Sometime ’round midnight on Saturday night, I made the decision to attend an Occupy protest meeting the next day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I’ve been following the protesters, and I’ve been wanting to join up, but I currently reside in such a remote area of South Dakota that it’s nearly three hours to the nearest small city. That small city, friends, is Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s home to many banks and credit card companies, so it is actually a unique place to organize protests. The state of South Dakota is conservative, and as such, they are inclined to be very supportive and welcoming of the big financial businesses doing business. Certainly, a group of protesters will be greeting with skepticism and perhaps even hostility.
The group I met with was small, but dedicated. These protesters, like many throughout our U.S. cities, are in it for the long haul, to effect real and substantial change. Many also want to start conversations on the issues they care about, and the group is dedicated to nonviolence. Protest groups are being infiltrated by nonprotesters who seek to create violence and agitate. Well, that’s to be expected, of course. The protesters as a whole, though, are nonviolent.
The group was also diverse. There were gypsies in patchwork pants along side accountants wearing khakis and polo shirts. The common themes is that people are motivated to eliminate the abuses of corporations and the wealthy, to create more equality, and to eliminate the influence of money in politics. Each person has their own motivation, their own issue that is close to their heart. Looking around the group, I couldn’t help but think that most of the people there were your typical “next door neighbor” type. These protests will be long term because people from many different classes and walks of life are feeling the pinch of living in a society that has become imbalanced and unaccountable.
So, I am officially an activist. An activist, says wikipedia, is an intentional effort to bring about social, political, economic, and environmental change. While something like voting is an activist effort, an activist is usually someone who seeks to directly mobilize the public. An activist may be politically active, but she or he usually is more intentional about drawing public attention to societies ills.
The motivation for me, personally, emerges from my religious convictions. I am not the first Christian activist, not by a long stretch. The 1960s civil rights movement is a classic American example of Christian activism. Other examples in American history include: the work of Quakers, Mennonites, and other groups to oppose war, Evangelicals in the 1800s who worked to improve the prisons and other conditions for women and the poor, Sojourner Truth and the underground railroad, a coalition of Abolitionists who sought to eliminate slavery, Christian women who helped win the right to vote, and various American Christians who opposed the murder and displacement of American Natives.
Then, of course, there were the prophets. They held various protests to draw attention to the injustices in the Israelite community and to draw the people back into a right relationship to each other and to God. These guys were hardcore protesters.
As I said in my first post, our nation needs everyone to engage these issues, even those of you who are skeptical of the Occupy movement. No one is happy with the state of the nation. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, there is a sense that power is being concentrated in the hands of the wrong people. Perhaps it is politically naive to say this, but personally, I would love to see Tea Party supporters engage these issues. One of the guys I chatted with at the meeting yesterday talked about this very thing, how he shares with the Tea Party a concern for expanding government. My tendency right now is to think that we have much more in common than we have differences.
Power to the People.
Occupy Sioux Falls Facebook pageHere is Barbara, whom I met last night, featured in a video of news coverage
Occupy Sioux Falls, brief write up: http://www.ksfy.com/story/15661452/occupy-sioux-falls
Occupy Sioux Falls Occupies 12th Street : “Their goal is to achieve a more inclusive, more democratic and more accountable economy.”
Here is the official Occupy Sioux Falls website. Right now it only has a live stream of the Occupy Minnesota campaign: http://www.occupysufu.org/
Note: This post is part of an ongoing series of posts following the Occupy protest movement. The original post title was “People Power.”