What Our Local 'Occupy' Event Is About
This past Sunday, I was taken by surprise at church when someone asked me about a story they had just read in The Pilot about Occupy Broad Street.
I had known The Pilot was interested. On Friday afternoon, I had received a call from my wife saying that staff writer Ted Natt had left a message asking me to call him ASAP. I was a little apprehensive because we are so early in the process that there just isn't that much to tell. By the time Mr. Natt's message was relayed to me, I had already missed him.
The result was a short article that, while factually accurate, was so light on details as to leave much to the imagination. As someone directly involved in the process, allow me to help fill in the blanks about what we are planning for Saturday, Dec. 10, at the downtown park in Southern Pines.
This whole thing came about as news stories about the spread of Occupy Wall Street movement made their way onto Facebook walls. As the movement spread from Zuccotti Park to cities across the country and around the world, the idea of doing something locally started popping up. A few of the people who were interested contacted a few other people, and we began working on putting something together.
The name "Occupy Broad Street" was the first one that came up, and it was what we used to do the paperwork and to do a Facebook page. But, as was discussed in the second meeting, it was a bad fit because Wall Street symbolizes something that Broad Street just does not.
In a world that often contrasts Wall Street and Main Street, the locally owned small businesses that make up Broad Street make it our "Main Street." Rather than corporate greed, Broad Street symbolizes the kinds of businesses we want to support. Our first meeting was at a restaurant on Broad Street. It is for us a destination, not a target.
Moore County, on the other hand, is a pretty effective symbol for the inequities of income and access to power that the occupy movement is about.
I had a chance to speak to Lee Riggsbee from The Southern Pines Business Association Monday. His association has reservations about the effect that the event might have on downtown parking - a legitimate concern. The last thing we want to do is to impede commerce to small businesses. We are looking for ways to make sure that parking will not be an issue.
I mentioned to Mr. Riggsbee that people who attended our event might actually use the businesses on Broad Street. He was skeptical that people who showed up for a protest would be inclined to then go shopping.
Here's what you need to know about the "kind of people" who are involved with the local movement: They are your neighbors. You go to church with them. They sing in your choirs. One reason we didn't ask for Dec. 3 is that some of our organizers will be representing Pinecrest High School in a debate at George Mason University on that day.
You play golf with our organizers. They volunteer in local charities. And, yes, they shop on Broad Street.
We are people with something to say. It can be as broad as "Hey, this isn't working for us. Let us demand that our leaders stop their posturing and bickering and actually do something to put middle-class Americans back to work."
It might be, "Maybe we can't solve all our problems by 'soaking the rich,' but punishing the poor isn't working either. If we tune out the talking heads and try listening to each other for a while, maybe we can find solutions." It can be as specific as asking people to write their legislators and ask them to support a constitutional amendment requiring that political campaigns be publicly financed because the market of ideas shouldn't be about the highest bidder.
This isn't Oakland. One of the reasons that it is an all-day event is to allow as many people as possible to participate. It is two Saturdays before Christmas for us, too. We have shopping to do, family in town and football games we don't want to miss.
Nobody is camping out. I'll be surprised (and gratified) if more than a handful of people stay all day. We have tried to be and will continue to be good citizens. All we want to do is to assemble peacefully and exercise our freedom of speech.
Kevin Smith, a freelance writer who contributes columns to The Pilot, lives in Aberdeen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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