Occupy Wall Street started it all and the movement spread across the country from there. People have camped out at Los Angeles City Hall and it got ugly in Oakland, as more violent factions began breaking off from the main group of demonstrators, resulting in a running confrontation with Oakland’s beleaguered police department.
This past Saturday, Nov. 5 the Occupy movement reached Bishop, and it did so Bishop style. It was noted that, unlike the protests in metropolitan areas, the “Occupy 395” movement seems to have a legible agenda and identifiable players.
There were no tents set up for Saturday’s “Occupy 395” event and no pledges to remain encamped for weeks or months on end. Instead, between 200 and 300 local residents gathered at Academy and Main streets throughout the day to carry signs, march to Bishop Park and back, and proclaim their support for …what? Well, the answer to that question depended upon the speaker.
Signs touching upon a variety of issues were carried by the protestors. A sampling of these included things such as “Globalization without Representation,” “Medicare for All,” and “Corporations Are Not People.” Vehicles and commercial trucks passed by on U.S. 395, with some honking, apparently in support, while the crowd of protestors expressed their feelings in a non-confrontational way. The group obtained city and Caltrans permits and even distributed a message written by best-selling author and financial expert Dave Ramsey, expressing an opposing view.
Bishop’s “Occupy 395” effort began about a month ago when Steve Seats broached the idea with Caddy Jackson, a retired Methodist minister from Bishop. After a meeting with about a dozen interested local citizens, a brief publicity campaign was launched by the ad hoc group.
The one cohesive aspect of the organizing effort centered on a document called “Contract for the American Dream.” This contract supports a 10-point outline of action that most would describe either as a progressive or liberal agenda for America. It calls for investment in America’s infrastructure, investment in public education and Medicare for all, among other things.
Asked for his views on the Tea Party and the idea that the Occupy Wall Street campaign seemed to be the response of the left to that movement, Seats commented that he hoped that the various Occupy movements wouldn’t be “co-opted” as seems to have happened with the Tea Party movement. He explained that the difference in focus of the various participants in the Occupy effort as a function of the fact that there are so many problems in society at present time that there cannot be one focal point.
Jackson addressed the crowd and said that the Tea Party movement has reminded fellow citizens of the need to actively participate in government and he thanked the group for that. He added that his primary focus was on the increasing income disparity in the country, political polarization and the need to recapture the middle. He also supports the “Contract for the American Dream.”
A few weeks prior to his participation in Saturday’s demonstration, Jackson met in Bishop with Bob Haueter, U.S. Representative Buck McKeon’s deputy chief of staff (Santa Clarita Office), to discuss some of these issues. Jackson described the meeting as not very productive, but they did agree about the conclusion that America was becoming increasingly polarized, with voters more likely to elect candidates at the extremes. Jackson said that Haueter concluded that this was due to both parties creating safe districts and that he saw no solution to that problem “in our time.”
Whether the movement remains a truly grass roots effort or becomes something else, perhaps along the lines of the Tea Party organizations, remains to be seen. Reports out of Occupy Wall Street have included the fact that the Wall Street group has received a little more than $454,000 in donations, with that information having been released by their organizers. Most of those funds are reported to have been donated via the Internet.
The Occupy Wall Street organization has begun restructuring itself along representative democratic lines, due to their growing numbers and the amount of donations received, and is now considering granting funds to the Oakland group. Thus reports indicate the independence of the various groups is showing signs of blurring.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh claims that the Occupy movement is being financed by George Soros, a philanthropist worth an estimated $22 billion and a supporter of liberal causes. On the opposite side of the spectrum, liberal critics of the Tea Party point to Rupert Murdoch and David and Charles Koch as the primary financial backers of the Tea Party movement, with the combined wealth of the three estimated at more than $57 billion.
These competing claims seem to have left both the Tea Party and Occupy movements under a cloud in terms of financial backing, according to critics of both, who say that, unlike political parties with clearly defined organizational structures, it is far more difficult to determine lines of authority and what their long term objectives may be.
Organizers and supporters of Occupy 395 point out that in Bishop, it is relatively easy to identify those involved and to reach some conclusions about their agenda, whereas in large cities such as Los Angeles or New York, that process becomes a serious challenge.
The “Contract for the American Dream” document can be viewed at http://contract.rebuildthedream.com .