Occupy Wall Street/Seattle/Wherever: There’s no uniform message. No point. It’s unprofessional. Disorganized. “Just” a bunch of 20-somethings. Not serious.
Not true. I don’t represent or speak for Occupy Seattle (or anywhere else). But I feel compelled to respond to these concerns that won’t go away.
Here are Occupy messages that are hard to miss:
1) There are a lot of people out there who are really pissed off about how hard it is to take care of their basic needs - food, shelter, health care (hence, the “99%” signs). Occupy protests are happening (or being planned) in Seattle, Olympia, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Madison, among others across the U.S. … Looks like the “personal responsibility” meme isn’t working so well right now.
2) And they (the pissed) are serious about demanding change: When was the last time Seattle saw a tent city of protesters showing up to demonstrate, sleep on the ground, pee in a porta-potty, wash with hand sanitizer, and eagerly await the donation of some stranger’s used socks and sleeping bag? At the same time similar protests were going on across the U.S.?
To those who cite the absence of a single message as evidence of protesters’ disorganization, naiveté, etc., I say, Get real: Why expect a single message out of an uprising comprising people all over the nation? If these messages evidence anything, it is the breadth of the problems that must be addressed.
What do demonstrations like Occupy Seattle accomplish? They:
1) Publicly challenge any doubt about whether there’s a problem, its severity, or the urgent need to act. It’s hard to deny (to oneself or others) how severe and widespread the problems are when people are occupying the streets in protest and getting arrested. All over the nation.
2) Liberate people afraid of making waves from the constraints of “polite” and “professional” protest methods that are easy for those in power to ignore. Occupy Seattle makes it harder for office workers, store clerks and shoppers to pass protesters and continue to believe stereotypes of them as hippies, kooks, kids-who-don’t-know-better and other supposedly suspect characters who shouldn’t be paid any attention. And Occupy Seattle makes it easier for “regular” people to join the protesters when they get off work or finish shopping.
One more point: “Polite” or “professional” protest is not reliably democratic. Meetings with the mayor and editorial boards are more available to some than to others. Running for elected office is not an option for most people. Position papers are things that few people know how to write, and fewer still are willing to read. But public protest is something that most people can participate in.
Go, join Occupy Seattle, and see for yourself. And bring some extra socks to donate.