For twenty-two days now, protesters have occupied Zuccotti Park in Liberty Plaza near Wall Street in New York. Since the movement’s beginnings on September 17th, many different portrayals of the occupiers have been painted. Some have tried to discredit what’s going on by describing the movement’s supporters as some big angry mob of uneducated, unappreciative kids. Others are dismissing the protesters and their cries for justice and equality because there is no clear cut question and answer. And some have done their best to get into the thick of the scene and report the bare bone facts about what’s really going on.
Yesterday, after spending most of my day in Liberty Plaza with this growing group of Wall Street occupiers, I quickly came to learn that no reporter or politician will ever be able to correctly describe this movement by placing all of its supporters into some stereotypical profile. A complete and honest picture of the protestors would be an enormous mosaic of many different shades and colors. This group is not just a gathering of hardcore leftists. It’s not just a mob of angry anarchists. It’s not just a bunch of diehard libertarians. It’s not just a hangout for misguided young, hipsters. This is a group of American people who, despite their different backgrounds and political stances, have come together to say that they’re unhappy with the way their country is functioning and that they are going to work together in solidarity to fight for fundamental change.
Since the very beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, its biggest criticism has been that there is no list of demands; no snippy little soundbite that puts what the protestors are fighting for into simple terms. But a true understanding of what’s taking place at Liberty Plaza will reveal, that this movement cannot be truthfully expressed on such a simplified level. The people in Zuccotti park, and now in cities all over the nation, come from all different walks of life and each are fighting for a number of different causes. Maybe this seems unorganized and ineffective to an outsider, but the reason that it will work is because they are working together. People fighting to end the war are helping people who want to save the environment. Veterans For Peace are standing next to the supporters of a Spiritual Revolution. Everyone has a different issue that they feel strongly about, but the group is unified in the fact that they’re all fighting together to call out our corrupt democracy that no longer allows the American people to have voice in the policies that are shaping our country.
This movement will never be represented by one clear cut demand. It will never have one perfect little tagline. There is no definitive answer. A lot of different people are angry about a lot of different things and while all of it may be too overwhelming for the average news reader to digest all at once, the most important part is that the occupiers are all willing to work together to restore justice and equality in America.
Besides the inspiring people who continue to keep the movement alive, the most impressive aspect of the scene at Zuccotti Park, is the working group stations that have been established among the camp. Everything from the kitchen where many have donated food for the protestors, to the information center and media hub, to the growing library of books is a true testament to the fact that we don’t need such a hierarchical government like the one currently in place. The working groups strongly demonstrate that if power were placed back into the hands of the states and people, and if government became a more local and decentralized entity, American communities would thrive on their own. The protest itself has become living proof that the very thing its supporters are fighting for can actually work to create the kind of country that we all want to live in.
I ended my day yesterday in Washington Square Park where thousands of people congregated for the day’s General Assembly meeting. Because the NYPD will not allow the use of megaphones, the group spreads a speaker’s message by repeating his or her words in unison. As I used my own voice to spread each speaker’s statements, I realized that the human microphone tactic, which has become an important part of the organization of the protests, is highly symbolic of the movement as a whole. Since the mainstream media and much of our government have drowned out the voices and concerns of the average American citizen, the people are now using each others voices to amplify the things that really need to be said. To broadcast as loudly as they can, the biggest issues that need to be tackled now.
“Mic check,” one speaker shouts. “Mic check,” the larger group responds. “The people united, will never be defeated,” the speaker chants. “The people united will never be defeated,” the group responds loudly in unison and the message echos on through the nearby city streets for everyone to hear.