And with that chant, the occupation of Oklahoma City began early Monday evening when approximately 150 people gathered at downtown Kerr Park to demand economic justice and fairness in the face of growing wealth disparity dictated by our corporate-controlled political system.
The group, Occupy OKC, a spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, have a three-day permit to camp at the downtown park, which is primarily concrete and decorated with fountains, and it has even brought in portable bathroom facilities.
A march through downtown Oklahoma City, starting near the park, was scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.
On Monday, the park’s small amphitheater was decorated with signs proclaiming “We are the 99 percent,” which refers to how 1 percent of American control the wealth in this country. As wages stagnate, unemployment and underemployment remain high and medical costs skyrocket, many Americans have been left behind. Young people, in particular, have been recently labeled as a “lost generation” when it comes to economic opportunity.
Initially ignored by the mainstream media and dismissed by pundits, the Occupy Wall Street movement has continued to flourish. Its name is based on a fairly simple premise: it’s unethical and immoral that Wall Street investment bankers were bailed out with taxpayer money for their misguided greed while middle-class and impoverished Americans endured the economic hardship caused by that greed.
Will the movement grow and continue to have an impact? It seems likely that this movement and other protests are a beginning, though what it might be named-even if it’s even named-or who will become national leaders remains to be seen. It seems certain that it will operate outside the frame of establishment-condoned protests, and it may take months and even years for its success.
Although the economy here is not as bad as it is elsewhere, Oklahoma does share economic problems with the rest of the country. Many young people have to go into massive debt to attend college, for example. They lack job opportunities in their chosen fields. Many lack health insurance and face financial ruin if they get sick. The economic system here, as elsewhere, is heavily weighted to benefit the wealthy.
According to a recent New York Times editorial:
Research shows that such extreme inequality correlates to a host of ills, including lower levels of educational attainment, poorer health and less public investment. It also skews political power, because policy almost invariably reflects the views of upper-income Americans versus those of lower-income Americans.
Occupy OKC has its Oklahoma feel, of course, and it’s bringing together young and longtime progressive activists in the community, but it’s driven by a new spirit and energy.