Occupy San Francisco

Spent the first half of this beautiful Saturday helping teach digital media skills to journalists, the second half in the streets of San Francisco marching in solidarity with OccupySF protestors. Today there were more than 1500 “occupation” marches taking place in cities around the country (check out the meta-information site OccupyTogether for information on greed-opposition protests near you).

Give a damn

The movement is criticized for being unfocused, for making too many simultaneous statements. In a way, that’s true. But that’s also its power. People are mad about a lot of different things: The bank bailouts, tax shelters, joblessness, golden parachutes for executives, corporations treated legally as persons, starvation of school budgets, the mystery of allowing churches to not pay taxes, threats to Medicare, the unlimited power of The Fed and the wars it funds… but most of the complaints come down to one thing: The effect of greed on the economy and our lives.

Health care for all

So what’s my beef? Posted this on Google+ the other day:

I am not opposed to wealth and I am not opposed to capitalism. I am opposed to greed. Capitalism without checks in place gives way to greed, which is abuse of the capitalist system. When greed rules, people get hurt. Bankers were allowed to crash our economy in part because, in the system of checks and balances, checks were removed that allowed greed to rule. Unwise deregulation allows self-serving greed to run rampant. If you were to ask me “What does Occupy Wall Street want?” I would answer “We want to restore the regulations that prevent unchecked greed from destroying the level playing field.”

It was just amazing to feel the collective energy of these 5,000 people taking over 10 square blocks in San Francisco. In the 1960s, when people got pissed they took to the streets. There was a spirit of collective power that’s largely gone missing in the 2000s (protests against the Iraq war were anemic and rare compared to those against Vietnam). But this felt different. Felt like the start of a new awakening that people actually have had enough, and are ready to stop being steamrolled by greed. I don’t know where all of this is headed, but it’s incredibly satisfying to see a protest movement rising up to address this very broken system. Over time, the message will become more concise. And who knows, maybe something will actually get done.

Miles told me this morning “Protests are boring – they’re just a bunch of people carrying signs that say ‘Up with this’ and ‘Down with that.'” Not sure I was able to get through to him – it’s tough figuring out how to explain all of this to a child. But in the streets today, I felt like the message of the day was carried more by the huge variety of ideals expressed through signs, even more than (often simplistic) chants that spread through the crowd like floating bubbles. Took a lot of photos today, mostly of signage. Here’s a Flickr set from the day, mostly of signs.

Or view the slideshow full-screen.

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