Just Another Moral Monday
By Ted Alexandro
Yesterday, I drove down to Raleigh, NC with two friends. What motivated us to hop in the car and drive nine hours was not just a fun road trip, though we did have fun. We wanted to go down to see the growing “Moral Mondays” protests at the NC state capitol. Spearheaded by the NAACP and rooted in Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles of non-violent civil disobedience, it is a call to North Carolina’s religious leaders and their communities to advocate for the poor and speak out against Governor McCrory’s right wing agenda, which targets the most vulnerable North Carolinians.
Each of the past several Mondays, North Carolinians have flocked to the statehouse to protest a government that they view as failing the needs of the people. In the previous two Mondays alone, two hundred people were arrested for civil disobedience and led out of the statehouse in handcuffs.
As someone involved in the Occupy movement, I was intrigued to see for myself, as were my friends. When we arrived in Raleigh and walked to the great lawn outside the capital, we were impressed by what we saw.
Under a gray, rainy sky, hundreds of people were gathered, many carrying signs advocating for issues of all sorts. I didn’t need to ask “What are their demands?!” I knew damn well…
What was intriguing about this gathering was that it was clearly rooted in religious communities. These weren’t “dirty hippies” as the media, in service of their corporate employers, so readily labeled Occupy protesters. These were priests, rabbis, reverends and their congregations. These were black folks and white folks, husbands and wives, children, LGBT communities. These were grandparents and their grandchildren. In other words, this was America. Certainly, Occupy Wall Street is America, too, but what I saw down in Raleigh was the America that the mainstream media will have a hard time ignoring.
What it said to me is “This movement is growing.” These were “everyday people,” the Sly Stone lyric that Dr. Cornel West so often invokes. These were grandmothers and grandfathers, priests and rabbis willing to subject themselves to arrest for their fellow citizens. It was pretty overwhelming to witness. It signaled to me that something is growing.
Hundreds lined the streets chanting and singing their support as bus loads of protesters were led away in handcuffs. And let me tell you, a southern church choir singing out on the streets is pretty powerful to behold.
The young folks were out in force, too, lending their invaluable vitality to the protest. As the buses of arrestees drove off, a few vibrant young men floated up and down before the assembled protesters, leading spirited chants of “You gonna need another bus, ’cause baby there are more of us!!!”
As the night wound down and the final bus load of arrestees were taken away (totaling about eighty), I asked my friends if I should do a mic check and let these folks know we drove down from NYC. They encouraged me to do so, so I shouted “Mic check!” a few times until people repeated. I began to speak, mentioning that we were here from Occupy Wall Street. Suddenly a man at the front of the crowd with a microphone called me forward. Folks parted to let me through. I took the mic and said “I wanted to let you know that a few of us from Occupy Wall Street drove down today to show our support. We are so impressed and encouraged by what you are doing here. Your example is truly inspiring so we wanted to come experience it and report back on what is happening here. Thank you so much for what you are doing and solidarity from NY!”
People clapped and hollered and a thunderous chant of “We are the 99%!” burst out. Folks came over to say “Thank you” and shake our hands. One woman even took my hand and slipped a twenty dollar bill into it, saying “Thank you so much for coming down here. Take this as a little something for gas or meals.” I said “No, that’s okay,” and she said “I insist. You all in NY inspired us!” I felt the emotion well up in me. This was exactly the kind of unbridled generosity and kindness I’ve witnessed countless times throughout my involvement in OWS. It’s like people are starving to connect with and show support for their fellow human beings. There is an untapped well of generosity, and not just monetary, that is waiting to be unleashed. People want to care for one another. We see it time and again in the aftermath of a disaster, whether natural or economic.
A movement is building. It may call itself different things in different places but it is all rooted in the same principles; the people pushing back at government that has turned its back on the people to serve corporate interests.
We saw it in the Arab Spring, where people in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and countless other countries have risen up against their governments.
We saw it in Madison, WI where hundreds of thousands showed up to take the state capitol and push back in an attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker, the corporate puppet sponsored by the Koch brothers.
We saw it in Zuccotti Park where citizens gathered in the heart of Wall Street to focus attention on the pervasive and destructive effects of the corporate stranglehold on all areas of life. Certainly, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who illegally bought a third term, embodies the unchecked and basically unstoppable greed and arrogance of the corporatocracy.
We saw it in the hundreds of Occupy groups that sprang up in cities, large and small, across the country and the globe.
We are seeing it in Turkey where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unleashing brutal police violence on protesters in Gezi Park and across the country. Again, it is a people’s movement pushing back against an authoritarian government that has lost touch with the populace.
Increasingly, I see this as one movement, devoid of geographical boundaries. I think we do well to dispense with labels and recognize it as a human struggle; a struggle for basic human rights and dignity of all people, especially the most vulnerable among us. As each person/city/nation steps up and fights back, I applaud and celebrate in support of my people.