"I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid
To take a stand, to take a stand
Come take my hand, come take my hand
We'll walk this world together through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin' you know that you're not alone."
Standing in a league of veterans I was a minority newbie at the Occupy Wall Street protest, last evening. I made sure I was one of the first into Zuccotti Park, after going through months of keeping myself removed, watching from afar. I sat restlessly on the end of my chair for most of the day at work, waiting for the second I could go down the elevator and walk over to the park. Up until yesterday, I sidelined myself.
Often times, during my sports career, I was told that by watching our teammates, and our leaders, that we can pick up a lot, that we can learn, and that we can become competitive when we, or our coach, chooses our time to make moves and have an important impact in the game. Like sports, this tactic seemed to work for me in regards to the current movement of the 99%. Hassled on numerous occasions for what people perceived as me being "apathetic" toward the cause, I remained calm and diligent about my research, my reading, and my questioning and concerns. I didn't want to march or protest until I knew exactly why I was marching or protesting. I wanted to be educated, and I wanted to feel prepared when I finally stood up for my beliefs and for the betterment of others.
Early on, the media was not down at Zuccotti. The camps seemed like they could soon die down. People on the outside of the movement weren't yet taking it seriously, making jokes on Twitter, Facebook, and in blogs. And then something happened. The movement got bigger...and bigger...and bigger. And then it started taking over not just parks and bridges, but cities, states, and countries all around the world. People from California started linking metaphorical arms with people in NYC. People in Italy marched in Rome, a bit more violently, but nonetheless--they marched. And then at once, the media began to obsess over the realities of the demands, the realities of the struggling class, the realities of police brutality on sites, and the reality of the movement. Suddenly--more people took notice, and more people understood--and more people cared.
Following the arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge, early on in the protest, I remained vigilantly on the outside of it all, still, convinced that there were details missing, that something was being displayed improperly, that the arrest of all the protesters somehow was blown out of proportion. But then I kept reading, kept learning, kept pushing forward on my own movement to educate myself. And I slowly began to understand the wants and the needs--the way the bail out truly worked out and how we were all sold out on the side. I began to understand that students were never going to see the end of loans, that our children would never have the money to afford an education--and that we may not have the money to raise them in a healthy home. I can barely feed myself nutritiously--and affordable, how could any of us begin to afford the life of another human being. We were being sold out on the cheating ways of those above us--we were being sold out by the 1 percent.
BUT again, even with more understanding, I remained on the sidelines. However, like a field hockey player, I'd turn to my teammates or co-workers and nudge to ask what could be done...what they felt would make the game more playable, how the players could truly shine. I was starting to care a bit more, but was still unsure I was ready to hit the park.
That is until Tuesday morning when I woke up and my Twitter feed had exploded with updates about a violent and illegal raid of the park at 1:15am. That is until I read that the entire encampment had nearly been destroyed, that people's tents were ripped to shreds, and that the community library had been tossed in the garbage. That is until I read that nearly 200 people had been arrested....That is until I read that there was a media blackout.
As a woman who studied to become a media elitist one day, a documentarian, a seeker of the truth, I was outraged by the fact that journalists were not permitted to cover the event on site, that press persons were not allowed to show the whole world what was happening in the late hours of the night when protesters were peacefully sleeping. I was outraged that people lost everything they owned--and that no news stations could show the terror. I was outraged that press persons including a camera person that I have worked with was arrested for doing what they are trained to do: give people the news. I was outraged that the voice of the people was taken away by people who had traded theirs for money and guns (....to protect?). I was outraged that people's things were stolen--and destroyed--and that 2 am became a legalized hunting period for the occupier encampment-in military fashion-a fashion that had been practiced behind closed doors earlier the same day. I was outraged enough--that i became passionate--passionate for the movement, and passionate for my voice. Because no matter how hard anyone tries, you can not steal someone's voice--you cannot steal someone's First Amendment.
And while the enforcing officers and city officials declared that it was for the safety of the journalists, I became even more outraged...and passionate toward this cause.
We send our journalists to wars--they ride in tanks--they take slaps and punches in the face--and they are held in foreign prisons and tortured--but suddenly we are worried about their well-being at a public park that is being raided at 2am?
I became so passionate that at 5:00pm, following a long day at the office, I made my way to Zuccotti Park, and I chanted with the protesters: "Let us in," and I listened to stories, and I thanked media people for putting their efforts in to be there--to show people what was happening. I watched as the medical team tried to restructure their center area--after losing all the cold medicine that they had been using to help those who had become sick. I observed as police officers stood illegally on walls that they told protesters, "No one could stand on due to safety issues." I spoke with people who had been there before and they asked questions and then made statements and then helped people understand the movement better. And I watched as this community developed much like our early settlers did--through strife and movement. Slowly--but surely. Apart--but together.
And I spoke up during stacks and told the park full of people, how they had inspired people each and every day, and how I was happy that they had inspired me--how change would come--how it was working. And then I looked around at the sea of veterans...and suddenly knew that veteran vs newbie didn't matter. We all were fighting for the same thing--our voices to be heard--the voices of the majority of the world to matter. The voice.
And I wouldn't trade my voice for anything.
Note: If you haven't joined the movement yet, I suggest asking as many questions as possible, researching, reading, finding out what you can be passionate about, finding out what matters to you and then throwing yourself in there.