Anchorage, Alaska (PRWEB) October 14, 2011
This isn’t what you’d expect from the state known in the national media for politicians who put lipstick on pigs, hunt wolves from airplanes and abide by the motto, “Drill baby, drill.” But Alaskans are a diverse people, and they are coming together like never before to organize and stand in unity along side their neighbors to the East: the “Occupy Wall Street” Protestors. And so what if their neighborhood extends 5000 miles across the entire length of the USA? All the more reason to support the hundreds of other “occupations” that have sprung up in past weeks from the Bering Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
At high noon on Saturday, Oct 15th, the biggest protest yet is scheduled to take place in Anchorage: Alaska’s largest city of 279,000 citizens. Hundreds of protestors from other far north towns like Fairbanks, the Kenai and Soldotna are planning their own marches, or to car pool to Anchorage, even though some will have to travel hundreds of miles in what may be the first snowstorm of the season. Alaska’s largest labor union, the American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is joining the ranks, along side church congregations, the ACLU and NAACP. A joint Press Conference is scheduled for 12:30, Alaska time. A media table will sport a video camera where all community members will be encouraged to exercise their right to free speech. A myriad of speeches, trainings, and music will run throughout the day on the main stage. There will be a food drive for the needy. And according to the organizers, this is only the beginning.
Michael Mason, an entrepreneur & IT specialist, explains how he became involved in Occupy Anchorage: “A friend sent a link to a YouTube video; I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched peaceful protestors being plummeted by police offices with batons and pepper-spray on the Brooklyn Bridge. I tried to get the details in the mainstream media, but no one was reporting it. I finally found a reference to it in “Russia Today.”
Brian MacMillan, a carpenter and mountaineer, was so saddened by how his fellow Americans were being abused, or ignored by mainstream news, that he formed the “Occupy Anchorage” Facebook page. Days later, on Oct. 5th, he and several other outraged citizens held the first protest in Alaska, which attracted dozens of others. By their second rally on Oct. 8th, over three hundred other demonstrators showed up, many carrying hand-made signs scrawled with sentiments like, “We are the 99%” and “ End Corporate Greed.” Some carried American flags and wore shirts sporting bible quotes like “Love Thy Neighbor, in Deeds.” Dozens attended a political science session by Activist Ted Madsen, who explained, “Capitalism in itself is not bad. It is what we do with Capitalism that either helps a society, or hurts it.”
Remarkably, almost 25% of those in attendance at the rally subsequently volunteered to help organize future protests, and showed up at the UAA Student Union where their first “General Assembly” meeting was held. Introductions were made. Talents and resources were shared, “I can help draft policy statements,” “ I can print posters.” In the space of two hours, they had organized committees and planned the next week’s events. They had a "0" budget, but with everyone chipping in and donating services and resources, few seemed to notice. One excited planner beamed, "While our congress members are demonstrating democracy at its worse, we are putting into practice democracy at its best."
Among their ranks are teachers, construction workers, business owners, doctors, lawyers, veterans, business owners, writers, food servers, retirees, and college students. Almost all of them are employed, and have to balance work and family responsibilities with protesting.
Despite their ethnic and ideological diversity, they are remarkably unified in their basic desires and community-centered principles: fairness in business practices, taxation and healthcare; compassion for those less fortune; increased consumer protections. They want to see the end of corporate greed, excess lobbying and the political posturing that is crippling our government. But most of all, the protestors agree that the "protest is the message." By occupying their own communal spaces, the protestors are making a "Declaration of Interdependence." They are saying, "We are in this together; we care about our fellow Americans who are getting a bum deal. We are Americans too and we want to participate in the democratic process." While politicians are saying little with their mouths, protestors across the world are stomping out this message with their feet.
Alaskans have lived these sentiments for a long time. Life in harsh conditions has taught them they need their neighbors to survive. As Amy Katz, a cross-cultural communication Instructor at the University of Alaska, explains, “We need to learn what Native Alaskans have always known: it takes a whole community to hunt and eat a whale. It would be madness for a hunter to bring back 1,000 pounds of meat to the village and not want to share. Yet, that’s what our Wall Street bankers and billionaires who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes are doing. It is heartbreaking to see those less fortunate than us starving, even though the cupboards next door are overflowing.”