First-hand from Occupy Wall Street

For Your Consideration

Alan CheahDecember 8, 2011 

What a coincidence that John Pero's perspective on the Wall Street Occupiers (Sierra Star, Dec. 1) appeared two days after I was standing in the rain in Zucotti Park mingling with the very people he speaks of.

I arrived in New Jersey on Nov. 23. On Thanksgiving Day, like most Americans, I celebrated with family. My niece, a classical concert cellist, traveled from Berlin with a companion who, to the delight of everyone, was announced on that day to be her fiancé. My nephew, a managing director of a New York private equity firm, and his wife flew in from Shanghai. We all gathered at my brother's and sister in-law's home in Ridgewood, N.J. The reunion was a long overdue.

The following three days we saw the Rockettes Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Jeffrey Kahane at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall then Chick Corea and the Electric Band at Greenwich Village's Blue Note.

What a dizzying four days. With fun and games over, I was off to Wall Streets Zucotti Park where arguably Occupy Wall Street started. A train ride from Glen Rock to Hoboken, NJ followed by a ferry across the Hudson River to the World Financial Center quickly landed me just blocks away from Zucotti Park.

It was about 2 p.m. A "think tank" session was in progress. The subject was the National Defense Authorization Act SB1867 which OKs the detention of American citizens without charge or trial. Most participants were quite articulate and eloquent. Others weren't as polished but had substantive insight. The process was extremely structured and orderly and moderated by a facilitator.

When you want to present your view you would be put on stack, a list of those requesting to speak. No one is discriminated against. There is a protocol of hand gestures for comments, replies, approval, disapproval and mixed-feelings responses to what is being said. Form your fingers into a 'C' shape to comment. Raise both index fingers in a back and forth motion for a one on one reply. Raise all 10 fingers and flutter them for approval. Lower all 10 fingers toward the ground and flutter them for disapproval. Hold your hand in a horizontal position and flutter your outstretched fingers for a half-hearted agreement. This eliminates shouting matches.

There was a diverse mix of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Whites. Isabelle from Switzerland spoke of her admiration for the movement. Hanna talked about how corporate personhood and the Citizens United ruling asserting money is free speech further entrenches the 1%'s grip on our government and enrichment of themselves at the expense of the 99%.

Bill Johnson, a Vietnam vet and retired Brooklyn small business man talked about how difficult it was for him when he was dispatched to suppress the student anti-Vietnam protests at Kansas State in 1970. He saw escalation of social, racial and economic inequities.

There were two black men quite steeped in the history of U.S. social movements and believed that raising people's social consciousness was essential to effect policy for the betterment of the 99%.

High school students from Westchester, N.Y. were there to get on stack to ask whether it was government's role to promote the nutritional health of Americans. Not what I expected given John Pero's characterization of the Occupiers.

As an eyewitness at Zucotti Park and the Fresno County Courthouse, I find Mr. Pero's second hand perspective of the Occupiers outrageous. He claims the Occupiers are engaging in class warfare and envy. Apparently 68% of millionaires disagree with him. That is why they went to Congress to testify that taxes need to be raised on the top 1%.

They know it is 'they' who waged the class war and as Warren Buffet put it "we won." These millionaires agree it is not envy but inequality and not handouts but fairness driving this movement. Go to patrioticmillionaires.org and see for yourself.

If you are a Tea party member you too share the plight of the 99%. If you can't identify with the Occupiers, maybe you can identify with what the patriotic millionaires are saying.

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