How I Became an Occupier

When I first heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement, I largely ignored it. Can you blame me? I mean after all the tea party protests and other Fox News supported rallies that seemed to only want to demonize Obama and the democrats, I didn’t really take protesting seriously. Information about the Occupy movement kept showing up in my news feed everyday though.

About a week ago I started hearing about the arrests, and the growing number of occupations across the nation. I started taking a closer look at it after that, eventually coming around full circle in support of the movement. I still didn’t really know what it was about when I heard about the arrests, but it didn’t matter what they were protesting, it mattered that they were being arrested for protesting. I’ve always considered the first amendment to be the most important one in our Constitution, and it really disturbed me to see people’s rights being violated.

I started with clips from various news channels, and they painted the picture of a bunch of misguided hippies that didn’t know what they were talking about. So now I had a negative opinion of the occupiers again, but I wanted to know more than what the media gave me so I turned to YouTube.

I was back on their side after seeing blatant police brutality. Protesters were thrown down by their necks, run over by police scooters, maced, and beaten by batons. This was just as much about their right to free speech as it was about the unjust corporate takeover of America. The more I saw the less free I felt. Above all else it was this video featuring Sgt. Shamar Thomas that really got me to start listening to what the movement was really all about. I’ve never seen someone so passionate about something, and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried when I saw this.

Once I started listening to the message I got it right away. I mean I knew the economy was in bad shape, I knew corporations were getting more and more powerful everyday while myself and my family have been stuck on the same level my whole life. I have a minimum wage part-time job that took me six months of extreme job hunting to find and in the end I got it with the help of someone I knew. I had all the pieces, but It took a huge movement like this to really get me to see the whole picture.

As I saw more and more videos I quickly learned that nearly everything I heard about these protests on the mainstream news was wrong. Sure there was a fair amount of hippies in every shot, but they were not the majority by far. I saw old people, young people, white people, black people, men, woman. It was a very diverse group, holding true to their 99% chant. As far as claims of disorganization and filthy camp sites, I found neither to be true.

As of yet there is no leader of the movement, in fact they seem to be against the whole idea of a leader. You might think this makes them disorganized, but that is surprisingly untrue. The videos I saw were all from the Wall Street protest, but Occupy Wall Street seems to be the template for every other occupation so I can assume they all adopted a similar format. The camp was split into different sections for sleeping, a clinic, general supplies like toilet paper ect, a kitchen, and even a People’s Library. It’s almost like they created a whole new society right in the middle of New York.

So how did they become so organized without any leadership? Direct democracy. They hold general assembly’s, everyone gets a turn to talk, everyone gets a vote, people are assigned jobs such as cooking or cleaning. A direct democracy is what I’ve always dreamed about, and I believe we can achieve it now with the help of the internet. I can’t say that that’s where this movement is heading, but it’s very exciting none the less. Yesterday I found myself in Curtis Hixon Park, the location of my local Occupy Tampa movement. After seeing the occupations in New York, Seattle, and Chicago not to mention Europe; I was more than a little disappointed by the turn out in Tampa. Granted it was Sunday and they’ve been occupying for a month now, I was just hoping for more than 20 to 30 people. They will be having a general assembly this Saturday which I would like to go to, hopefully I’ll get a better idea about the size and scope of Occupy Tampa.

The age of the Tampa occupiers had a much older slant then I imagined which was also surprising. I met two gentlemen in their mid to late 40′s who told me about It honestly sounded a lot like a conspiracy theory to me, but it was interesting mainly because I haven’t heard about it before. The media thinks that because they don’t have a leader or a unified message there just stupid hippies, but it’s their anger with the government that unifies them. Whatever their reasons, they feel like the Government has wronged them.

I was excited walking up to the park. I instantly recognized it from the videos of the Tampa arrests. Their seemed to be two small groups of occupiers. One closer to the road holding signs and cheering for every supportive honk. The other group lounged under some nearby trees, they seemed to be on break. I was greeted by a younger guy in his 30′s “Welcome to Occupy Tampa” he said. I was glad I came.

Judging by their camp it was clear that they too a lot of cues from Occupy Wall Street, just on a smaller scale. They had a small food table set up with bread, apples, and water. A stack of protest signs available to use, and a small mountain of sleeping bags that said they were ready to hold out through the winter.

I can’t pretend to know where this movement is going, but I do know that I’m going to start calling it a revolution from now on.

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