Sunday, October 9, 2011

Some Thoughts on Occupy Minneapolis

Having spent the majority of yesterday at the Occupy Minneapolis protests, I'm going to share a few of my observations. The crowd, while not huge, was large enough to be notable. At the peak, I'd estimate around 800-1,000 people (I'm pretty good at estimating crowd sizes, having worked rock concerts for a lot of years), but only about 500 'real' participants, the rest being passersby who kind of 'stopped in'. Very diverse; the usual drum circle hippies that the media likes to focus on, a strong union turnout (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Steel Workers, Nursing and Teachers Unions all having a notable presence), lots of seniors, and a whole bunch of 'just plain working class folks', along with the LaRouche and Paulite fringe. Which is great, with the minor exception that there always seemed to be three different bullhorns shouting to different audiences at the same time. And the free food booths had vegan tabouli and the greasiest cheeseburgers I've ever seen, all available at the same time.
Quite a few witty signs. The one I carried read "We don't make bootstraps in America anymore", which may have been a little too subtle. I actually had a lady tell me "Your sign is wrong. Target sells American made bootstraps", and when I tried to explain that it was an 'analogy' she just looked confused. Sorry, no pics, as my camera failed to survive my last river trip before I moved up here.
It's true that, as the media pundits love to point out, there's no clear 'message' or 'agenda' coming out of the Occupy demonstrations, but I think that could be a strength rather than a weakness. What there clearly was is a general consensus that things are going very badly for most of us, that it is wrong and unfair, and that the country needs to seriously reevaluate the way that our economy works. That over riding feeling is likely far more important than any one single policy proposal, given that "one size fits all" doesn't work for all the "99%" present. And I don't believe that the majority wanted any one "answer" so much as they just want a fair chance. The vast majority of the crowd are the type of working people who could 'get by' in the past, but now can't find jobs or fear losing the jobs they have, are overwhelmed by costs from housing and medical care, and are generally afraid for their and their children's future. They're not looking for a revolution; rather, they just want to have a system that works.
So how meaningful is it? I'm really not certain. I do know that this was very different from any other protest I've ever participated in (and believe me, as an old liberal hippie, I've been part of many protests), and it looks to be growing. If I were a "1%er", I'd be worried.