Any and all opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone and do not represent the views of Whole Foods Market, Inc., its shareholders or subsidiaries.
It is Wednesday afternoon and the rain is pouring down. A group of people stands in a corner of the U.C. Center quad with protest signs. They are the protestors of the Occupy Humboldt campaign, and they are just one part of a much larger protest sweeping the nation.
The Occupy protests began on Wall Street in New York City on Sept. 17 and have spread to 834 American cities at the time of this writing, according to occupytogether.org, the centralized website for protests nationwide. Some argue that discontent in the U.S. is inspired by the recent revolutions and uprisings in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. “Actually, this started in Egypt,” says Caitlin Knox, a participant in the Occupy Humboldt protests. “This started with the revolution in Egypt. It’s not just nationwide, it’s global.”
“We’re just here to take a stand, and say we’re tired of the corruption in our government. We’re tired of money controlling our government; we’re tired of corporate greed,” Knox says.
The protest site at the quad is a conglomeration of pop-up canopies, plastered with signs that say things such as, “We are the 99 percent, and so are you.” “The 99 percent” is a common theme among all the Occupy protests, a reference to the inequity of wealth distribution in the U.S., which seems to protestors to be disproportionately skewed in favor of the top one percent.
The national movement has garnered plenty of criticism, most commonly that the protestors have released no demands, and do not appear to have any defined goals, or even unified complaints. “Ideas are still developing, and its hard to get a clear goal and message when you have so many people so angry about so many things,” Knox says in response to these criticisms. “Every revolution has stages, and this is still in its infancy.”
Roy Buchanon, another Occupy Humboldt protestor, cites different reasons for the perceived ambiguity behind the movement. He paraphrases from one of the original protesters on Wall Street, “If you think of it as anything, think of it as a big discussion, created by the people, about the things that need to be addressed that the media and the government won’t talk about.”
The discussion, while perhaps lacking specifics, seems to center on anger at government corruption, corporations, and the inability of average people, the 99 percent, to be heard by the government.
Knox states her goals for the movement, “We can get corporations out of our government by removing lobbyists, and then I want to see more power put in the hands of the states.”
Buchanon seems to have completely different reasons for participating. “People coming together and connecting and breaking down the divisions that make people think they’re separated,” he says.
The occupation of the HSU campus began on Saturday at 3:00 p.m., and continued despite the downpour on Tuesday night. Protesters take turns spending the night at the protest site, maintaining a presence of at least six people 24 hours a day, according to Buchanon. Wooden pallets were donated by a local business, and serve to keep those spending the night off the ground and out of the water. Other local businesses, as well as individuals, regularly donate food, water, clothing, and even hot chocolate to the protestors.
The movement has no leader. Organizational meetings are held twice daily, and each time a mediator is chosen to moderate discussion. “Any decision or idea that is decided upon by the group has to be total one hundred percent consensus, agreed upon by everyone involved, or else the discussion continues,” explains Buchanon.
“I think that there is a broad overall goal that connects every one individual, and that is creating a new way of living and relating and working together that works for the highest good of everyone,” Buchanon says. In that goal, the protest may already be succeeding.