Occupy Eugene (OE) celebrated its first anniversary Oct. 15 and began its second year of activism. This milestone offers an opportunity to look back to where Occupy has been, and forward to where the movement is going, as well as invite all of you to join in that journey.
The formation of Occupy Wall Street — and subsequently of OE — was a response to the poverty, homelessness, and turmoil that has resulted from the growing inequality between the decreasing number of “haves” and the increasing number of “have-nots” in the world. From the very start, the intent of Occupy was to redress the inequities in social and economic conditions brought about by a lack of effective regulation of financial institutions.
A good example of OE’s activism is the house it has occupied, literally, in downtown Eugene. The home in foreclosure was neglected, falling into disrepair and increasingly being vandalized before Occupy stepped in. This house symbolizes many of the major problems of our times: bank foreclosures, questionable lending practices, and an entire system that privileges big business and corporations over the needs of its citizens.
Perhaps this attitude of privileging the elite is best exemplified by the Supreme Court’s decision that corporations are “people.” An error in that decision is that people are human beings, living creatures who depend on each other for survival and happiness, while corporations are abstract entities with far different needs and objectives. One of the goals of OE is to continue to work on turning the tide, helping to guide our political and economic system to be more responsive to the real needs of real human beings.
In fundamental ways, the foreclosure dilemma is the result of another phenomenon of our times: the working poor, those people who are employed but not earning enough to put food on the table and a safe roof over their heads. The working poor often need to work two or three part-time jobs and are in constant danger of losing what they do have. The number of working poor is growing for several reasons. Wages are stagnant. Many corporations are cutting staff and either outsourcing jobs or employing workers part-time to avoid providing basic benefits such as health insurance. The working poor are often just an economic rung above the also increasing numbers of homeless, many of whom are veterans suffering the after-effects of our various wars and runaway youth who prefer the streets to unbearable living conditions at home.
We celebrate Oct. 15 as Day One of Occupy Eugene because that was the day that over 2,000 Eugeneans from all walks of life marched together in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street calling for accountability from our government and financial institutions. Since that day we have held many demonstrations, as well as Occupy protest sites.
We don’t limit ourselves to demonstrations. We strive to live by Gandhi’s injunction: Be the change you want to see. And in that spirit, we work toward the abolition of corporate personhood that corrupts our electoral process. We produce TV and radio shows that are broadcast locally, as well as podcasts to provide an alternative perspective of social, economic and political developments. On a more local level, we produce a bi-monthly newsletter, The Eugene Occupier, distributed around town. In addition, every Sunday from 1 to 5 pm, Occupy medical sets up its tent in the Park Blocks. The drop-in clinic does not stand alone; we also offer free haircuts, teeth cleaning and periodically tooth extractions in conjunction with St. Vincent de Paul. All of these services are provided free of charge.
None of this would be possible without community support. So we would like to thank everyone who at any time and for whatever reason has contributed to the movement by participating in events, in day-to-day committee work, joining us in demonstrations, contributing ideas, food, clothing, books, medical supplies, articles and poems for the newsletter, donating money, covering our events in the media, and the list goes on. Your support is the ground we stand on; the ground we occupy in body and spirit.