If you've been following the Occupy Wall Street movement, it might be difficult for you to imagine how people would pull off something of that nature in, say, Charleston. After all, what is our symbolic center of economic power? And is there a critical mass of disenfranchised young people to make it happen here?
We are about to find out. The organizers of #OccupyCharleston will hold their first general assembly tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Church of Charleston's Gage Hall, which is at 4 Archdale St.
If you haven't been paying much attention to the protests, here's a catch-up: Starting on Sept. 17, people — many twentysomethings, and many taking inspiration from Canadian anti-consumerist organization Adbusters — started camping out in Zuccotti Park, which is in lower Manhattan. Their focus is a bit nebulous, but they tend to protest things like Wall Street's lobbying power in government, low corporate taxes, and restrictions on collective bargaining.
Recently, heavy hitters like MoveOn.org and several major labor unions have thrown their support behind the protesters as they camp out, eat peanut butter and bagels, and occasionally clash with police.
Now, after sympathetic occupations sprang up in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., they are making their way to smaller cities like Charleston, Florence, and Columbia. So far, according to insiders and the Charleston organizers' website, not much has happened in the Holy City aside from holding a powwow in Marion Square, sending supplies to the New York protesters, and meeting Wednesday night with members of unions including the International Longshoremen's Association.
Charleston attorney William J. Hamilton, who has been present at several of the meetings, says they have been "hammering away" at a position statement for a few days. He says the plan of action should be clearer after tonight's meeting, but he says one thing is certain: "This is going to be different than New York." He says he has contacted people at Charleston School of Law about setting up a team of lawyers to back the protesters.
Hamilton says he started meeting with the group because he had witnessed the decline of working-class families' fortunes over the 26 years that he has been practicing law. In divorce cases, he has seen the contents of financial declarations dwindle and noticed the rise of underwater mortgages and families living in debt.
A member of the #OccupyCharleston group, who responded to a request for an interview on the group's Facebook page but requested anonymity, answered a few preliminary questions in an e-mail. Here are his answers:
1. Did people from your group participate in the college campus walk-out today? How many? NO
2. How many people are involved in #OccupyCharleston so far? A good bit 300+
3. What do you hope to accomplish? This movement is for Economic justice and in following solidarity with Occupy Wallstreet.
We are one. We are the 99 percent. The 1 percent of the richest american's own 40 percent of big corporation the corporations have ties with the lobbyists that influence our democratic government. We are hopeful that are voice's will be heard ... It's truly hard to say what Occupation will bring for us
But we all know this "if we all don't get a grip on how are government conducts itself it could lead us into some bad times ahead." If i could personally accomplish anything, it would be too making more of you aware of what's at hand ... if we don't wake up and see the picture for what it is, it's going to be to late.
Something for you to take a look at ... just asking when taxes went up did your hourly wages go up. AND NOW BP did you hear of anyone getting arrested for the oil spill last year? NO, BIG CORPORATIONS suffer vary little than the average 99 percent because there's no middle class no more! there's us the 99 percent and them, the 1 percent.
4. What is your role in the group? I'm your voice, The people's voice. I'm the lost American dream.
5. Does the group have a lot of College of Charleston students right now? i would say no in all honestly they are too busy watching Justin Bieber or trying to find the next house show.
So, what will they occupy? The new, union-free Boeing plant in North Charleston? The regularly flooded Crosstown? The house of the lady in Summerville who won't take down her Confederate flag? We'll find out soon enough.