Rally at Occupy Louisville

A sign posted at the edge of camp.

On Thursday, I went down to Occupy Louisville for the solidarity rally. The rally was across the street from City Hall, at 6th and Jefferson.

The people gathered were buzzing about the attacks on protesters in other cities–yet here in Louisville, the police were absent. Occupy Louisville and LMPD have not had any issues. In fact, the only officers we saw were overseeing traffic redirection for the decoration of the city for the holidays!

This video was actually shot the second time we sang, since so many more people arrived.

We started off by singing happy birthday for the Occupy Movement–now two months old. Next, Keith R. gave us a quick overview of what the movement is about, and what events sparked its beginning.

Next–people stepped forward to tell their stories. Heartbreaking stories of job loss, predatory banking practices leading to people having to fight for their homes–all manner of struggle and loss.

The woman in this story preferred to stay anonymous, but wanted to share her story, so Keith told it for her. 

I stepped forward, and told my story. Here iswhat I said:

When the economy collapsed, I was a student at Western Kentucky University. I watched as millions of homes were foreclosed on, and millions lost their jobs. Despite all of that, I thought I was safe. I was doing what everyone told me to do in order to succeed–I was getting a college degree. I was involved in more extracurriculars than you can believe. I never thought that I’d have trouble finding a job. However, graduation came and went, and I couldn’t find a job. Three months passed, and I was getting desperate–I had bills to pay!

Finally, I found a job–it was entry-level. Nowhere near what a college graduate might expect. It was a job I could have gotten had I dropped out of high school–50% of college graduates do not find jobs in their field–fifty percent!

But that’s not all of my story. I never thought that I might not find a job in my field after graduation—but I never dreamed that six months from the day that I received my diploma, I would be homeless.

I woke up one morning to find the eviction notice on my door. I cannot describe to you the fear and panic I felt. I rushed around, packing essentials for my family and I: clothing, toiletries, valuables, expecting every moment to hear a knock on the door. My family and I worked for the next twenty-four hours. Have you ever packed up an entire house in one day? We were lucky. We had access to a trailer, and managed to get a storage unit. We packed with very little sense of organization of caution–we worked every minute knowing the next minute might bring a sheriff to our door to toss us out.

For a month my family was split apart. I slept on a couch at a relative’s home, with no privacy, and few belongings. A month before my family found a house for rent.

There are many different ways to be homeless. Certainly, you would never look at a young college graduate and believe her homeless–but with the plague destroying the land of opportunity, anything is possible. As long as greed creeps in the American Dream–poverty and homelessness are closer than any one of us would like to think.

I came to the rally knowing I was going to speak. I’d spent some time the night before thinking about what I wanted to say. I was prepared. But as I spoke, my voice started to waver, and my hands shook. The people were silent. When I finished, they cheered. When I passed the megaphone back to Keith, and took my spot back in the crowd, a man nearby gave me my coffee–he took it from the table so it wouldn’t spill. (It was quite windy.) As he passed me my coffee, he patted my arm and thanked me for sharing my story, and offered words of encouragement and support.

That interaction repeated itself throughout the afternoon. People came up to me, offering me hugs and support, and thanking me for sharing my story. For making it real to them.

Then, surprise! A reporter from a local news station, WHAS approached me. He heard my story, and wanted to interview me.

Whoa!

Definitely not something I expected.

After all, I only wanted to come down to participate, and record as much of it as possible to share online. Now I’m being made the representative? I did it–but it didn’t feel right. Thursday was the first time I’ve been down at Occupy Louisville, after all.

No moral panic, ya'll. Everybody stayed on the sidewalk.

After that–the rally concluded, and we marched to the Occupy Louisville camp. Everyone milled about a bit, and I got to chat with some of the other people there. Soon, it was announced that a discussion circle was about to begin, so I joined the group heading over.

My first view of Occupy Louisville: clean, beautiful, and strong.

So many passionate people!

So many different walks of life represented!

I had the pleasure to meet Linda, an elderly woman with a myriad of health issues–I won’t list them here, to respect her privacy, but wow. She believed so much in getting involved that she made her way downtown on such a chilly, windy day. I walked with her back to her car; we stopped several times so she could rest. She told me she’d be back. I can’t help but to admire her strength.

There was only one hitch: as we arrived at the camp, we received word that the fire marshal demanded the straw spread over a few areas had to be removed, or the camp would be evicted. The straw was spread on the ground to absorb moisture, to prevent the ground from being muddy. The straw? Wet. Not a fire hazard. Regardless, I joined a few others to rake and scrape the straw off the ground and into a garbage bag. (Yep, only so much as to fill one garbage bag.) We had only one rake, so mostly we picked the straw up with bare hands.

No leader needed when there are people willing to cooperatively work together to solve problems.

If you’re interested in seeing more video of the rally, see here. This was crossposted at The Pulse of the City.

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An Open Letter to the Students of Penn State:

Really? Really?

Children were molested. Your precious football coach did nothing, and your response to his getting fired was to riot in support of him?

Where is your integrity?

Where are your priorities?

Where is your perspective?

This should be a black-and-white issue. Raping children is wrong. Discouraging a witness to this atrocity from reporting it to the police, and allowing the child molester continued access to children is wrong.

Your precious football coach had an obligation–not just as the head of a athletic program, not just as a leader, but as a human being, to do everything possible to stop such a crime, and he did as good as nothing.

That is his failing.

You’re so concerned about your football team, and about your university’s image–yet you would riot for a man who allowed a rapist to go free? Who allowed a child molester to continue molesting children, and represent your university? That’s what you want?

You didn’t riot in defense of a beloved football coach. You rioted in favor of the protection and cover-up of child rape.

You are the epitome of the image of spoiled college students with mixed-up priorities.

I am disgusted and humiliated as a recent college graduate to be associated with the likes of you.

College students across the country are protesting for equal rights, against corruption, for increased access to education, against hate, for love for one’s neighbors, and they struggle to be taken seriously by media, by their representatives, by the general populace.

And then there’s you. Rioting. Destroying property. Assaulting police officers. For a football coach that got fired for his leading role in covering up the RAPE OF A CHILD.

It’s clear what your values are. It’s clear what you stand for. It’s clear what your priorities are.

I hope that, in the wake of this violence, chaos, and destruction that you have a change of heart. That you reflect on your actions. That you make amends to the community and the people for what you did, and most importantly, that you come out in support of the victims. I hope that you will come together and make a stand against rapists, predators, and the people who enable them.

The university is a place of learning. It is a place to share knowledge, and discover new things, for the betterment of ourselves and our society. Contrary to what many think, and how many universities conduct themselves, it is NOT an institution to support athletics. That you, the student body, would resort to violence and destruction in retaliation for the firing of an athletic coach who abetted A RAPIST, demonstrates your lack of understanding about so many things, one of which is the purpose of a university.

Your rabid, obsessive defense of him demonstrates to rape survivors all over the world that you think their suffering isn’t important. It’s silencing. I wonder, in your haste to destroy, did you even think about the message you’re sending to victims everywhere?

Naturally, no.

I’m disgusted and disappointed in you.

You should know better.

Escorts at Louisville’s Abortion Clinic

Kentucky has only two clinics in the state that offer abortion services–one of them is in Louisville, the largest city in the state.

Unfortunately, this clinic is regularly a target of anti-choice protesters. By regularly, I mean all the time. The protesters harass, intimidate, shame, and attempt to deceive women by directing them to the TWO crisis pregnancy centers on the same street as the clinic. (CPCs are fake clinics set up by anti-choice organizations. Their goal is to prevent women from having abortions, by either convincing them not to, or by giving them false information about, well, everything.)

Because of this, a bunch of really great people volunteer to escort women from their cars to the clinic doors. They get up ridiculously early to make sure women have a buffer between themselves and the protesters, and to give them support every step along the way.

The escorts have a blog–they post stories, photos, and video of everything that goes down in front of the clinic. Check it out.

The bullshit they deal with is incredible–the verbal harassment, the pushing, hitting, tripping, physical intimidation, and sometimes, even worse.

I’ve got to warn you, though: it will piss you off.

It pissed me off.

I can’t but admire the escorts–for doing what they do.

I’ve wanted to volunteer myself–but getting up so early, after working so late in the night, is out of the question.

I wonder, too, if I’d be able to keep my temper in check. I wonder if I’d be able to refrain from pushing back, hitting back, or kicking out the kneecap of the person that tripped me. As my regular readers know, I’m big on self-defense.

But then again, I read stories like this from the escorts, and I want nothing more than to go down there and help. I want to escort. I want to write and write and write. I want to write here, and on Pulse of the City. I want to write to the mayor, the chief of police, and anyone else and demand they post officers at the clinic to protect patients and escorts. I want to post endlessly on my facebook page, ranting and educating, and encouraging people to take action.

It’s so easy to hear stories and think, “wow, that’s completely fucked up” and perhaps write a ranty comment, and then go on with your day. Until I found the Louisville escort’s blog, I was like that, too. Reading their stories, talking to people I know that go down there, and seeing the photos and video of anti-choice protesters doing this in my city, to my people, made it so very real to me.

Oh, and by the way? What these protesters are doing is illegal. Obstructing access, intimidation, threats, violence, in order to keep women from obtaining reproductive services–illegal. Did I say it was illegal? It’s illegal.

But they do it anyway.

Not only are the escorts doing important work by escorting women, but they’re also exposing to the world what exactly happens in front of America’s reproductive clinics. Support and honor them by reading their accounts, viewing their photos, and watching their videos.

Quote of the Day: Bloggers on the Bus

Yep, still reading. I found this priceless quote within the chapter analyzing the way bloggers and social media affected the 2008 Presidential race:

“In many ways Clinton was the AOL to Obama’s Google during the campaign season. Online, she represented the more lumbering, established giant, and he was the nimble newcomer. Poor John McCain. He was the CompuServe of 2008.”

LOL!

If you haven’t read it already, why aren’t you?

If you have, what is your favorite quote?

What I’m Reading: Bloggers on the Bus

image

My uncle gave this to me a while back, and I started reading it about 30 minutes ago.

Can I just say how cool it is to be reading about bloggers and our effect on politics in a book?

An Observation on Product Placement: Walgreens

As I browsed the health care aisle for my go-to pain reliever, I notice that the condoms, lubricants, pregnancy tests, and vibrators were gone. I checked the other side of the aisle-nope, not there, either.

I wondered for a moment if some fundy campaign had hassled Walgreens into removing them from their stores.

But then it occurred to me: the “feminine care and baby needs” aisle. I went to check. Sure enough, right across from the diapers, sat the condoms, lubricants, pregnancy tests, and vibrators.

Hmm.

Why had these items been moved from the all-encompassing health care aisle, to the specialized, less-trafficked, dubiously named “feminine care” aisle?

Hmm.