Occupy: A Timeless Tradition

Occupy: A Timeless Tradition

Kayla Rivara
July 4, 2013

As I watched thousands in Turkey take their grievances to the streets, I was taken back to a comment made by an old friend regarding my involvement with Occupy Wall Street: “It’s not 1968 anymore,” he interrupted, as if to wake me from a long sleep, saving me from the dreamland I was trapped in. Of course, he was right: aside from bringing about national civil rights and the eventual end to one of America’s most oppressive, imperialist wars, civil disobedience had done nothing in the 1960s worth emulating. Since direct action was only a fad of that decade, I decided to disregard the First Amendment freedoms to assemble and petition for governmental redress of grievances. In fact, why not forget the dozens of mass movements that led to the creation of these United States in the first place, or the countless since.  By just 1760, there had been eighteen uprisings aimed at overthrowing colonial governments responsible for social, political, and economic inequity. In 1687, the top 5 percent in Boston (1 percent of the total population) owned 25 percent of the wealth. By 1770, that number jumped to 44 percent as the upper class collected the benefits of economic growth and monopolized political power. Average Bostonians, who were alienated from such gains, responded by surrounding the house of the governor until he fled, among countless other actions.


Since this era, we have seen suffragists occupy voting booths, veterans occupy Washington, anti-segregationists occupy bus seats and lunch counters, antiwar activists occupy the streets and government establishments, and, of course, thousands of disillusioned citizens occupy Wall Street in parks across the country and the world to address the corporate overhaul of their democracies. Surely, these historic movements could not all be at the hands of unrealistic, oblivious dreamers without any sense of direction. These movements have helped to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today, and confront those who threaten such liberties. Whether it be a mansion, a bus, a park, or the Capitol itself, Americans have been ‘occupying’ for centuries. So when we look at other communities around the world, we must not interpret it as a people playing catch up, as if protest is something of an adolescent nation. The will and power of a country to become free and remain free must always come from within, and this reality must the stay alive in our consciousness. We cannot forget where we came from, nor neglect the path to progress in the future. To ignore the tactic of civil occupation is to ignore the very foundation of a democratic nation; we must always occupy.



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