From Wall Street to Main Street
By Tommy Purvis
A ragtag bunch of student activist, old-school organizers—and at least one proud Vietnam veteran—now meet on even-number calendar days in downtown Riverside to prepare for a long-term occupation that is tentatively scheduled to start on Friday, Oct. 15. The transparent online effort known as Occupy Riverside was launched a few weeks ago in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street campaign, the lightly regulated and heavily traded consensus-based effort meant to highlight the cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington D.C. that has soared to make a bull market run across an economically unbalanced nation.
A tepid initial public offering made in the middle of last month by the Wall Street occupiers skyrocketed after the New York Police Department’s heavy-handed treatment of peaceful female protesters was posted on YouTube. Then the short term occupation of the Brooklyn Bridge went viral and the Facebook-supported and Twitter account-activated movement became a social media sensation. So far it uses the same organizing model that led to the occupation of Tahrir Square during the early days of the Egyptian Revolution. And it certainly does not take a market insider to determine that the conditions that led to the Arab Spring would resonate locally.
Sooner or later the high numbers of educated and unemployed young people who have seen their families lose their homes, and their parents lose their jobs, were bound to feel a little hoodwinked as Wall Street fat cats sit on piles of taxpayer cash left over from the bailout. Combine the random police checkpoints spread across the numerous working-class communities, the ever-increasing amount of immigration raids and the deportation of the income earners from homes and the invisible hand of the free market starts to feel like an iron fist to the rapidly vanishing middle class.
Worse, the efforts by constituents to explain the plight of the people to the Tea Party Republicans and the Blue Dog Democrat that represent the IE on Capitol Hill are easily forgotten in between three martini lunches with special interests. Protest signs at last Thursday’s Occupy Riverside General Assembly (GA) held in between a multi-leveled Wells Fargo branch and the towering floors of City Hall read “Can you afford your politician? Corporations can!” and “We are asking for reform and you are asking for revolution.”
The gathering that attracted nearly 150 people was short on chit-chat and quick to search for consensus in the burgeoning Occupy Riverside GA. Meetings are detailed enough to be held to the decorum of award-winning Model United Nations team. Bilingual co-moderators were on task in an effort to move proposals from the floor to committees for more inspection. The process led to a march scheduled for tonight. Before a participant is granted an audience in the GA, they are asked to have a what, how and why in their proposal. If recent events from likeminded GAs from across the nation pan out in committee meetings in Riverside, there is the chance for non-violent civil disobedience in the future.
“After hearing that occupations started popping up in other cities, I instantly felt the need to join the movement,” says Hailey Douglas. “The people of Riverside should have a voice too. Every person in every city should be heard. It’s been really encouraging to see the people of my hometown come together and voice their concerns, ideas and personal stories.”
If you feel the need to occupy an area in your city, the young activist says it is wise to reach out to nearby established Occupy GAs for guidance. She credits the Occupy Los Angles GA for helping the Riverside GA get started so quickly. And of course she says it is important to have fun as you learn the best practices of community organizing.
For more information on the Occupy Riverside GA or to participate in future plans visit www.occupyriverside.org.