While aware of the Occupy movement a month ago, it was neither at the top of my interests nor was it something I was following. That changed when the Occupy movement gained my 17-year-old daughter as an adherent.
This example of successful engagement intrigued me in that my daughter, bombarded by a hyperpolitical parent, never was especially interested in political issues. Obviously then, I was interested in trying to understand what was it about the Occupy movement that had engaged her and how they did it. so I went to the source and talked to my daughter as she was preparing to join Occupy Wall Street last night. Here is my interview:
Q: How did you hear about Occupy?
A: I first heard about the protest through a friend. He had posted a link on Facebook, and I clicked to find out what it was about. From one link to another I ended up on the website for the protest itself, and began to spread the page to my own friends online. A few days later, on the way home, a friend and I stopped downtown to get a slice of pizza. We asked a couple of cops where the closest place to get some would be, and apparently we looked like typical protesters and after being questioned we immediately ran to the protest to see what was going on. [Here is the text of the page that was linked]:
Please note that this 'event' forms part of an ongoing human rights campaign. Help raise further awareness by getting this 'event' out to all your friends. Feel free to post videos, photos and comments. Lets make this page go viral. By selecting 'attending' you are expressing your support and helping to get the message out far and wide.[I printed out the entire text because I think it is instructive. Personally, I found it to be awful. But it is an approach that has worked. Lessons for NOT solely taking our cues from our own reactions as to the persuasive value of rhetoric and approaches.]
During the month of September, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.
THIS IS A PEACEFUL PROTEST.
Even though police have so far been both brutal and violent, Assaulting women of all ages, we don't need to sink to their level. Bring your camera.
Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants.
Who is Occupy Wall Street?
Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.
The original call for this occupation was published by Adbusters in July; since then, many individuals across the country have stepped up to organize this event, such as the people of the NYC General Assembly and US Day of Rage. There'll also be similar occupations in the near future such as October2011 in Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C.
On September 21st, 2011, Troy Davis, an innocent man, was murdered by the state of Georgia. Troy Davis was one of the 99 percent.
Ending capital punishment is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, four of our members were arrested on baseless charges.
Ending police intimidation is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, the richest 400 Americans owned more than half of the country's population.
Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, we determined that Yahoo lied about occupywallst.org being in spam filters.
Ending corporate censorship is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly eighty percent of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track.
Ending the modern gilded age is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly 15% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.
Ending political corruption is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of Americans did not have work.
Ending joblessness is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of America lived in poverty.
Ending poverty is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly fifty million Americans were without health insurance.
Ending health-profiteering is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, America had military bases in around one hundred and thirty out of one hundred and sixty-five countries.
Ending American imperialism is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, America was at war with the world.
Ending war is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, we stood in solidarity with Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Madison, Toronto, London, Athens, Sydney, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Milan, Amsterdam, Algiers, Tel Aviv, Portland and Chicago. Soon we will stand with Phoenix, Montreal, Cleveland and Atlanta. We're still here. We are growing. We intend to stay until we see movements toward real change in our country and the world.
You have fought all the wars. You have worked for all the bosses. You have wandered over all the countries. Have you harvested the fruits of your labors, the price of your victories? Does the past comfort you? Does the present smile on you? Does the future promise you anything? Have you found a piece of land where you can live like a human being and die like a human being? On these questions, on this argument, and on this theme, the struggle for existence, the people will speak. Join us.
We speak as one. All of our decisions, from our choice to march on Wall Street to our decision to continue occupying Liberty Square, were decided through a consensus based process by the group, for the group. Police thwart attempts like this.
Q: Did the message attract you? Why?
A: Yes, it did. Growing up with most of my memorable life being under the Bush administration and seeing the American economy failing at a seemingly exponential rate, the values of the movement had always been logical to me. I had always wondered why the citizens would stand for it, but because I am not a legal participant in this society for another three months, it was never my problem to deal with. At an age where I am about to enter this economy for the first time, I know a change needs to be made or I will not be able to for much longer. I really liked the idea of people fighting for economic equality. I am pretty anxious about what's ahead for us. There did not seem to be anyone speaking for ordinary Americans. I decided to check it out.
Q: What did you think when you first attended a rally?
A: I went down to the protest at first just to see what it was about. I was downtown for a class and walked over. The first thing that happened to me was I was hassled by cops. It made me wonder what they were upset about. So I was more determined to go see what it was about. Once I got there, I was really impressed by the people there and what they were saying about how it seems that our entire country is being run for the benefit of very few people.
I thought that this protest was a prime example of a strong community. The entire park is covered in people united for an important cause, a cause that touches issues on every single American citizen's life. The call and response's are a great display of this sense of unity, showing that all of us are coming together to spread the truth.
Q: What do you think the goals of Occupy Are?
A: To help wake America up to the fact that the country can't go on focused on the needs of the few over the needs of the many.
Q: Do you think the Occupy movement is getting its message out? Why?
A: I think the 99% message is really strong and to bring people together around that message has been impressive. I know a lot of people are looking for concrete proposals from Occupy but I think the important first step was to get people rallying to the basic message of the fact that the country is not really working for most people and that we can't keep going down this path. Now, I do think that a focus on concrete goals can make sense.
Q: What do you think of politics after experiencing the Occupy movement?
A: It's clear that politics is failing and will continue to fail unless significant change occurs. Because money seems to be the prime determinant of political results, then of course politics will serve the people with the money. We need to change that and I think that's one of the big things the Occupy movement is getting out there.
Q - How do you think this turns out? What's next?
A: I don't think they become a part of the political apparatus—it won't be like the Tea Party. I think it'll be independent of political parties and hopefully, become a vehicle for expressing the needs of most people instead of just the wealthy few.
I hope Occupy can continue to be a movement where the people get to be heard.
Final Note from Armando - Whatever Occupy does, I'm grateful that the idea of the 99% has gotten out to the extent that it has. I can't say that I know how they did it. I'm still not sure what captured my daughter's attention, but I am glad they did.