Last night, I headed into downtown Nyack to check out the Rockland County branch of Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street is protesting the faults in the capitalist system that cause working people around the world to live in poverty while major corporations and millionaires gain. Over 400 people were clustered into the plaza across the street from O’Malley’s on Main St to protest the division of capital that puts corporate wealth ahead of humanity. Hosted by the Socialist Club of Rockland and other socialist groups, the Occupy Wall Street event was just a short taste of what’s been going on in lower Manhattan for weeks.
The event was structured in a way that anyone could come on stage and tell their story, and the audience would repeat it back to them at increasing volume. The symbolism behind this was to make everyone’s voice heard. The stories, like the others posted on We Are the 99 Percent, told about personal struggles to pay off debt, working with homeless people who have college degrees, working people being unable to pay their rent, and parents being unable to provide food for their children. These stories were inter-cut with chants saying “We are the 99 percent, and so are you” and “The banks get bailed out, we get sold out.”
Most impressive about this protest is its ability to reach people across generations. I spoke to several people during the course of the event, from high school students to local politicians to people past retirement age.
Patti Kelly, a 17 year old RCC student, said, “Occupy Wall Street is a way to raise consciousness of our situation and its roots, and to claim our power as a collective.” She and the other students she was with worry about the future of college loans to pay off while fighting to find a job in our failing economy.
Emilia White of Spring Valley said, “This is a very important event. Since we are the 99 percent, there are a lot of us and we need to be treated properly. Corporate America is hurting us, and we need to come together and change things for our future.” White is running in the next election for Town Council in Ramapo.
Marc Pessin, one of the main organizers of Occupy Wall Street in Rockland and one of the organizers of the Socialist Club of Rockland, said, “The power of the people is just overwhelming. People have a fundamental goodness. We want to change things so that every human being has a decent working life.”