PD Editorial: Demonstrators show cohesive power of rage


Published: Monday, October 17, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.

KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat
Brino Ism of Santa Rosa at Saturday's Occupy
Wall Street demonstration.
Tuesday marks day four of Sonoma County’s engagement in the global Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s a partnership that shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

On Monday, more than two dozen protesters were stationed outside Santa Rosa City Hall,holding signs with statements ranging from “Heal America, tax the rich” to “Foreclose on banks.” They are the remnants of a protest Saturday that included some 2,700 people who stormed through downtown Santa Rosa in solidarity with protesters in Manhattan.

The Santa Rosa demonstration was one of many staged all over the world on Saturday from Asia to Europe. The most violent was in Rome where dozens of people, including police, were injured in riots that resulted in dozens of arrests and police vehicles and at least one building being gutted by fire. Dozens of arrests were made in New York that same day. But the protests in Sonoma County, including one in Sonoma on Friday night, thankfully have been peaceful.

Most demonstrators even seem to have made peace with the dictates of law enforcement and city officials against camping overnight on the grounds outside Santa Rosa City Hall.

Overall, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been criticized for lacking a central message and strategy. While it’s true that participants, including those in Santa Rosa, have not all been drawn by the same reasons and have different objectives, they were unified by a central theme — rage.

And history, that of the Revolutionary War for starters, has shown that sometimes rage can be enough to create significant change.

Meanwhile, it’s evident that some groups, political candidates and others, locally and globally, would like nothing more than to co-opt the movement for their own purposes.

Our advice: Be wary of those who claim such authority. Not everyone who gets in front of an Occupy Wall Street rally armed with a microphone is the voice of the movement. In many ways, this is a movement without a clear voice or agenda, other than, perhaps, an appeal for greater financial reforms. But it’s a movement packed with emotion.

Some of those gathered at Santa Rosa City Hall are focused on stopping the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some want election reform, while others want to disband the Fed.

One protester standing beside Santa Rosa Avenue received a number of supportive honks from passing motorists for a sign that read, “There is no left or right. There is just you and me and the other 99 percent.”

Interviews of protesters show that most are motivated not only by what is happening to others in this economy but what is happening to themselves.

One Santa Rosa woman said she joined the protest because of the pending foreclosure of the home she has owned for 20 years. She said she and her husband, who both have lost their jobs, have not been able to convince the bank to lower their mortgage payments.

“I’m fed up,” she said. “I’m totally fed up.”

As the recent protests have shown, she’s not alone — and it’s anybody’s guess at this point what will come from that collective fury. We hope it’s more than a good conversation.

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