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A month into the HemisFair encampment, OccupySA prepares for the long haul

Photo: Greg Harman, License: N/A

Greg Harman

Occupy SA marchers at HemisFair Park in solidarity with an international call for a Robin Hood tax on bank transactions.



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A homeless man crushed inside a city garbage truck Monday on the city’s Southside provided the rallying cry for Occupy San Antonio protestors gathered in HemisFair Park. As drums began to ring through the night air, the group of about 30 took to the streets in yet another show of insult and outrage in this Age of Austerity, as Republicans and Democrats negotiate major cuts in federal assistance programs to rein in a skyrocketing national debt.

“Banks got bailed out! You got sold out!”

By now most everyone has read about or seen news snippets of the reverberations of mid September’s Occupy Wall Street engagement in New York City’s Zuccotti Park and heard the demands for banking reform and a loosening of corporate money control on national politics (or as a sign held aloft at a march in San Antonio this weekend expressed: a “Separation of Corporation and State”). Mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge. Non-violently protesting U.S. Marine Scott Olsen brained by police in Oakland. This week, the local Occupy San Antonio — a far less confrontational, but just as committed group making regular rounds about downtown — turns one month old. And for the handful of locals camping in HemisFair, every day is a victory. Not to say there haven’t been skirmishes and headaches. If it’s not a television crew rolling up at 5 a.m. scouting for a potential morning show guest, it’s a misguided group of vandals seeking trouble or a park visitor threatening to bust the handheld videocameras the small band of core protestors use to record much of their interactions with the public and the media.

But Occupy SA protestors are most concerned about how their message is relayed to the world. When a park visitor goes on camera with a team from WOAI, for instance, curious camera-toting protestors come out to film. These small cameras sometimes draw another reaction. In this case, the station’s interview subject threatened to break them, prompting the protestors to call on park police.

It’s standard protocol for those rallying in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement to shadow the media. When an interview is obviously edited in a way that disparages the group, as many here feel the WOAI footage was (there’s no suggestion that the subject of all those lenses was being interviewed by WOAI’s team when he started threatening the group’s handhelds, for instance), the original unedited exchange is quickly hoisted online.

And in that theater, the message, many say, too often gets lost.

“Here it is, in a nutshell,” offers local supporter Bonnie Karl in her distillation of the Occupy meme: “Unfettered capitalism has led to economic apartheid. Is that easy enough?”

While there have been TV pundits and politicians more than willing to lambast the protestors for their methods, it seems increasingly few are willing to take on the movement’s prime tenant of economic injustice. Probably because it’s rooted in hard data and, harder yet, lived experience of the housing market collapse and recession. Last week the U.S. Congressional Budget Office released its findings that since 1979 income disparities have increased dramatically in the United States, with the richest 1 percent of Americans watching their after-tax earnings climb by an average 275 percent, doubling the one-percenters’ share of national wealth. During the same period, the poorest families saw only 18 percent growth. While bank bailouts have sucked up hundreds of billions of dollars, one in five American homeowners suddenly find themselves owing more on their homes than the things are worth. Try finding debt forgiveness there. It’s called foreclosure.

We’re all the 99 percent

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