Remembering Occupy OC

The tents have been disassembled, blankets and lawn chairs folded and crammed into cars. The “We are the 99%” signs have been tucked into the backseat along with, “Take the money out of politics” and “Government of the People.” The Occupy Orange County protest took their last stand last Wednesday, Jan. 11. The protest was arguably victorious, but certainly amicable in nature.

From the start the Occupy protestors demonstrated a civility and respectfulness that would garner praise from Gandhi and Martin L. King Jr. They peacefully camped in front of the Civic Center Plaza in October 2011. They have now voluntarily vacated the area to take their voices to the steps of the federal court building in Santa Ana.

The movement is just one of the many protests that sprung up in 2011 and that are continuing to spark interest in 2012. Even as I type, the Occupy Wall Street protestors of New York are attempting to re-take Zuccotti Park; where they were legally forced to leave. Globally, the movement has spread to Vancouver, London, Munich, Rome, Tokyo, Seoul and now in Nigeria where thousands of Nigerians protest income inequality and the rising fuel prices.

It is undeniable that 2011 will be remembered as the year of the Occupy movement. But will the momentum continue it into 2012? We can only anticipate.

There is something poetic about civil unrest uniting the disenfranchised. And it is this unified populous that acts as the antithesis to the divisive political exchange occurring in Washington D.C. If only our politicians had found a similar consolidation during and after the economic crisis of 2008.

But what significance has been brought on by Occupy protestors? The opposition would describe the movement as an inescapable by-product of boredom and unemployment. Or to word it more bluntly, the drugged out hippies of the past and their defiant offspring have joined forces in an anti-corporate crusade.

An optimist would say that protests are an inevitable force that is shoving humanity toward its destined greatness. I am reluctant to take the opposition’s view or even the view of the optimist. Although I must confess I view the protests with some reverence.

After the war in Iraq, bank bails outs then the million-dollar bonuses, health care cost, credit debt, rising tuition prices, foreclosed homes, unemployment, Left versus Right, the debt ceiling debacle … and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few cases.

There is no need to pull out a psychology book to determine that the people of the new millennium have endured quite a few kicks, if I may say, to the groin.

Yet I must agree with critics who label the leaderless movement are too inept to invoke a cataclysmic change similar to the Civil Rights movement or Women’s Suffrage. But where they lack in political vigor they make up for in an unbeatable passion.

The movement broke out like  contagious, joyous laughter spreading across the globe and the Occupy Orange County protestors are certainly a testament of such an infectious communicable movement.

Their enraged passion against a social class structure that has plagued the world since the inception of civilization is a justified response to recent upsets. And their message of change and establishing a real “Government of the People” alludes to a hope that is relatable across all ethnicities and social classes.

It is a hope that one day a person’s fate will not rest in the palms of greedy hands, but in the determination of one’s own will. And that one day people may tread the streets of their great cities and proudly declare it is free of that suffocating grasp of corruption.

It is an idealism that has undoubtedly been the dream of countless generations, which is perhaps why the Occupy movement falls into the category of political ineptitude. But this is not meant to render the movement as utter nonsense.

On the contrary, the movement has amplified the muted voices of millions. It can neither be denied nor ignored that a great deal of our collective history is an accumulation of achievements by great persons who have altered kingdoms, nations and economic systems.

But the Occupy movement brings into awareness the strength and passion of the people. They are the proof that great leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. would have been mere preachers lost in an abyss of countless ideas. And like the leaders of the past, the Occupy movement continues to push the plight of the people back into our global consciousness.

Nidia Sandoval  is a third-year history major. She can be reached at nidias@uci.edu.