Today I had the honor of hanging out with two of the original Occupy Wall Street protestors.
I found myself in the middle of one of their meetings looking a little more than confused and Californian. I walked up to the first person I thought seemed approachable. My definition of approachable: no face piercings and/or colored hair and tattered clothing.
I met a man, who’s name I could not pronounce, let alone spell. And the first thing he said to me was, “You look new.”
The conversation flowed and within a few minutes he was giving me the quick history of what OWS is and how it came to be. A few moments later another man, Drew, sat right beside me. The first thing out of his mouth was, “You look new.”
I clearly wasn’t blending in as well as I had hoped.
The two-way banter turned into a three-way conversation. I found myself smack dab in the middle of an activist sandwich.
I have heard about activists, watched videos of causes that I pretended to be involved in for a few days. I’ve always been around people who “fought” for something, in other words argued on the internet. In so many ways I dubbed myself as one on a rather small scale. None the less.
This group of humans, so diverse and odd, fit together like a patch work quilt. Stitched together by anarchy and purpose. Stuffed to the seams with devotion.
And this is where I learned that to them, the “White collars” are the enemy, and “we” has the same definition as “the United States of America.”
This is also where I learned that the boy with 4 piercings and the pink mo-hawk used to be a bank teller and the man with a button down shirt and slacks has been homeless for a year.
“Everyone here is equal. Its funny, we’ve had white collars come out, some really big celebrities, even politicians who have wanted to publicly speak at our protests on our behalf. Yet they assumed because they were something, we would put them at the front of the line for the podium. They found themselves in line next to homeless men, authors, & criminals. Thats the point of our occupation. We’ve had white collars come and ask us “Who is running this thing?” We always just laugh and say, “Pick any one of us.” We aren’t trying to destroy the world. We’re just trying to be heard.” -OWS member, Drew.
“Thats all this is really about. People just need the balls to come approach us and listen, really listen. We aren’t trying to take over the country. We just want to have a say in it.” -other OWS member whom I already respect too much to butcher his name.
I sat amongst a group of people who, from what I was told, are the hardest of the hard core OWS activists there are. Opinions will vary, battles will be fought and lost. The line between wrong and right, black and white, yes and no, will be curved.
But these people have become a family, have sacrificed comfort for cause, and safety for purpose. Purely because they believe they should have a voice.
In so many different forms and versions, we are all fighting the same battle daily.
Thank you OWS members. I was listening.