|A protest with something for everyone|
|Written by Mason Souza, Columnist|
|Friday, 07 October 2011 00:16|
“Show me what democracy looks like!” an organizer shouted out to the crowd.
“This is what democracy looks like!” they responded.
Maybe Wednesday’s Occupy BloNo rally on the bridge over College Avenue featuring over 100 students and community members shouting and holding signs wasn’t the postcard picture of democracy we like to think makes America great, but in these times of financial gloom and political polarization, it may be the most realistic.
Occupy BloNo is a movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, the protests in New York over the recession they believe was caused by major banks. Demonstrators claim they are the 99 percent of America whose voice is dwarfed by corporations and the wealthy who make up the remaining one percent.
Standing in the middle of the protests, I heard a lot of chants that made sense to me. Finally, it seemed like a movement had emerged that nearly everyone could support. This isn’t a decisive issue like abortion or immigration; this is about the haves and the have-nots. And if the have-nots really do make up all but a thin slice of the American pie, what’s to stop them?
That seems to be both the strength and the Achilles’ heel of the Occupy movement. On one end, the disgust of Wall Street and widespread dissatisfaction with Congress helps net them a wide base of followers. At the same time, however, all those members come with different motives, so there doesn’t seem to be one clear goal.
“The issue would be that the people don’t have enough power, so I’m speaking for everybody and for the students,” Marybel Parra, a junior criminal justice and sociology major from Bradley University, said. “When we get out of college, are we going to have jobs or not? Are we going to be still in debt for the rest of our lives and through our career?”
“If the government had more money to spend on higher education then we wouldn’t have to pay so much in tuition in order to get the jobs that we need,” Jessica Griffin, graduate anthropology student, said.
Like other community members, Sara Holthaus-Weidemeyer, a council organizer with moveon.org, stood alongside students, bringing her own concerns to the bridge.
“Reinvest in public education, create energy jobs and stop this childish Wall Street speculation,” she said. “It’s tearing us apart. It’s people at the casino, it’s no more than that.”
As Matthew Donovan, a junior at Heartland Community College, explained, the march was to continue to the State Farm Hall of Business. He said they had no specific message for State Farm, but to me, the symbolism was apparent, especially when the crowd shouted “People over profits!”
“Legislation has made everybody have to buy their product,” Victor Connor, a former ISU computer science professor, said of insurance.
If the Occupy movement remains a come-one-come-all airing of grievances, I don’t think it will have a big impact. The Tea Party movement, for better or worse, has entered the political discussion because it has a focused message on small government.
I may be wrong, but I see it as a liberal movement with a populist slant. Their big government views may frighten free market supporters, but who isn’t angry at the Lehman Brothers fat cats? I’m pretty sure that’s a universal sentiment.
Some things I’m glad I didn’t see at the rally were hate speech, comparisons of any public figures to Hitler or the Antichrist, or disruption toward students or faculty passing through. Police were standing by on Milner Plaza, but for the time I was there, had no reason to get involved.
I felt proud to see people getting together and empowering themselves in a peaceful, sane way. There was no mistaking the pent up anger and frustration demonstrators expressed on the bridge: it came from heartbreak over the country they love.
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