A movement began on September 17, 2011when a group gathered at Liberty Park in New York City. They called themselves the 99%, representing the fact that one 1% of the people in this country own 42% of the wealth while the other 99% are scrambling for the crumbs. They slept in tents in Liberty Park and protested against corporate greed, amongst other things. These activists were ignored by the mainstream media until the NYC police began making arrests and spraying these protesters with pepper spray. This sparked both a swelling of support by more people in the community and criticism from the mainstream media. The media began to stereotype these individuals as lost young people who were lazy, naïve and unintelligent rabble-rousers. They were also stereotyped as a young liberal mob with no united goals. As this has spread from city to city across the country, I decided to go to City Hall here in Philadelphia on Saturday October 8. I joined them in their march from City Hall to the Liberty Bell in front of Independence Hall, which symbolizes all that we hold dear. What I found was very different from what is being portrayed in the media.
The demographics were much different from what was being portrayed in the media. Ages varied from very young children to very old and retired. All political parties were there. There were Liberals, conservatives, independents, green party, libertarians, socialists, and others. Although they have been painted as lost souls, with purely far left views, the only politician that I saw written on any signs there were for Ron Paul. Religious groups were extremely diversified. I saw Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists, all celebrating their own beliefs yet united together. Many different races and ethnicities participated. White, black, Asian, Arab, Latino, Native American and Indians were all there. People from the United State, Iraq, and Germany all spoke to the crowd.
I spoke to a man in his forties named Robert. He worked as a school bus driver in Atlantic City until the school district could not afford to pay him due to education cuts by Chris Christie. I spoke to another man in his fifties who worked as a computer engineer until he decided to go back to school to get his masters in history and later found that teachers were no longer employable. Other individuals lost jobs due to outsourcing. Many had found what can best be described as a violation of a social contract, which taught them to work hard at school, get a college degree and you will have a bright future. Instead, they found that they were overwhelmed with student debt and there were neither white-collar nor blue-collar jobs available to them.
The most striking moment may have been when a young man held a sign in front of a limousine that read "You will soon be poor too: Join us." While he, and others, had been using these signs to share their concerns with the traffic around City Hall all day and thru the night, nothing was so symbolic of the movements message that we are all in the same boat even though we don't all realize it yet.
On the surface, there would appear to be a lack of a united cause or cohesive goal. Facially this would appear true. Some people were upset with student debt. Others were focused upon monetary issues, including the bail out and the Federal Reserve. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision was a major cause of discontent. Elsewhere the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a focus, with one woman carrying a large picture of her 24 year old son who died in 2004 during the Iraq war was especially heartbreaking. His comrades in arms could be found daily begging for change on the streets of Philadelphia, because there are so many homeless vets here. Corporate greed was a major theme. Many were also upset with environmental concerns. Some were dissatisfied with health care. Others were dissatisfied with the criminal justice system. Immigration issues were often discussed.
Despite the apparently diverse goals, there was a unifying belief. This belief was that 99% of the voices in this country were being drowned out. Corporations and the extremely wealthy are contributing to lobbyists, the media, PACs and directly to political parties in order to address their best interests while 99% of the people in America are always being left with the choice of voting between two candidates that substantially represent the same ideologies. This is no real choice. This is an issue that concerns all Americans. That is why there is such a diversity of people and interests. In time, all Americans (with the exception of 1%) should see that regardless of their personal political views this movement is about restoring a voice to those that have been silenced by those that can buy the policies that are in their bests interests. This is a fight to create a real democracy to replace a plutocracy that has taken over this country. Those who do not join are inadvertently walking this country towards becoming a third world country. Despite our varying political beliefs, we all must unify to remind government that it is a government of and for the people rather than vice versa.