Corporate Greed is on the Table: The Occupation Movement has Broken Through a Wall in America
As I headed out in my ’94 Volvo to drive from Philadelphia to Washington for the first day of October2011.org, the occupation of Washington, I spotted some trouble: the ABS warning light on my dashboard panel was lit. Stopping at my neighborhood mechanic to get his okay for the drive, I found him busy inflating the tire of a new white Mercedes. As the driver, a well-dressed middle-aged woman, looked on, he asked me what my problem was. I asked if it was safe to drive the car to D.C. with the ABS not working.
After telling me my brakes were fine and I just didn’t have skid prevention, he asked why I was going to the capital. “To cover the first day of the occupation there,” I said.
The woman interjected, “Oh, is that part of those protests against corporate greed?”
As I pulled onto the Interstate and headed for Washington, I thought about her question. Clearly, something huge has just happened. Occupy Wall Street, and the wave of occupations that have spread to over 100 cities across the country, have broken through some invisible wall in American consciousness. If this member of the upper class, or at least upper middle class, with her $50-60,000 car, can casually talk about “corporate greed,” a term that is also starting to appear in the nation’s mainstream media, we are in a new place.
I got the same sense of being in some kind of alternate reality or new world as I joined thousands of people marching through the streets of Washington, first denouncing President Obama at a stop in front of the White House, then briefly blockading the entrance and shutting down the US Chamber of Commerce building just down the street from the White House, and then finally blocking traffic on K Street, the home of the big corporate lobbying offices. Unlike at prior anti-war demonstrations I’ve attended over the past decade in Washington, nobody heckled or cursed us out this time for inconveniencing them at rush hour. Nobody derided our signs or our rousing chant of “Banks got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out!” In fact, we got cheers, beeping horns, and raised fists and peace signs from passing drivers and people standing along the sidewalks--including men in tailored suits and women in heels.
There were some striking differences between the occupations of Washington, DC which began Thursday, and the occupation of Wall Street in New York City, which is into its third week, and which I visited over the weekend. First of all, it’s the amount of gray hair you see in DC.