By Stanley Campbell
When the local Tea Party leader wrote that tirade against me, it opened a wound. (See “Guest Column: Stanley Campbell’s comments about Tea Party inflammatory,” by Rockford Tea Party Coordinator David Hale, Dec. 21-27, 2011, issue.)
I have not joined the local Occupy movement, despite what he said. I appreciate that there are other social justice movements in Rockford besides the ones I support. I have attended one Occupy general assembly, which is their planning session.
The meeting took place in the basement of Katie’s Cup, the best coffee shop in Rockford (at 502 Seventh St). It was packed; 80 people led by three women, a semi-orderly discussion of upcoming events. Democracy in action!
Occupy was planning their weekly march from Beattie Park to one of the local banking headquarters. I marveled at the number of people who patiently waited their turn to speak. I also recognized some folks who impatiently ground their teeth. The movement has a few who rant more than think.
I’m happy to let them run their organization themselves. I offer my copy machine and a few feeble suggestions from the sidelines.
The local Tea Party did not take too kindly to this upstart collection of left-leaning liberals. At almost every demonstration, local right-wingers amassed to show disapproval (they like the rich getting richer?). The Occupy movement tries to be non-violent and not get into yelling matches with opponents.
Occupiers take abuse, both verbal and pepper spray, which the opposition dishes out. That’s why you see sit-down demonstrators getting dosed with gas in the face.
Here in Rockford, the demonstrators get an earful of verbiage. Tea Partiers try to pick fights. Because there’s little training for Occupiers, some participants are more than happy to exchange insults across the street. I was accused of being one of those angry lefties screaming insults; but truth be known, I only attended one Occupy demonstration. It was to encourage Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to go after dishonest bankers. Not even Tea Partiers support those scofflaws!
Some local Occupiers reached across the street and made friends with a few Tea Partiers and are even meeting in a third group, trying to find common ground. Apparently, the leadership of both organizations is nonplussed, though the self-proclaimed Tea Party general David Hale is livid. I myself applaud any attempts at finding common ground with as broad a mass of people as possible.
It’s a wonder that groundswell movements get anything done at all. Whether it’s ending a war or getting the rich off our backs, people should be encouraged when anyone rallies for a just cause. The Powers that Be don’t like to change.
So, I encourage the local Occupiers as well as the national movement to get a little more specific in their demands. I encourage them to get involved in local as well as national politics. Try to find good candidates to support for election.
In 2012, we should occupy Wall Street AND the voting booths. And we’re going to have to occupy some congressional and senate offices and get big money out of big government.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Jan. 4-10, 2012, issue