Commentary: Mocking 'Occupy Wall Street' protests is easy now, but later?

The Kansas City StarOctober 6, 2011 

An autumn chill sets on Liberty Memorial as the “occupation” prepares to bed down for the night on the grass adjacent to the Federal Reserve Bank.

About a dozen people — the remnant of a larger daytime crowd — are winding down from the nightly live-streamed “general assembly.” Tuesday, it was a three-hour chat fest of ideas, debate and ruminations on corporate greed that the occupiers see as the evil underpinning of what’s ailing American society.

This is Kansas City’s version of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon.

Or it will be until further whim prevails. The group might shift to Ilus Davis Park downtown, or splinter into two encampments; no firm agreement yet on which spot best suits their needs.

Actually, there is no firm agreement on much. And that is why this movement, this wish, this Midwest version of the protests drawing thousands in New York, is so easily mocked.

Who has the time and inclination to spend hours every day “in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice,” hanging out by picnic tables stacked with donated food and water?

Oh. It’s the jobless, the recently college graduated, those enamored with the idea of protest and possibly a few loafers. And, they are also intelligent, thoughtful people frustrated with multiple issues resonating in America.

A focus is “We are the 99 percent,” a nod to the implosion of the middle class since 1979, when America’s wealth began accumulating disproportionately at the top 1 percent.

John Mohr is a 24-year-old with a degree in chemistry and math. He’s also a kind-hearted soul thinking about what type of laboratory work he could proudly perform, drawing a high wage, given his concern about world poverty.

Christian Soulliere, 28, an art director who loves his work, is drowning in college debt and struggles to support his wife and four children. He lost a home to foreclosure.

The danger is protesting fruitlessly from the sidewalk about financial and corporate institutions they dispute, but whose inner workings they barely understand.

If you crave a defined movement with leaders, plans of action and an organizational structure, these folks won’t suffice, at least not now.

Kansas City’s occupation is an ongoing town hall dialogue. The value may wind up being the experience, rather than a measurable goal achieved. And even that’s not likely to occur by gathering people outside the Federal Reserve, gazing up at night at the few office lights left on.

Most likely, the occupiers will eventually do like many others before — move away from en masse demonstrations.

Yet the ideas forged here can be honed and applied toward individual and incremental change that is natural, but hardly insignificant.

After all, 99 percent is a powerful majority.

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