I would like to straighten out misconceptions about the people at the Occupy Harrisburg movement supporting Occupy Wall Street. I have seen snide comments about Occupy Harrisburg, and because I have been a participant and also have followed the movement from the beginning, I believe I have a unique perspective. I have met young people, older people and middle-age people. The main theme is that our government doesn’t hear us. That sums it up.
You can be left, right, tea party or independent or you might not vote because you think your vote does not count, but all of us are not heard by our government. We have no voice.
The Occupy participants have been labeled as fleabaggers and some shout “get a job.” Well, surprise. The protesters I have talked to have a job, some go to school, some cannot afford college, some have college tuition bills that are overwhelming, and some have two and three jobs just to sustain themselves.
These protesters are composed of a wide spectrum of central Pennsylvanians. There is a 23-year-old who will graduate from Penn State in December. He and his father were at the protest last week. His little brother was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge during the protest in New York. His reason? The government does not work for the people.
Then there is the 19-year-old who holds two jobs and wants a better life for his little brother. So he holds up a sign all night. There is a woman and her fiance, who are inflicted with psoriatic arthritis, but she is working on a college degree. I asked whether she received government help for college. She told me no, her parents were helping her. She wants a better life.
No one will hire them due to restrictions because of their health problems. Even with their pain, they are in front of the state Capitol most nights. They are the ones that we are here for, and they stand beside us. They, too, say government does not hear their voice.
I cannot leave out one young woman, 22, who has been protesting most days. We finally got to talk during the second night. I found out her sister, who lives on the West Coast, is in the military and went to a demonstration of Occupy in her area. She called her sister to check out Occupy Harrisburg. So she came, she was moved, and she shows up every day and has stayed all night on several occasions.
"I can see she is tired, but she listens, she shares her thoughts and then gets up and grabs a sign and walks. She has a job, works 40 hours a week and also is going to school. She was drawn in by the movement, the people ..."
I can see she is tired, but she listens, she shares her thoughts and then gets up and grabs a sign and walks.
She has a job, works 40 hours a week and also is going to school. She was drawn in by the movement, the people, even though family members are conservative. She was worried about the reaction of her family, but she finally told her grandparents, who were thrilled and proud of her. The smile on her face told me this was worth a sleepless night.
There are many more that go in and out of the protest when they can. Most carry overwhelming tuition debt. Just recently, a Messiah College professor stopped by to support us. There were two men from West Virginia who stopped at all the cities having Occupy movements on their way to Canada. Not a fleabagger among them.
All these people were intelligent, had serious concerns and decided to step up and be counted. Some are young and do not fit the profile of what you might think is a “normal” appearance. But as you look deeper, it’s clear they can talk rings around some adults I know.
They know what they are angry about, they know they want a better world, and I am proud to know every one of them. I watched a wonderful group peacefully demonstrating, holding general assemblies where everyone has a voice. And I wonder if others came whether they would not learn what real democracy is about. Everyone is given a voice, every voice is heard. It is peaceful, we have rules we must follow, and we obey the rules set out by the Capitol Police and show them respect.
I also want to mention the wonderful people that are supporting us by donations of food and honking their horns as they go by. We have a chant that says it all, "What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like."
Author - Jackie Wilson
Jackie writes from Dauphin. She has been on the state Capitol steps most nights with the Occupy Harrisburg protest.
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