By Nick Braune
Following a Saturday People for Peace and Justice event, discussion shifted to the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York. John-Michael Torres, an active Valley worker, mentioned an upcoming support demonstration in McAllen. I emailed him some questions the following day, and he and some other rally organizers pulled together their replies.
Braune: Fill us in about “Occupy McAllen.” When, where and why?
Organizers: When and where? This Thursday we will meet at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 p.m., and then march at 6 p.m. through downtown and around Chase Bank. The rally will end with a “popular assembly” at Archer Park. Why? To peacefully protest with the rest of the world against corruption, greed and the corporate-driven destruction of our economy and democracy.
The top 1 percent of the population (controlling most of the nation’s wealth) has driven the economy into the ground and then taken U.S. taxpayer money to bail itself out. Those same corporate elites have created the housing and jobs crises that have put so many Americans out of work and out of their homes. Abroad they drive Free Trade policies that ruin local economies and drive poor people out of their countries and into the U.S. in search of a living.
Braune: News reporters often ignorantly imply that younger people are at political protests because it looks like fun. But what would you say are the reasons that growing numbers of young people are going to rallies like these?
Organizers: The Occupy McAllen march and rally, like the New York rally, has been organized almost entirely by young people. Indeed we have always been a part of rallies like these: throughout history and world-wide it has largely been the youth who have demanded change. Youth have great stakes in protesting social, political, and economic injustices.
Braune: This generation is savvy.
Organizers: Yes. This generation has been watching how corrupt the government has been getting, while problems around the world are continuously worsening. Neither Obama nor the Tea Party movement have fixed our problems and in many respects have made them worse.
And this is the first generation, perhaps since the Great Depression, where immense numbers of white youth have not benefited from the economic system. Their working class parents have had their homes foreclosed. Their school loans can’t be paid because they too now are unemployed or underpaid in the shrinking job market. Their reality has gotten closer to what black and brown and immigrant communities have been battling for years.
The largely white participants of the protest on Wall Street have joined campaigns led by black and Latino workers, while their mass occupation actions have inspired communities of black and brown folks to join up with the occupy movement.
Youth across the country and around the world — let’s mention the Egyptian revolution as inspirational — are showing each other something important. If the younger generation doesn’t stand up and voice its opinions and fight to save its freedom, there will be no future for it.
Braune: What are the demands?
Organizers: There is no one set of demands, but fundamentally one No and many Yes’s. One resounding No to corporate-driven interests, which have increased inequality in the U.S. and destroyed both our communities and the earth. And many Yes’s for freedom, liberty, equality, democracy, the protection of the earth and the dignity and self-determination of all its inhabitants.
[From “Reflection and Change,” Mid-Valley Town Crier, Oct. 3, 2011]