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An OpEd contributor to the WashingtonExaminer.com site, Kurt Schlichter, wrote a commentary on the Occupy Wall Street protestors on October 15 that compels me to respond. While it’s quite possible that no one among The Valley Reporter’s readership has seen that commentary, there may be readers who have formed similar opinions, so I’d like to offer a very different perspective.
Mr. Schlichter characterizes the protesters as “spoiled, incoherent clowns,” as “pierced protestors…proclaiming anger at society’s selfishness in failing to satisfy their every want and desire.” Their function, he states, “is to demonstrate inchoate outrage,” and in so doing, he writes, they “alienate the normals.” (By implication, then, the protestors are abnormal.) As his rant continues, he paints all Occupy Wall Street protestors with the same brush: They’re spoiled adolescents, dirty and simply whiners.
Admittedly, I’ve seen them face to face only for a day, but I have to wonder if Mr. Schlicter’s seen them at all or just chooses to despise them from a distance.
When I was at Zuccotti Park last week, I saw about 500 people, by no means all young. In fact, I was impressed by the diversity of age, ethnicity and occupations readily observable. Protestors’ signs revealed a broad range of concerns, but there was consensus that corporations’ influence is so dominant in our government that democracy is imperiled.
Protestors had organized themselves into at least 15 “working groups.” One group was arranging a People’s Library with thousands of donated books (including tomes on political science, philosophy, religion); another was distributing donated tarps, sleeping bags and warm clothes; a third was sweeping the walkways. I saw signs some protestors had made reminding others not to tread on the park’s flowerbeds, and it seemed to me that that concern was being heeded, despite the crowded conditions. Food was being distributed as donations came in. (The city permits no cooking there.) Utensils used by the “Kitchen” working group were being washed and sanitized onsite and an ingenious filter system had been instituted to cleanse the used water before it went into the city’s sanitation sewers.
In their daily general assemblies, protestors had established (by consensus voting, defined as requiring 90 percent agreement) restrictions on themselves that include rolling up bedding by an early morning time to keep walkways open, and not playing music or talking loudly after 10 p.m. so as not to harass the park’s neighbors. I was convinced by my visit that Occupy Wall Street assemblies are as civil as our own Town Meetings. Protestors are committed to non-violence and when (rarely) someone has brought a racist or violence-advocating sign into their midst, they’ve practiced an ages-old banning tactic by “hooting” them out of the park.
All in all, Mr. Schlicter, your opinion and mine of this group could not be more different.
Alice M. Evans lives in Waitsfield.