PLATTSBURGH CITY - THURS. 11/17/11
A flock of crows fly overhead, dark wings flapping under a heavy gray sky. Winter bite in the air. What sunlight filters through the oppressive clouds is quickly fading; the days are now so short. Against the descending gloom the yellow glow of streetlights illuminate the "We Are The 99 Percent" gathering that began at 4 PM.
Despite the sucky weather they rally in Trinity Park to throw off a bit of heat and light. A chanting crowd of college students march down Margaret Street and join them, swelling the count to roughly 75 people.
Like the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators they're fed up, the vocal part of the 99% who think the elite 1% should share more. The ralliers hold up and wave homemade signs, pointed expressions on cardboard and poster board:
-- TRICKLE DOWN IS A HOAX! TAX THE RICH!
-- FAIR SHARE FOR MIDDLE CLASS WORKERS
-- I PAY NO TAXES SO I CAN MAKE MORE SWEATSHOPS IN CHINA
Some people portray the Occupy groups across the nation as spoiled rotten kids too lazy to get jobs. (What jobs?) But a number of grayhairs (besides yours truly) were present, some of them retirees like the former college professor I met. One middle-aged man held up a sign – A BETTER NY FOR ALL
– a message from the union, AFSCME. Many of them grew up believing in "The System" and now they feel it has failed too many people, young and old.
After the rally I spoke with one of the organizers, Tavish Costello, at the ROTA Art Gallery. Inside with bright lighting and comfortable warmth.
At first glance a paranoid conservative might assume that Tavish -- in his mid-twenties, long dreadlocks and beard -- was one of those crazy young anarchists out to destroy America. But with his quiet demeanor and calm voice, his stress on non-violence, that stereotype doesn't apply. Tavish doesn't want to destroy the government; he just wants it to return to the time when it represented the all citizens, not a select few.
Tavish explained how the 99% movement began with Occupy Wall Street and its political action organization, the New York City General Assembly. The NYC General Assembly is a direct democracy group, allowing all voices to be heard. They discuss how to improve conditions, making the federal government become more responsive to the needs of the people, not the ultra-rich or corporations.
While the NYCGA allows all voices to be heard, anything contrary to the basic ideas of the group will be rejected, especially advocating violence. During a GA meeting, explained Tavish, members use hand signals to non-verbally communicate reactions.
He demonstrated the various gestures. He held up his open hands, palms up, saying that it meant agreement with the speaker's viewpoint. Hands down meant disagreement. Arms crossing the chest to form an X meant complete rejection, time to move on to another topic.
Following the lead of the NYCGA, Plattsburgh has its own General Assembly (www.plattsburghga.org
). The group meets every Sunday at 4:00 PM at the ROTA Gallery, 19 Clinton Street, Plattsburgh City.
Recently there were shutdowns and evictions of park occupations in various communities across the nation by local law enforcement. But while that aspect might be over, the movement lives on, even in the hinterlands of New York State.
Asked about media coverage, Tavish had praise for the Press-Republican
newspaper and its reporter, Steve Bartlett. He said Steve's articles were fair. But some of the online comments to those articles on the PR website? Tavish said that living in a generally conservative area as the North Country does make it hard to get the message out, to have people understand.
Following up on his comment I checked the PR site and, yes, while some defended the movement, there observations such as:
"Youth is a great thing do not waste it on crying. When the play ground bully pushes you down. What do you do? If someone controls what seems to be everything look for another angle because this one does not work. Sorry the 60's faded out 42 years ago and this is not Kent state."
"Why are you communists not publishing negative comments on this anarchist movement?"
"Hold a Job Fair at these rallies and watch em vacate....."
"When is the Press Republican and the rest of the main stream media going to really report on these anarchist groups.
"Much is orchestrated out of the White House by the community agitator-in-chief in collusion with the SEIU, Acorn, George Soros and others...
"When the Occupy movement garners support from Venezuela's Cesar Chavez, the Ayatollahs from Iran and nothing is reported in the press, something is wrong."
People who live in a simplistic world of black and white. No confusing shades of gray allowed.
Even within the 99% movement one can find various shades of opinion and belief. While some criticize President Obama for not doing enough, not standing up to the conservative Republicans, Tavish personally believes that Obama is being bi-partisan to get re-elected for another term. It's the second term, Tavish believes, that will allow Obama to accomplish what he really wants as president.
That's why he thinks that Obama wasn't behind the police actions in various cities to forcibly remove Occupy demonstrators from their encampments. It's been reported Homeland Security and other federal agencies were behind the sweep, helping to coordinate it. Tavish says that Obama -- like JFK and other presidents -- have to deal with the NWO (New World Order) group.
It's not the first time I've heard someone his age voice this conspiracy theory.
Like they say, sometimes the left circles around and meets up with the right-wing.
If things don't improve and everyone really gets pissed off, then non-violence advocates like Tavish might be faced with the problem of chaos in the streets. And if that happens, left or right, Democrat or Republican, none of it will matter if mobs of citizens across the spectrum are rioting.
Tavish and others are trying to prevent such a disaster through peaceful means.
But as he observed regarding the recent sweep of Occupy sites, the 1% must be getting worried.