I am the 99%…… I have the laminated poster to prove it
Redistribution of wealth was an issue first raised by my African-American Political Science professor. That was in the mid 70s. At that time, we also glimpsed a future war fought over food. How ironic that so many of us marching today, children of Depression Era parents, came of age in a time where the words bread and money were mainstreamed and interchangeable. Now protesters on the ‘Wall Streets’ of more than 900 cities are taking the moneyed to task on how they will serve people working for their daily bread.
Occupy Wall Street, the phenomenon that moved from our news screens to our neighborhoods all over the world, is a series of demonstrations, with no end in sight. To date, it is without any formal leadership, and a varying manifesto of demands. The reasons for protest and discontent are mostly on the lips of the protestors and on the placards they carry.
Yes, it means you can dial into the news or peruse social media posts and pictures of placards and handmade signs with messages that are indescribably poignant and powerful in their brevity. Nothing, however, beats showing up- in person.
A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to Occupy Vancouver
On October 15, a sunny Saturday, a friend and I strolled down Robson Street in Vancouver. Our destination was The Vancouver Art Gallery, where Occupy Vancouver was ‘happening.”
The street is known as ‘the Rodeo Drive of Vancouver.”It pales in comparison, but it’s our local, west coast Canadian version. I pondered the wild variations on my route to the rally for equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity for all citizens-for the 99%, many of whom comprised my fellow pedestrians. Some shopped the window displays. Some displayed their small requests on cardboard signs next to ‘their regular spot’ on the street.
One corner had a clutch of well endowed young women clad only in vibrant lingerie topped by sheer boudoir cover-ups. They offered in-store discount cards for the place the frilly things came from. The next two corners sported smiling promoters of travel to New Zealand, clearly marking out their turf by holding upright surfboards.
A small group moved past us, a brass band gently marking their pace. Uniformed police walked with them and motorcycle police bookended them. We thought we had encountered an advance group for Occupy Vancouver, but no, it was an animal rights group. Like many readers here, cash for humans and compassion for animals is on my mind. My companion, an ex banker conscious about capital and a full time vegetarian and I stood with them in solidarity and a few moments of fusion of purpose, on the way to the forum.
One last batch of foreign visitors and oh, the uniformed police overheard wondering if another couple of ladies passing us in tight black PVC pants and ankle boots were also protesters, then we were only one more hop around the new permanent 2-way bicycle lane away from the protest.
The 99% were in the hundreds. They were all ages, races and economic situations as well as diverse agendas. Within a few hours, they would be in the thousands and marching steadily and peaceably for blocks. Later, the massive steps were lit up and some discussion continued while others slept through the night as compact tents bubbled up all over the Art Gallery grounds. In an earlier life, the VAG was the courthouse. Poetic.
Walking home from the assembly, my newly acquired laminated placard in tow, I was struck by a mix of random reminiscences from my student days: “The peasants never revolt when they’re starving,” which explained why people don’t protest at the greatest point of their suffering. “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” “All you need is love.”
“Do it.” “Power to the People.” “Peace.”
Helena Kaufman is a writer and communications trainer.
In 1982, success at promoting, marketing and writing about 200 artisans launched Helena as an event publicist.
The designers who sold at the Annual Manitoba Christmas Craft Sale exhibited original functional and decorative pieces in fibre, pottery, metal, oil, paper, wood, distinctive wearable art and more.
Helena worked to raise their profile, bring media attention and increase their sales.
She now shares some of that savvy here at Lanterloon as one of our writers.
Helena’s writing and communications site can be found here.