On Saturday I attended the first ever Occupy Delaware rally at Rodney Square in Wilmington. The first thing I noticed was that it was crawling with police. I’ve never actually seen so many police in one place before. The police were actually very respectful, they did not interfere in the rally, even though the rally did not get a permit.
As can be expected from a leaderless, semi-organized movement it was a bit of a zoo. No one seemed clear what to do. People gathered with their signs, speaking with each other in small groups. The crowd was actually fairly diverse, both in age and race but probably skewed to the younger side. Finally the crowd started marching around the square, carrying signs and chanting (“This is what democracy looks like” was my favorite.)
After marching around the square a few times, different people in crowd spoke. Some speakers were great and some were just strange. Everyone who wanted to speak had a chance. My impression was that people felt a bit awkward, they weren’t professional protesters. My estimate is that at the height of the rally there were probably around 200 people there. Perhaps more if you count the people who filtered in and out during the 4-hour period.
When the Occupy Wall Street protests first started I was highly skeptical. What could this group do, especially since it was so amorphous that it was difficult to tell what it stood for. I’m coming around to the idea that not being specific may be one of its strengths (and could still be its fatal weakness). Any movement representing 99% of the population is going to be somewhat incoherent. I think Occupy Wall Street has already won, especially if we keep seeing articles about income inequality and ones like this one: ‘Occupy’ Protest About Standing Up To Reaganism.
I think this is an exciting time in history. We really are on the cusp of a big change, and we could go in either direction. The OWS protests are a sign that perhaps we can pull ourselves back from the brink. At least the nation is finally, finally having a discussion on wealth distribution and widening economic inequality – I feel like I’ve waited all my life for this to happen. I hope that this energy for change, systemic change continues to grow. I’m no expert, but in my humble opinion the protest need to move to the next level, they need to pull in people who can’t or won’t attend marches but give them some concrete actions to take – like supporting specific policy prescriptions.