This a movement based on class, which, as an issue, most Americans don’t much like to confront, largely because to admit that it is an issue is to admit that a great part of the American self-image is a delusion. We do not all have an equal chance. The game is rigged. The economy has been turned into a casino and the house always wins, and we are not the house any more. Not for a long time. Not by the longest shot. And if that’s all these protests ever say, if that’s all that ever gets shouted into the rising autumn wind, then that’s an effort worth making.
That’s from Charles P. Pierce’s great post on Esquire.com about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that have been going on in New York City for weeks now. I highly recommend you read it, if you’re looking for reporting on the subject matter that reflects the actual tone of the protests without simultaneously mocking the hippie spirit involved and represents the reality of the varied types of people from across the country with different jobs and political leanings who all feel the same way about insatiable corporate greed: that the demand for profit at all costs must be curbed. That American workers and foreign workers being mistreated while making consumer products to be sold in the U.S. deserve better. That the immense gap between rich and poor must be closed by raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent of the population.
I’ve been excited about the Occupy Wall Street movement since I heard about it back in mid-September, but I was reticent to go downtown and join the fray because I thought it might not be a friendly place to bring my 6-year-old daughter, and I was terrified that if I showed up in Zuccotti Park alone while she was at school, I might get arrested and then there would be no one to pick her up. I certainly wasn’t planning on conducting myself in a way that would result in an arrest, but as hoards of footage taken by peaceful protesters has shown, the police have been indiscriminate about their use of force, a fact that has shocked many Americans. Several people have noted – if not so much in the media proper, certainly on the street and via social media – that Occupy Wall Street as a movement was catalyzed and has been sustained by young white people. If Black America’s involvement has remained low, that’s largely because – as my friend and fellow comedian Jeffrey Joseph joked on Twitter – “Thought of joining Occupy Wall Street but cops are beating up WHITE women. My ass would become the Crispus Attucks of the recession revolt.”
So I was trepidatious about getting involved, but as I watched the movement grow from the comfort of my laptop screen, I knew I needed to physically show up to a rally, to support with not just my mind but my body. I started asking friends who had been going every day, “What’s the likelihood of arrest? Have you seen any kids down there?” My friend Ted Alexandro, a brilliant comedian and working-class philanthropist, has been at Zuccotti Park almost every day for the past few weeks (check out this excellent 4-minute video profiling his involvement in the movement) and he assured me that things were relatively calm for the most part. My friend Mica Scalin mentioned that she’d seen some families with young kids participate in the planned march from City Hall to Zuccotti Park on October 5th, and it was then I knew I had no excuse. I took my daughter down to Washington Square Park this weekend to see the hippie kids waving their jazz hands in support of democracy with my own eyes and to add my voice to the growing masses representing the 99%. These are the folks I met: