By Chelsea Ratterman, Assistant Editor
Occupy Wall Street, or OWS as it’s more fondly called, has spawned more than 250 movements across the country, with one hitting fairly close to home. Actually, it’s right in the heart of it. Occupy OKC was officially kicked off on October 10, with the acceptance of the Declaration, a list of grievances directed toward the corporations that “place profit over people,” and the government that allows it, that was set forth by the NYC Occupation.
The reoccurring theme of the protests is that, although each individual comes with a different idea of what the movement is about, there is a 99 to 1 ratio, in terms of economic power. This represents what is thought to be the widening gap between the 99%, the working class, and the richest 1% of the population, referring to those that hold monetary sway over Washington and its policies.
Occupy OKC became organized in a short time. The management group broke the occupation down into groups to take care of the occupants. The groups include Compassion, Infrastructure, Medical, Legal, Message/PR, and Action. At the October 7 General Assembly, the groups went over specifics with protesters from dealing with the media to how to identify the Medical group, and a list of attorneys able to represent them should they find themselves incarcerated.
The Compassion group, marked by blue bands around their arms, is there for emotional and spiritual support of the group. “We are here to keep the atmosphere positive, by sharing good news about other Occupy groups to those here. There is such a sense of community here, and that keeps it positive too. People who may not be able to occupy overnight have offered blankets and rides to those that are,” said Heidi Owens, representative from the Compassion group. The group had set up an area where those wishing to pray or meditate can do so freely and without prejudice. Social workers have volunteered their time and are on location to provide assistance.
The occupation began on October 10, after the group received a permit for overnight camping as well as amplified sound and an unlimited number of protesters. The lighthearted feel was obvious, with occupants playing ball, making signs and even doing homework. The protesting had not quite begun, as the first march was not scheduled until October 11.
After the General Assembly, occupants began setting up tents and even a makeshift kitchen, the “Boots and Barefoot Kitchen,” that served spring rolls, hot tea and water to the masses. It was not run by any particular person, but was a group effort set up by the occupations’ coordinators, and run by the Infrastructure group. The kitchen was prepared for the long haul, and the increasing numbers. “It’s a peaceful protest, and that’s what draws people. Occupy OKC is going to get progressively bigger, just as the other occupations have,” said Cody Ricketts, the representative from the Infrastructure group, and an Accounting major at Rose State.
Those who planned to occupy overnight were obvious as they arrived. They brought in sleeping bags, tents, and their signs. Some of the signs brought in asked things such as “What will you do when you run out of our money?” One group planning on camping for 2 days, and who refused to give names, wishing to be quoted as the 99%, believe the movement got its root in Oklahoma because of word of mouth and social media. There were signs referring to groups as a part of the 99% as well, such as Veterans and the OKCPD. “The movement has created open, relevant discussion everywhere, for everyone,” said the 99%.
Some did not plan on staying overnight, but supported the cause nonetheless. Many get involved through friends who are a part of the movement.
“I care about the cause because it’s really about the future generations that will be affected. It’s important to get our voice out there among the thousands already there,” said Sabria Luster, a Geoscience major at Rose State College, who marched to help show the unity of the group and keep the expression of the meaning of the movement alive.
While the movement seems to have a general cause, the reality of it is that the cause means something different to each participant. Education is even one of the big issues at hand.
“America is the first country to have compulsory education, based on the belief that in order to make an informed decision, one must first be educated. The corporate control has resulted in a country where the common good is no longer important, but rather profit is,” said Patrick Edwards, a PR specialist attending the event.
Whatever the reason, the cause has a place for every belief and welcomes the differing opinions on the state of the country. Open discussion is fostered, and awareness of the multiple views encouraged.