I Occupied Fort Worth today.
I will help to do so in the coming days. I spoke to the assembly. I gave an interview. I marched. I talked with a lot of people. I tweeted the major points of the first General Assembly. I will be at my church this evening for unrelated meetings, and I will be checking back in with my fellow citizens on the ground to see how things are going.
Occupy Fort Worth is happening at Burnett Park, at the corner of Lamar and 7th Streets in Fort Worth. If you have a way to contribute food or drinking water, please bring it down. You can sleep on the side walk, but not in the park. You can NOT use a tent. The next general assemblies have been scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. Occupy Fort Worth is on Facebook and Twitter @OcuupyFortWorth and online at www.occupyfortworth.org.
Here are some observations from the time I was able to spend downtown today.
We didn’t really occupy anything. We hung out in a park with a bunch of new friends. We organized ourselves to maintain a presence in the financial district. We took a walk around downtown Fort Worth chanting and singing. We communicated with the police who made sure we were safe and I’m sure would have kept others safe from us had there been a need for any reason. The Fort Worth police were wonderful, at least everything I witnessed. There will be some people staying in the streets (sidewalks) at Burnett Park, but people sleep on the streets of Fort Worth every night. Is that an occupation? Perhaps Cooperation Fort Worth would be a better name. The entire experience so far has been an exemplary exercise in grassroots democracy. It makes one hopeful for the way we could govern ourselves once corporate money is removed government.
We will be heard. All day the overriding thought that kept coming back to me was the slogan “I am a Man” the poor people’s campaign in 1968. The underlying political and spiritual theme was “see me and hear me.”
We are all truly anonymous. It takes all of us to be one people. There are no leaders and we are all in charge. Occupy Fort Worth proves the adage that we are all leaders. Leaders take action. Leaders ask difficult questions for which there may not be obvious answers. True grassroots democracy was in play from the stack of speakers on the list at the beginning of the morning through to the process of the first general assembly. When volunteer sheets when out for committees, people signed up, walked around and talked to each other about how to get things done.
We are intergenerational and interracial. Occupy Fort Worth gathered together people of all ages, and although predominantly white, people of many colors were part of the we.
I was the only active clergy person in attendance. There was a retired minister there, too. What a contrast from the days of civil rights protesting or even a couple of years ago when I experienced the power of a clergy presence in the struggle for marriage equality in Massachusetts. Where are my brother and sister clergy in Fort Worth? Where are clergy in force around the country? Has poverty and class become too political or taboo an issue for too many? I am far more interested in the salvation of my brothers and sisters in the here and now than I am in the hereafter. This is a justice issue. Greed is not good. Corporations are not people.
We must continue to tell our own story. A report got back to the group shortly after the first march that Channel 5 had reported there were only 30 protesters taking part. When I heard that news we were in the process of the first general assembly and there were about 50-60 people around at that time. Twice that number had taken part in the march. A number of people had left to go to work, attend to children and parents, and other commitments. When I saw a Channel 5 reporter the numbers were at about their height of the day. I just caught a another report on TV and the report was edited in such as way as to make the people on the bullhorn look angry, the numbers look sparse and an organizer look confrontational. I was there for hours today, witnessed the footage that was shown and no bullhorn speaker was angry, the numbers were much larger than reported (if not huge) and witnessed absolutely no confrontations. Beware the media’s reports of Occupy Fort Worth or Occupy (Insert Your City Here). Continue to tell your own story.
You are somebody. I see you. You are beautiful.
This is what democracy looks like.