on the news; the public has grown tired of corporate greed making everyone else poor.
As it turned out, the devastation to our country, as a result of the fat cats’ gluttony, goes much deeper than poverty.
What first caught my attention was the group of veterans who had set up camp along the strip of grass along the south side of the plaza. In their small community of tents, they looked ready to stay as long as it took, complete with food, bedding and the able-bodied helping the disabled. They had signs protesting “the deployment of traumatized troops” and proclaiming “end these wars for corporate gains.” This rugged collection of veterans was organized by the group, “Iraqi veterans against the war.”
When I looked out into the crowd, I noticed a sea of pink stickers declaring “give hugs, not war” as Code Pink demonstrated a considerable presence. There was even a group of teenagers drifting around the plaza carrying large cardboard signs displaying “free hugs.”
Across the plaza sat a tent that housed tables with literature on the tragedies of the health care system in America: 45,000 people die every year from lack of insurance and people are losing health coverage grows while CEOs haul in enormous salaries. They called themselves “Single payer action.”
The environmental movement also showed up. Groups made their presence felt with banners and paintings depicting the planetary wreckage unleashed by insatiable corporate leaders who place personal profit above the health of the planet.
But my biggest surprise was the large group of Ron Paul supporters who showed up wearing T-shirts of the classic Shepard Fairly “Hope” design with Ron Paul’s face switched for Obama’s and the word “hope” replaced with “Paul.” I wondered what libertarians were doing there so I asked one. Surprised by my obvious ignorance, she replied, “the Wall Street bailouts.”
As a folk singer bellowed from the stage, prompting the crowd to chant “Operation Iraqi liberation! What’s that spell? Oil…oil…oil!,” the feeling that I was at an old-fashioned anti-war demonstration, and not simply an inequality assembly, made me remember something my parents had taught me about their days as young protesters during the 1960s.
One element of wrongdoing can affect people in many ways. The student protests at Berkeley were called the Free Speech Movement, and began when students demanded the right to organize, but quickly spread into the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.
Contrary to popular belief, the Occupy (Everywhere) rallies are not the shouts from those who allegedly played a losing hand in the game of capitalism; they are about letting the world know that some of us are fed up with rampant corporate power exploiting the lifeblood of Earth.