Street Corner Soapbox: Occupy Erie

Category:  Street Corner Soapbox
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 2:00 PM
Street Corner Soapbox: Occupy Erie by Jay Stevens

The first Occupy Erie rally on an early October Saturday went off well ? about 75 people showed up, a decent number for a largely unorganized and unpublicized protest. Especially well considering its parent protest ? Occupy Wall Street ? was largely ignored for over two weeks by major media.

When listeners confronted NPR with its non-coverage of the event ? especially in relation to that of the Tea Party ? the public radio news group's executive editor shot back, ?the recent protests...did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption, or an especially clear objective.?

Forgetting the obvious fallacy  ? the implication that the Tea Party has numbers or coherent objectives ? the Occupy Wall Street ? or OWS ? movement does have a purpose. OWS is a rumble, a noise, a disturbance, a roiling tide of discontent with our nation's financial institutions: banks, insurance companies, the health care industry, large corporations, and their stranglehold on our government and on our very lives.

CUNY professor Angus Johnston: ?[E]veryone [at the protest] basically agreed on certain basic principles ? that something was seriously broken in the American economy, that something was seriously broken in American politics, and that an accelerating concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small minority was at the root of most of that brokenness.?

A lack of a clear, specific objective is also the point. Objectives, demands, agendas, these things draw lines. They create boundaries between all those inside and in agreement, and those without and in discord. First, gather the people. Then demand.

The lack of objectives also underscores the protests' organization. That is, it's not organized, not really. You keep seeing the term ?horizontal organization? used to describe OWS hierarchy, which basically means no one's in charge. It's simply happening, and it's resisting being co-opted by any one group or political party.

That's probably what's scaring the bejeezus out of media commentators, politicians, and business leaders. OWS can't be steered. So the attacks have begun. The protesters are violent. They're paid. They're hippies, Leninists, socialists. They're parasites on the hide of a nation of stalwart taxpayers.

?What's going on here?? asks New York Times columnist Paul Krugman of the rhetoric's virulence. ?The answer, surely, is that Wall Street's Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is.?
The movement has spread to Erie. There's a Facebook page: Occupy ERIE, PA. And they're planning on gathering in Perry Square again, Saturday. And, one presumes, the next Saturday, and the next.

If you're discontented by the concentration of wealth. If you're concerned about the quickly shrinking economic opportunities for you and your children. If you don't think our tax dollars should go to those that broke our economy. If you lived your life by the rules, got your education, got your job, paid all your debts and bills and did everything just so and still find yourself fearing unemployment, eviction, bankruptcy, or maybe are unemployed, underinsured, bankrupt, or evicted. If you find yourself sickened by greed and anger. If you feel powerless. Then come and hear and speak.

I'll be there.

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 17
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