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What I Learned Occupying Wall Street and DC

| October 23, 2011

In Washington Square Park (Sarabeephoto / Flickr)

By Lacy MacAuley

I was standing on a street one evening near my home in Washington, DC — it seems like ages ago now — with a chatty friend who travels often to New York. He mentioned that a few New Yorkers were planning an “occupation” of Wall Street.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I said, “I’m there.” A few days later, I boarded a bus, backpack and sleeping bag in tow. I was there when Occupy Wall Street began.

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After some chilly nights in Liberty Plaza, I returned to Washington to help plan an occupation in my city. Others in Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, and so many more cities have begun their own occupations. Occupy DC started October 1, and is still going strong.

Many people are asking why. While the occupation of city squares all over the nation is inspiring many people, others are (understandably) a bit perplexed.

But I think people understand more than they know. Something is very wrong with our country and our world. The rich got richer from our economic crisis and the poor barely got the crumbs from their banquet table.

Lacy MacAauley

The Live Commentary

Now big corporations are asking for a new tax break, a tax holiday that they say will create jobs – while the last time Congress granted that tax break the main result was layoffs and downsizing. Corporations are sitting on over $2 trillion in cash but aren’t hiring. Our environment is under assault. Natural disasters are laying waste to towns like Joplin, Missouri, and some lawmakers even held up relief efforts by threatening to trim education, health care, and other vital services to free up money for emergency aid.

We keep paying for wars and people keep dying in them. About 50 million Americans have no health insurance, and too many of them go bankrupt paying for health care. Agribusiness is destroying family farms. Poverty is rampant. Congress can’t stop squabbling. Corporations have too much control. About 25 million of us are unemployed and underemployed and can’t find jobs. Too many college graduates can’t find jobs. Our children’s future is uncertain.

So, many of us are fed up. We’ve brought our anger and hopes to our city squares. We’re not leaving until we see real movement toward change. More people are arriving every day and joining us. In liberated squares, parks, and plazas all over the country, we’re discussing challenges and talking about solutions. Every voice is equal, and all of us are expected to raise our voices, our ideas, our concerns. We’re reaching consensus. We’re figuring it out as we go.

All I can say is that true democracy takes time. At Occupy DC, we meet daily to discuss why we’re there. The unemployed, the foreclosed, and the sick-of-it-all are coming together to discuss the world that we want to see and how to get there. We have big problems. We need big solutions. And those big solutions take time.

While on Wall Street and on McPherson Square on K Street in Washington, I’ve learned how to change my clothes in my sleeping bag. I’ve learned how to run a generator, which keeps us in electronic touch with the outside world. I’ve learned the best methods for hauling plastic bags of donated bread, pastries, and bagels nine city blocks. I’ve learned to appreciate tarps.

I’ve also learned that when we all raise our voices together and work in the spirit of true democracy, we can work toward real solutions and real changes to our world. We the people tend to agree on a lot more than we realize. It just takes coming together, talking things through, and not leaving until things change.

And that’s what the occupations are doing: We’re staying put, and taking the time for true democracy to work.

Lacy MacAuley is a member of the media team at Occupy DC and Media Relations Manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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49 Responses for “What I Learned Occupying Wall Street and DC”

  1. Liana G says:

    Lyla my dear, if a person detests the practices of an organization they should detest working for that organization. E.g. – I detest the exploitative practices of a certain big store retailer, especially against women/ minorities, so I will NEVER work for them. I can flip burgers at any fast food joint for the same pay – yes the food is unhealthy and the work is grungy, but their labor practices are somewhat fair as far as mimimum wage jobs go. This country has more non-union jobs than union jobs, and in some cases getting a union job requires having connections unlike a non-union job, so the choice to not work in a union/socialist establishment is easily attainable.

    As for the rest of your CHOICE statements – I stand by my earlier comment about the domino effect and seeing the BIGGER picture.

    BTW, Bill went to Georgetwon and Yale (private universities) and was also a Rhodes scholar. Hillary went to Yale. They both came from well-to-do middle class families and were successful lawyers in private practice before Bill ran for governor. Forgive me if I cannot see the connection you are making?

    Were you priviledged to the same opportunities as Bill and Hillary but deliberately chose to pursue work in a union/socialist environment instead?


    A very informative article worth reading – even uses religious scripture that the truly morally religious should be able identify with.

    It’s Time for Debt Forgiveness, American-Style,2


  2. Layla says:

    I worked for a company I loved which was controlled by the unions. I just never understood the concept of why I should have to pay somebody so I could work. From my personal experience with that job, I learned that union bosses represent themselves and influence politicians with the money/dues they take from their employees, who are forced to join that union or not work. To me, that is not freedom.

    Fyi, one of my early ancestors in this country was the first to be called “President” of Yale College/University. I am not rich. As I pointed out earlier, we are free in this country to be what we want to be. You don’t seem to be interested as to how Bill and Hillary Clinton attained their great wealth after they left the Arkansas Governor’s office.

    Another relative fought with Gen. George Washington in the American Revolution. No, am not, nor will I ever be a fan of Socialsm.


  3. palmcoaster says:

    Dear Lyla I can help myself from replying to you regarding the supposedly great wealth of Bill and Hillary and we are talking about two lawyers here just la our current President and his wife.
    How come you do not address the wealth of Bush father an original Northeaster that moved to Texas to attain his fortune lobbying for oil? Or the wealth that Cheney also master with Halliburton and the NO BID contract as pathetic dysfunctional war supplier of the war that his CEO engineered for their fraudulent profit?
    The Clintons have many years of combined law practice as well as many years of public service at those top salaries that they all receive, plus benefits plus pensions. Bill Clinton probably receives small fortunes as a speaker, so will Hillary once out of office and both are world wide recognized.
    What else Bush could talk about, as a speaker, that he was “the decider” easy job then with both house and senate approval due to distorted data.
    Honestly I am not happy with any of both parties because…look at what we are enduring today, but one is worst than the other no doubts.
    To lobby and promote the well being of the middle class, workers, students and elderly is not socialism is justice. Capitalism is great, but has turned almost into feudalism here now… can you see that? Do you have to loose your job, to be exposed to this real economic tragedy?


  4. palmcoaster says:

    @ Palmcoastbabe….you are very detail oriented and got that right, was outsource to KY and maybe originated in NJ. That is what this Chamber and their close buddies like DeLorenzo promote. Ask them where all TDC, Schools and Auditorium media print is done under this Chamber direction. Then they band together demanding more taxes from us to fund their giveaways for the supposedly, Economic Development…while taking our jobs and revenues elsewhere with this incredible outsourcing.


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