Despite the Occupy movement being criticized for being a band of disruptive rabble rousers who do not have a clear set of goals, protestors outside Phoenix City Hall on Saturday were focused on making one message clear to the government, as well as anyone who would hear: Corporations’ excessive involvement in government is not benefitting anyone ─ except for a wealthy few.
Hundreds of people rallied in César Chávez Plaza, carrying an eclectic array of homemade signs and calling out in response to community organizers’ chants.
Involvement and individuals’ power to lead were the key messages of the speakers. One encouraged everyone to keep in touch with their Congressional representatives despite their becoming “high-priced prostitutes for corporations.”
Another passionately cried out that, “We are a movement of leaders.” She continued chanting, “We must lead against corporate greed,” repeating herself and substituting “we” for Democrats, Republicans, the jobless, the employed, the homeless and those who have homes, calling for them to make a stand against domination from banks and large companies.
The statistic that is the backbone of the Occupy movement should be familiar by now: 1 percent of the nation controls our wealth, and the other 99 percent finance it without a fair share.
On Saturday, I came face-to-face with the frustration I previously saw played out on front pages of newspapers and have even experienced myself.
One sign I read unequivocally voiced the issue of the Occupy movement. It was a simple, blue poster that explained how the designer, a middle-aged man, played by the rules. “Went to college; worked 40 years; paid for my kid’s college education; planned, saved, invested for retirement.”
It also asked what he did wrong – his investments were down 30 percent, and his home is currently worth one-third of its 2005 price.
His retirement is nowhere in sight. Millions of Americans like this man want answers from corporations and Capitol Hill.
I also “play by the rules.” I pay taxes on my wages, never board the light rail without purchasing a pass and attend a university.
I hope to have a fulfilling career and be a homeowner in the future. I also wonder how I am going to pay my college tuition with shrinking financial aid, and I doubt I will be able to afford my own apartment before I finish my undergraduate degree.
When I read a news headline that says GE takes advantage of tax code loopholes, I sense imbalance and injustice. Like one of the signs I saw put it, “Wtf?”
The message of the Occupy movement ─ nonviolent, yet driven activism ─ is refreshing. It combats the uninformed passivity that has paralyzed the nation and was the cause of violence in Tucson earlier this year.
Though Occupiers’ actions can be seen as extreme, just like the stances of the right-wing Tea Party, their desperation for solutions will inspire people to vote and engage themselves more in their communities.
We must make sure we have a voice that can outreach that of corporate money.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org