Long: Occupy Iowa here to stay


Protestors gather for the Occupy Iowa rally on the lawn of the Iowa State Capitol to discuss their agenda during what will become a daily meeting on Sunday, Oct. 9. While the forum was moderated, anyone wishing to present an opinion, rebuttal or proposal was allowed time to speak. 

Craig Long

Finally, Iowa is involved. Sunday, an Occupy Iowa General Assembly meeting occurred in Des Moines, a few short days after Iowa City hosted its own. Up until now, I’ve only been able to find information about this movement from the Internet, with all of its biases. I haven’t been able to see it with my own eyes. I had my ideas about what this movement was about, but wanted to experience it on my own.

When I got to Des Moines, there were already 200 to 300 people there. As more people trickled in, the leaders of the meeting showed the group how they would communicate, without using electronic amplification (it is banned in many public locations, so, as a whole, this movement has adopted different means of communication).

One of the criticisms of this movement by the media has been that it is a “young” or “hippie” movement. That, combined with the fact that this was largely organized on Twitter and Facebook, led me to believe I would see many people our age there. I was thus stunned when I looked around and saw a crowd dominated by those with graying hair. While there were young people there, I also saw people with canes and braces, and many of those holding signs and actively participating in the center of the meeting were well out of college.

There were actually quite a few with signs there, and the diversity of those was fairly incredible. Signs protesting Obama’s handling of the economy, the war, Wall Street, major banks, cuts to Social Security, student debt and the overwhelming wealth of the top 1 percent of earners were all present. Some Ron Paul supporters also were present. That is actually another major criticism of this movement, that it isn’t focused on one particular item. However, that is what I love about it.

These people, diverse in their makeup, also carried a diverse concern. They realize there are many problems that need to be addressed. It creates a unique body, in which everyone has their own particular concern, but work with each other to support one another. They understand that breaking into individual factions won’t accomplish anything, it takes true politics to affect major change.

Every decision this group made (where to “occupy,” when to hold meetings, when and where to march) was debated by and voted on by everyone present. I abstained from voting, as I have no plans to live in a tent in Des Moines while I have classes in Ames. However, I would have been free to speak, vote and affect the agenda of this protest. All that I (or anyone else) had to do to get this opportunity was to show up.

As the group debated, some ideas drew more support than others. A couple that I found interesting, as they really showed the character of this group, occurred relatively early in the meeting and drew unanimous support. The first was a statement from a middle-aged man that strongly advocated against aligning with any political party. The group agreed. They understand that allying with one makes enemies of the other. They also decided not to align with any other movement (unions, organizations or protests separate from the Occupy Wall Street protests going on nationwide). They want to stand for themselves and not be absorbed by another group with different ideals.

And if you make the mistake of thinking that these people were just killing time on a Sunday, think again. When they learned the Iowa State Patrol would try to remove them from the park they were occupying at 11 p.m., more than a hundred more protesters (who were not planning to stay the night in the park) showed up to support those staying. Thirty-two people resisted to the point of being arrested for trespassing, all doing so peacefully (the extent of their resistance to the cops was refusing to walk with them, according to the Des Moines Register).

This movement is stronger and more real than most give it credit for. Mass media doesn’t understand how something can exist without a stated goal or spokesman, they don’t know who to interview, and so they try and discredit their potential impact. This is an opportunity for us to participate in the public sphere, outside of anonymous voting every other year and campaign donations.

Something is also planned for Iowa State. According to Facebook’s Occupy ISU page, this Thursday at noon, a walk-out is being held. If you have an idea, opinion, concern or are just wondering what this movement is about, go to Central Campus and participate. If enough people turn out and support it, perhaps an extended occupation of campus will be viable. Regardless, even showing support on Central Campus on Thursday will be another example of how important these problems are to us, and hopefully will begin to effect changes needed to benefit us all.