Strolling around Seattle my wife and I happened upon the Occupy Seattle protest in West Lake park as the cops were just about to bust it up. There was a tense stand off as the police stood firmly in a circle around 8 young men seated around a tent with their arms interlocked.
50 other cops hovered at the perimeter of the ever-expanding crowd. "I smell bacon!" a man yelled from behind us. A few feet from us a portly lad with a scruffy beard shouted chants into a megaphone: "The cops work for the rich. They don't give a shit!"
Many in attendance chanted back every word that came out of the megaphone.
A young punk yelled "Don't forget Rodney King!" Apparently these cops were just guilty of being cops.
With precision the Seattle police separated locked arms and arrested 4 of the men seated around the tent. The tactical error that these protesters made was to set up a tent and refuse to take it down. You can not set up a tent in a public park and camp there. You can protest all you want but camping is strictly forbidden. The police remained calm and stone faced in spite of the snarling jeers.
Three policeman on horse back arrived to herd the throng any direction they pleased. Someone started chanting on another megaphone. "Get those animals off those horses!" The crowd chanted back. "Get those animals off those horses."
Hundreds of gadgets caught every moment of the spectacle as every breath from the police was recorded. After seeing news footage of the New York police body-slamming people and blinding others with pepper spray, these Seattle police should be commended for not overreacting or loosing their cool. Had the NYPD been there in Seattle that day many more people would have left crying.
After the tent was taken down the cops simply walked away leaving the remaining 4 men sitting there with their arms still interlocked. The young men were relieved the stand off had abruptly ended. Several of them cried while the others laughed and hugged. After the cops and curious sightseers wandered away a core group of disgruntled citizens remained. Completely different from the young punks who treated the protest as a costume party, they were serious adults with a myriad of complaints about modern living. Older women were there with signs that said. "Hands off Social Security!" and "Renegotiate mortgages."
Scruffy veterans held signs demanding the end to the war in Afghanistan while others wanted Wikileaks whistle blower Bradley Manning released from jail.
Girls came around giving out free samples of Red Bull at one point. Taking back our country is going to take a lot of extra energy.
As much as the main stream media wants to portray these protests as people with no clear agenda, I see it in a different way. It appears that many people from all walks of life are upset by a multitude of topics.
What is important is that something is happening. Americans seem to finally be waking up and coming out of the ether. Everyone seems to be waking up except the corporate-owned media that air white talking heads saying these are spoiled rich kids that need to shut up and go get a job. It has been said many times before that kids are not afraid to speak the truth because they are not tied to the system and we should be grateful for that. In a few years when our nightly news anchors are cheaper brown talking heads live from Bangalore, India, our current news outlets will wish they would have spoken up. You won't be laughing about these protests when your job is made obsolete and you are no longer needed by this corporation that you so loyally serve. Maybe it is not our disenfranchised youth that is spoiled but our TV presenters. Lets never forget that our TV presenters make millions of dollars. We should always question them when they are the ones who are telling us what we should be angry about.
It is easy to dismiss these youths now because they treat these protests like a costume party. Remember that these kids grew up watching vampire movies and they love dressing up. Do not be angered by this outcry against injustice that is blazing it's way from sea to shining sea, grab a bag of fun size Snickers and reward these kids with a treat for finally getting fat ass America off it's Lay-z-boy recliners and giving everyone a reason to go out and shake their fist at the man.
It is the elders of these protests who need to be heard on our televisions now. The ones who have lost their jobs, their houses and are about to lose their social security and health care. Returning war veterans should speak loudly now about our foreign policy and what they have seen. All the promises that this country grew on have disappeared from the common citizen's grasp. The profit machine has steam rolled over every pure drop of life and now that profit machine wants you all to shut up and accept what little chance at a decent life you have. I think that these nation wide protests are going to be the new normal with more fists being shaken at the man. News outlets keep saying how raising taxes on the rich will only hurt our economy but these are the same people who outsourced all the jobs and found new ways to profit from every transaction we make. Now is the time for the older people at these protests to be heard in our media talking about their experiences coming out the other side and not having much to show for it.
The pierced nipple generation has spoken. Don't let the TV news cameras only focus on the youth because they have spent much more time on their hair and have only endured the hardships of painful facial piercings. Americans have finally decided to leave their televisions, go outside and raise their voices about the current state of human affairs. Now if the TV presenters be kind enough to turn their cameras around and interview some of the raggedy older Americans standing around because they are the ones who truly know what it is like trying to live up to the burden of the American dream.
Photos courtesy of Ashna Rodjan.