BRINGING THE MOVEMENTS TOGETHER
We had our first such event in Brunswick when about 75 people (half of whom were new to local protests) gathered on the town green and marched to the Bank of America on Maine Street. We stayed in front of the bank for 45 minutes as the cars streamed by along the busy street - many of them honking. We chanted and heard some words from a young man from Occupy Portland as a van load of them had come north for our event on their way to Augusta.
When we first gathered in a circle on the green several people made statements. I told folks about Bank Transfer Day (Nov 5) which was a national day to move your $$$ from the big banks to local credit unions and small community banks. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) reports that over 650,000 people have joined credit unions in the last four weeks. In 2010 only 600,000 moved their accounts into credit unions all year long so this is an astounding response to the call to pull our meager resources out of the mega-banks.
“Our struggling economy is not the disease, it’s the symptom,” says CUNA. ”There is mounting evidence to prove that big banks, with their profit-at-all-costs agenda, are actually making our collective disease worse by systematically making choices that undermine the efforts of regulators and ordinary people like us to make changes and get back to a state of health.”
Following this event I grabbed the big banner that we used (made by Maine artist Natasha Mayers) and drove north to Augusta to join the protest at the state capital planned by Occupy Augusta. When I arrived young occupiers were banging on a large drum on the steps leading up to the capital building and people lined both sides of the street with signs. We stood in vigil for about an hour before marching to the federal building and back.
The Occupy Augusta camp is in a lovely park along the Kennebec River just across the street from the capital. They have port-a-toilets and a large iron wood stove for cooking. Work was being done while we were there to winterize their tents. One terrific thing they did was to acquire two of those very large "big top" tents and have their small camping tents inside the big tents which will do much to protect them from the wind, cold, and snow that will soon be coming.
The question on everyone's mind is how long this Occupy movement will last? No one has a clue but I met a man at the protest yesterday in Augusta who is 55 years old and was recently laid off from his carpentry job after 16 years. He can't find more work. You add to that the legions of young people who have no future, many of them are saddled with massive college loans to repay, and you've got the ingredients for a long-lasting movement. People have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
In the meantime I saw much of the key leadership of Maine's peace movement in Augusta yesterday. There is a clear understanding amongst these folks that we have to be there supporting this effort. Earlier in the day in Brunswick, peace activist Karen Wainberg told the crowd at the concluding circle that this anti-corporate "Occupy" movement incorporates all our movements that have been working separately for so many years. She was exactly right and we all need to do all we can to keep connecting the dots and throwing logs onto the fire to keep this thing blazing.