Not all foreclosures have occurred via unsavory people in the home finance industry. A growing number have lost their homes because they lost their jobs either by “downsizing” or company bankruptcies or closures or outsourcing or other questionable corporate practices. Some corporations have taken millions in government loans and then filed bankruptcy and told everyone to hit the road.
Some people have lost their homes due to fraudulent lending practices AND the loss of employment—a combo. Foreclosures are still growing and it is anticipated we haven’t seen the end of it. Another huge number of them will take place in 2012. Without employment and a decent home millions of us are suffering solely due to financial malfeasance created by corporations/Congress. And so I joined the Occupy S.F. movement last weekend with my son. What a tremendous experience. It was glorious!
We got up early and took the ferry to San Francisco. I live about 60 miles north of the city. Parking is always a problem so we chose the ferry. The movement was stationed near the Ferry Building so in a hop, skip, and a jump—there we were. When we arrived at the “camp” we were surprised it was such a small group. However, we soon learned these were the permanent bunch of people truly occupying space with sleeping bags and food stations and port-a-potties and sign making stations and information “booths” and lecture podiums and the like. I was taken back to the ‘60s and I loved it. In fact, it was glorious.
Most of the people we met were not around in the ‘60s for the great Viet Nam marches and the marches with Dr. King. But I was and I participated then and was happy to see Americans fighting for Americans all over again. Also a little sad to realize that we have to fight again. I guess maintaining our Constitution is a lifelong ongoing process. The minute our “leaders” decide to interpret the Constitution the average American starts getting cheated out of the promise so we must take to the streets from time to time to set them straight. I’m absolutely thrilled that we can—otherwise we would be living in North Korea. I don’t think any of us want that. I thought about North Korea a lot during that Saturday event. Shivers ran down my spine. When people complain about protestors they should spend a couple of months in a country where protesting isn’t allowed. They will find it’s life altering, like, you know, death.
The movement “headquarters” was in front of the Federal Reserve Bank and everyone there calmly went about their assigned tasks before the big march. Some took naps, some chatted with the police officers who were stationed there, others ran food runs and brought back food and beverages to share, and others started speeches and small groups would appear and listen. We stood there and chatted with people for a few hours until everything magically changed. Suddenly, excitement filled the air.
The parade was scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. Up till around 2:30 not too much had changed in the group we had joined then a huge mass of people started arriving and we all spilled out into the streets. At 3:00 p.m. the march began. It was spectacularly organized by both the police and protest leaders. They worked hand in hand and it was no easy task. They had expected several hundred and instead several thousand had appeared. The organizers were grinning ear-to-ear. Switching crowd control methods on the spot must have been daunting and yet it went off without a hitch. It was glorious.
Participating in huge events where there is the possibility of being crushed by a surging crowd has never been a favorite activity of mine. Sporting events, concerts, parades, huge public forums, all have had terrible things go wrong. Crowd crushing is a serious concern without expert organization. But soon we were underway and there was a calm presence throughout the event and no pushing, shoving, or aggression by anyone—including the police presence.
There were many officers assigned to the march to protect us, the marchers, and the traffic and people just shopping and walking on the sidewalks who were not part of the protest. Amazingly, as we progressed many tourists and locals joined the march and every time they did the crowd roared with excitement. Soon we had roughly six thousand marchers. Cable cars rang their bells keeping time with our chants. It was glorious. (How many times can I say it was glorious?) It was glorious.
As expected at any large event, the march was filled with the good, the bad, and the disappointing. Many homeless people live in San Francisco and some tried to join us but failed due to poor health and mental issues that were sadly all too apparent. They did not present a problem that day but I understand they have been a problematic presence at all the “Occupy” camps and then shown on the evening news as problem people as though they are part of the movement. It’s natural for them to gravitate to the people camping out and I’m sure many hope to find food and companionship. It can be a problem with people with addictions and mental disorders. However, the Occupy group is a humane organization and they turn no one away, even if the people are detrimental to the true mission. (And actually, homelessness and the mentally challenged are part of the human movement every day.)
We hear many negatives about hygiene problems and trouble makers at some of the camps and some have been torn down but it’s
mostly due to people who are not true to the movement but just people who need help with so many personal issues. So Occupy must constantly move and keep some semblance of organization for the big events they plan for. Not easy. It’s been an age-old problem with all demonstrations. Or people who beat people in the parking lots of our major sporting events. Those people do not represent the entire group of sports spectators just as a few difficult people do not represent the Occupy movement.
I wrote this piece because I hear negative comments about people who protest, that they are un-American, that they are not patriotic, that they are Communists, etc. It is, in fact, the very epitome of being a true American. People who fight like hell either in or out of uniform to keep our country strong and free from takeover by foreign interests and out of control government and corporate shenanigans. We are drowning on all fronts and we need to stand up and fight for ourselves and our way of life because our
government has let us down.
Along with the problem people that cling to these types of events there are inevitably “plants,” people who are placed in the events to spy, to cause trouble deliberately to appease a personal agenda or an opposite point of view, and even government infiltration. Government plants may not be evil in design but just used to make sure no one is toting a bomb or some nasty device designed to hurt people. I thought about that all day as I marched along and wondered how many people were not true members of the movement but, well, spies. It was starting to make me uncomfortable so I stopped that line of thinking. I think I’ve watched “MI-5” too much, the wonderful British series about spies and the nastiness of it all.
Movements sometimes shoot themselves in the foot. The good intentions take on monstrous out of control proportions with no control and before long we end up with power mongers fighting power mongers. None of this was apparent at this gathering. In
fact, the leaders were easily identifiable and they were continuously working crowd control and smiling and encouraging people to move left or right and at one point we were asked to slow down so that the stragglers in the very back could catch up, people in wheelchairs and people with kids and strollers. It was a family event. It was glorious.
Not long after the march began my son and I took inventory and noticed the participants were mostly middle class types, diversely represented. Many wore suburban style clothing, brought their kids and dogs, and had picnic totes. Many times we fell into brief conversations with one another and overheard conversations and a majority of the people there had lost their jobs and homes. Typical middle class folks who had lost it all. Add to that the chronically unemployed and it quickly jumps to millions of disenfranchised Americans. Hence, the popularity of this movement. If you haven’t lost a home or a job you probably know someone who has. I do.
It is my understanding that the Tea Party movement has similar issues as far as why members join their protests and events. Americans who have lost everything—or are worried they will—are clinging to the Tea Party or the Occupy movement for help and answers. All movements open to anyone must be ever vigilant to make sure the movement and its beliefs are not violated. Many have compared the Occupy movement with the Tea Party in that both groups have been infiltrated with people who have very different agendas. It’s the price we pay to have our voices heard and we must simply pay attention to people around us. For the most part, both groups do want the same things but are going about it somewhat differently with different goals and expectations. Everyone is spying on everyone but we shouldn’t allow that situation to deter us from our goal: peaceful, passive, civil disobedience.
1. Passive Resistance: Opposition to a government or to specific governmental laws by the use of noncooperation and other nonviolent methods, boycotts, and protest marches.
2. Civil Disobedience: The refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands for the purpose of influencing legislation or government policy characterized by the employment of such nonviolent techniques as boycotting, picketing, and nonpayment of taxes.
3. Anarchy: Absence of any form of political authority. Political disorder and confusion. Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.
Choice number 3 is not what protesting is all about. Nor should it be. There were those who made changes for humanity without
anarchy. Jesus, Gandhi, and Dr. King were very successful with passive resistance and civil disobedience. They all gave their lives for the people they served and loved. (Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi, and Kim Jong Il—not so much.)
We must not forget the sacrifices of our great leaders and always fight to protect those who are not able—or unwilling—to fight for what is right. It’s who we are.
[For more information on the great “1967 Spring Mobilization Against the War in Viet Nam” click on the link and further links with additional information will appear!]