For much of the fall, the Occupy movements swept across the world, and the corner of Jackson and LaSalle is still alive with beating drums, picket signs and honking car horns.
Occupy Wall Street quickly became Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, and has reached as far as Occupy Tokyo. But unlike your typical political activism Occupy lacks one thing: a central focus.
“But that’s its strength; that it’s ambiguous and doesn’t have a clear objective, and is largely decentralized,” says Occupy activist and Dominican senior Dylan Hayworth-Weste.
Shaking his shaggy hair to the side, Weste described it as “A collective epiphany.”
“People gathering together and they’re all starting to think the system that we’ve set up now is not the best system and we might want to consider a different one,” he said.
What makes the Occupy protests so unique is that they do not revolve around one single issue. The questions raised are so broad and varying that some would not agree with even calling it a protest at all.
“When you think of it in terms of a protest it kind of assumes that there’s going to be a point where everyone will be like, ‘We achieved our goal. We’re satisfied,’” Weste states. “It’s less of a protest and more of a realization,” Weste said.
At first glance, those gathered in the heart of Chicago’s financial district at the corner of Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Street look like any other disgruntled mob. But every person had their own reason for being there.
Holding a sign that says, “Honk for the 99%;” Mark, 22, traveled all the way from Ohio and had a few of his own reasons for being at Occupy Chicago. “I have a fulltime job,” says Mark, “I work 50 hours a week, every week . . . And I don’t make enough money to move out of my parent’s house.”
Rico, 23, also from Ohio would agree.
“There’s a lot of issues that need to be dealt with,” says Rico. “These mega-corporations are putting a lot of pressure on the government,” he adds.
Susan and Veronica, both Chicagoland small business owners and Occupy participants say the current tax laws are what upset them the most.
“We make less in a year than Exxon Mobil makes in 20 minutes; and we pay 30 percent of our net profits in taxes and Exxon Mobil gets a tax refund,” Susan said.
Veronica added, “We were the recipient of financial aggression . . . There is no capitalism if there is no equality in taxing.”
Although it’s unclear as to timeline for the Occupy movements and the specific issues they are attempting to reform; Weste says this “lack of a central directive . . . creates a healthy ambiguity.”
One thing was clear. Andrew, a Chicagoland 15-year-old and Occupy activist, said it best.
“Everyone’s here for their own reasons, everyone has their own goals,” says Andrew. “It started on Wall Street, now it’s a world-wide movement.”
– Jacob Walters, Contributing Writer