Occupy Movement: Getting the Message Out
There is much unrest in the world these days concerning the economic status quo and those who govern.
The news has been full of uprising and discontent, everything from the Arab Spring to the formation of the Tea Party, and the recent Occupy Wall Street Movement, or Occupy Movement as it is now being called, appears to be adding fuel to that already massive fire.
For those who have been living in a cave the last few months, the Occupy Movement began in New York City in September, when a group of protesters began showing up at Zuccotti Park in New York's Financial District to protest financial inequality between the haves and have-nots.
Since that time, Occupy Movement demonstrations have been held in more than 70 major U.S. cities and 600 communities.
Obviously, the original message has hit a nerve for many, and Nevada County has seen its own version of the Occupy Movement coalesce into an active chapter of demonstrators, peacefully holding Wednesday afternoon marches in both Grass Valley and Nevada City.
Still, ask someone on the street exactly what the Occupy Movement stands for and you're just as likely to get a quizzical look as you are a definitive answer.
Part of the ID problem for the Occupy Movement has been that many different factions have seen the movement as a vehicle for getting out their own divergent messages.
Everyone from environmentalists to anti-war activists has been seen adding their voices to the protests.
Perhaps also helping to muddy the water has been the conservative media's attempt to generalize the protesters as being a bunch of drug-addled, bongo-playing, unemployed hippies.
But that kind of characterization of the Occupy Movement would seem grossly inaccurate. The crowd appears an eclectic mix of both young and old.
Like most of us, local volunteer Heather Keasbey first learned of the movement while watching television.
“It was starting to hit the mainstream media and I said, ‘Wow! That looks interesting,'” Keasbey said. “I certainly thought there was something to it, but wasn't real clear on what that was yet.
“Then in early October, Joe Crain, a friend of mine, said, ‘Hey, let's get together and talk about this and see what kind of support our small town can give.'”
A handful showed up for an initial planning meeting in Pioneer Park. A rally was soon scheduled and to the surprise of Keasbey and her colleagues, the event drew, not the 30-40 people expected, but more than 300.
“It was an astounding amount of support that came out,” Keasbey said. “The general consensus of the people there was that something is not right with the system. The feeling was, ‘Let's get together and see where this is going to take us.'”
Keasbey has been charged with helping get the group's message out to the press. She has been a resident of Nevada County for five years and is a local small-business owner, operating the Nevada City Herb and Tea Company, with her products carried in locations like SPD Markets and Cafe Mekka.
Keasbey recognizes the possible problem with not being able to narrowly define the mission of the Occupy Movement, but believes it is actually part of the movement's strength, rather than a liability.
“The movement does seem really open-ended rather than having a bunch of specifics at the moment,” Keasbey said. “That's actually to its benefit, because what we're really saying is that, ‘No, there's not just one solution.' If we point towards just one problem and say, ‘We'll fix that one thing,' then we would be missing all of these other issues that surround it.”
Keasbey stresses it's important people realize the local chapter of the Occupy Movement is connected to what is happening nationally, but at the same time is hard at work on issues that are specific to the local area.
“This has become a sort of autonomous movement in the sense that each Occupation chapter is going through its own consensus process,” Keasbey said. “We hold general assembly meetings where we come together and ask, ‘What do we stand for and what do we want to represent?' We get a flood of ideas and great information.
“Basically, each Occupation group is doing its own thing. Here in Nevada County, we are coming up with our own ideas, agenda and goals.”
Keasbey encourages those still on the fence about the Occupy Movement this way.
“Each person needs to realize that their voice is important,” Keasbey said. “We are very solidly behind the idea that we don't want to make this about one particular agenda. We want everyone to feel like their voice has been heard and their ideas incorporated into our consensus process.”
To date, Occupy Wall Street Nevada County has held five official rallies, each reportedly attended by several hundred participants.
For more information, go to occupywallstreetnc.org.