Earlier this week, I was tear gassed by the Oakland Police.
They attempted to shut down the Occupy Oakland encampment – but several thousand people then took to the streets in solidarity, taking down the barricades, and organizing a 3000-person peaceful general assembly. We showed the city and the rest of the country that we are not giving up this fight. Americans are awake, and we're not going back to sleep.
We are tired of severe economic inequality that has resulted in soaring rates of poverty, joblessness, and homelessness. We are fed up with poor healthcare, cuts to education, and the fact that us young people are graduating off a cliff. We are no longer putting up with environmental injustices that have allowed polluting factories and liquor stores to line our communities, causing asthma and diabetes for black and brown kids, further hindering our ability to get ahead.
We realize that in many ways greed and corruption have hindered our ability to be human with each other. And people across the country are making it clear that we are not going to allow ourselves to be divided any longer.
The current economy is depriving us of what we need to live quality lives: clean air, fresh water, healthy food, shelter, education and good jobs. This has been a deep reality for communities of color and low-income communities for far too long, although more and more Americans have been feeling it since the recession.
Occupy Wall Street is a symbol of this frustration, but what’s exciting about this movement is that it’s undefined – and in that, it holds boundless potential.
It’s not endorsing candidates for the upcoming elections or making specific demands to be met within the next month. It’s not limited by the agenda of a particular organization. Instead, it’s opening up a door to re-imagine what real change can look like in this country – it has shifted consciousness about the severity of our crises, and it's a chance to really shift power in this country—but only if get involved.
This growing movement is made up of people of all ages, colors, genders, classes, ideologies, recognizing that we need to drastically change our way of being together on this planet.
As we are tempted to place labels on this movement, analyze its limits, or feel the rush to make demands, let’s take a step back and open our minds. Our biggest barrier to real change is often our own cynicism and disbelief in real change, so we settle for less, we come back home, we think our current system is inevitable. But this time around, we have a lot on our side.
We are the vast majority, we’re acting at the right moment near the brink of economic and ecological collapse, and we have the support of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, calling for a new way of governing, a new economics guided by values that put people and the planet first.
If we want things to change, we must seize this moment. Whether joining a march, fighting back against police repression, moving our money to local banks, forming neighborhood committees, or planting urban gardens, everyone has a role to play.
We are the 99%!