It’s a beautiful Saturday morning on Freedom Plaza. Colorful signs, banners and tents fill the square as dedicated campers emerge from sleeping bags and prepare for another day advocating for change. I sit at our “base camp” with a group of social workers from Tulane University. Many have come to know us as the “Mardi Gras crowd.”
This is my first protest, but that’s not the case for many participating in October2011. We have met activists from places like Florida, Wisconsin, California Arizona, and New York. As more activist groups form in cities nationwide, we begin uniting through one single word: Occupy.
One man brushes his teeth as his lawn neighbors dismantle their tent. Others walk the Plaza taking pictures of group displays as if visiting vendor booths at an annual fundraiser. Film companies, photographers and news reporters ask occupants about their reasons for participating in this event. I have no doubt that the diverse group of activists know why they’re here, but I watch with hope that each has prepared solid responses for the media.
Though I have little to compare it to, October2011 is different than what I imagined. The people are determined, but the Plaza is peaceful. Before this weekend, I associated the word “protest” with loud, energetic and overbearing activists who hold signs and fist pump demands into the sky. So far, I have only seen this in organized marches from Freedom Square to various destinations within Washington, D.C. The Plaza itself has been ground for like-minded discussions, organized committee meetings and various workshops.
Too many events and emotions have filled this weekend for one blog post to do justice. Stories will come in a series. As I soak in the experience and sort my thoughts, however, I realize one thing is for sure. Occupy has become the word of the season. It has turned into both a mission and promise for active Americans who are taking a stance and demanding change.