by Jill Dalton
While visiting my good friend and director, Jack McCullough in Providence, Rhode Island, we decided, one sunny, unseasonably mild afternoon, to visit Occupy Providence.
Occupy Providence joined Occupy Wall Street and the global movement on Oct 15, 2011 by marching from College Hill to Burnside Park carrying signs and chanting, “We are the 99%,” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” etc. They, like thousands of others, are marching against corporate greed, foreclosures and joblessness.
About 70 people pitched tents in Burnside Park and took up residence there. They have a medical tent, media booth, table to donate food, a Solutions tree and drum circle. The Solutions Tree sign reads,
“This tree is a collaborative community art piece to symbolize our vision. This tree asks “what is at the root of the solutions we wish to see?” The leaves of the tree grow and flourish as a result of strong roots—what solutions would we like to see come forth as a result of our movement and roots/values? –Grab a marker—add your ideas!”
Then on October 17th many honored National Bank Transfer Day and went to Bank of America to close their accounts and put their money into small community banks or credit unions.
As of this date these protesters haven’t been beaten or pepper-sprayed but according to “Street Sights” a local paper that sheds light on homelessness in Rhode Island,which I picked up there,
“On Thursday, October 27th, Steven Pare (Public Safety Commissioner) went downtown to Occupy Providence to hand deliver a letter that stated they had 72 hours to vacate, the end of the 72 hours was Sunday, October 30th.
Pare said that the police won’t forcefully beat up their camp or physically remove them, even after the 72 hours is up. But will force them out “peacefully and civilly through the court system” which could take up to several weeks.”
But on Monday, November 7th when we visited the protesters were still camped out. There wasn’t much going on when we were there. A few people were sitting quietly around the park and several sat in a drum circle. The place was very clean and serene. However, we did learn the next day, someone had stolen the large Occupy Providence banner that hung on the statue of General Burnside. In fact, I took photos of the statue and it was already gone when we visited.
As Jack and I left the peaceful park we came
upon Patty, a Providence police officer on her magnificent, 17-hand high steed, Hooligan. Jack and Patty go way back so he introduced us and I asked her how she felt about what was going on in Occupy Providence and she smiled and said she’s behind them 100%. She agrees with their grievances and told me she’s there to watch over them. She also mentioned the park is divided. On one side are the homeless and on the other the occupiers and although they may not “like” each other they co-exist there.
From the looks of things it appears Providence is a lot more civil then the brutality we’ve seen emanating from New York, Oakland, Berkeley and beyond and have chosen to change the laws instead.
In fact, it appears our government has decided not to honor our first amendment rights.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Seems peaceful assembly is a little too radical for the corporate powers that be. But, “this is what democracy looks like” and I for one am so grateful for the Occupy movement. I kept thinking the young people have to get involved. We need their energy, their consciousness, their compassion, their sense of truth and justice and low and behold they’ve come forth to reclaim their birthright and take back our country from the corporate forces that have co-opted our republic, bought off our politicians, stolen our jobs, our rights and our future. Now, if only Patty could watch over us all we’d be set.