In DC on Tuesday 18th October, I had a chance to observe and talk directly with protestors, learning more about what they are really about. Camps and protests have been spreading throughout the city, I came across two of them. Each were occupied by a mixed age group, mainly students, retirees, and unemployed. Some had been there a couple of days, others a couple of weeks. Some supporters I met who have jobs join the protest even if just for an afternoon, to show their support.
At the first Occupy camp I visited, the protestors had laid their signs around a statue in the center of the park. They pretty much speak for themselves: (click on one to open a slideshow)
At this camp I met “Bear”, a more revolutionary protestor, who told me an elaborate story of his teeth being knocked out in the Egypt protests, many countries having warrants on his life, and his wife being in a prison in Morocco. I must say that seeing a man like him shed tears of passion when envisaging the future of America, was a moving sight. Whether or not his story was true, it certainly was true for him.
At the second camp I was lucky to arrive at the same time as a journalist, who I joined in a short interview with retired police-officer Stephen Fryburg. Stephen had been camping at the site for two weeks, continuing his original pledge to “protect the people of America from injustice.”
Stephen had several interesting things to say:
- “we need to be looking 7 years ahead, not just acting for today”
- “we need a return to the public commons, to valuing the community”
- “we need a Department of Peace” – rather than so much money going into the Defense budget, a Peace budget would work proactively to prevent the defense being required in the first place.
- “we need more of the feminine in politics – too often by the time women get to the top they are acting like men. It would help if more women were in politics and if those women acted like women.”
- “we need to hold politicians accountable for their actions”
The protests have most commonly been criticised for not really knowing what they want. I think this is wrong. The protestors seemed to know exactly what they want, even if they don’t know the legalities and logistics that surround such outcomes.
The journalist asked Stephen “what would success look like to you?”
Stephen replied a clear answer: “above anything else success is the stopping of corporate control of our political parties.”
A year from elections, with Obama having raised 1 billion dollars for his campaign, it seems to be a cause worth fighting for. I have learned from friends here that in America “money is a form of speech” and therefore “speaking” (bribing) by paying for politicians campaigns in exchange for certain policies, is ok. This, the protestors demand, must change. People want their voices to be heard above the voice of money. Power to the people.