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The Why of Occupy Sacramento

Occupy Sacramento in Cesar Chavez Park in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. – Oct 20, 2011

Why Occupy?

Right now, regular folks ― young, smart, educated young people ― are frustrated because they don’t see a way to claim their piece of the American dream.

For Julio Escobar, 19, a Sacramento City College student who grew up in Oak Park, the decision to stay and offer himself up for arrest by not leaving Cesar Chavez Park was one of principle.

“There are so many other ways I can be arrested,” Escobar said. “I’m not one to back down when it’s change that I believe in.”


The issue with the park started on Oct. 6, when 19 protestors elected to stay after closing at Cesar Chavez Park on behalf of the 99%. The nineteen took the bullet for the majority refusing to leave in civil disobedience despite repeated warnings by the police to disburse or be taken to jail.

A video of the events unfolding can be seen here.

Hundreds of people have protested in Sacramento’s downtown financial district in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, a movement that started in New York’s Zuccotti Park now renamed Liberty Plaza. The movement has many people fueled with discontent over the country’s economic woes, the disparity of “have” and “have nothing” as evidenced by the people in the "99%."

The Cesar Chavez Park arrests is merely a sign of the times, a thermometer heating up the people’s economic conscience. As of October 15, 2011, 951 cities and 82 countries have joined together in this new form of democracy in action, a single global protest. Government by the people, not at the hands of elected officials who failed their expectations by catering to the few who control the majority of the nation’s resources. The net effect is an ever shrinking middle class.

In Sacramento, the Occupy movement continues to gain traction, showing up at City Council meetings, and growing influence into neighboring cities like Davis. Davis launched their version of Occupy about a week ago. Tents are strewn in Central Park just like Cesar Chavez Park except there is not an ordinance in place to keep demonstrators from meeting at night.

"We are love on the frontlines," said Kevin Carter, an activist from Oak Park who led the march to a recent City Council meeting. “When you see a brother down, you’ve got to help them back up. We’re not complaining, the signs explain what we do. We need to take responsibility for our community.”

Signs around Cesar Chavez Park Fountain – October 16, 2011
Contrary to the belief that Occupy is a leaderless organization, at general assembly facilitators take matters into their own hands by appointing leads for committees on finance, education, park clean-up, media, and other special needs.

David Witkins and Cesar Aguirre organize citizens who attended the general assembly on Oct 17, 2011.

“There is no reason why an Occupy movement should not exist in every city in America,” said a young mother who attended the open forum on Monday with her baby and asked that her name not be used. “Knowledge is power. We need to get in front of the politicians.”

General assembly had over one hundred participants meet in the park, brainstorming ideas to fix the ills of a broken society, the exemption to the no camping overnight ordinance was one of the first order of business but not the only issue they grappled with.

The park has been inhabited by demonstrators every day since Oct. 6 and arrests are up to 58. It’s one way to let others know of the urgency to correct what is wrong and have the elected politicians work for us not the other way around.

Occupy Sacramento talking policy into late hours of the night.

There are bigger problems plaguing the middle class besides holding on to a park. Protesting is one way to take the power back to the people as implied by the Constitution. The people need to feel safe to express their First Amendment rights not just in the park, but in their everyday lives.

Because governments have adopted policies that compromise the well-being of the middle class, millions now suffer a debt that is creating havoc for the 99% of American families who are not very wealthy. Banks were bailed out by government but there is no bail out for these families. Many are fighting for homes that they may no longer have if they lose the battle to foreclosure. The banks were bailed out but the people are the ones stuck with the bill.

Other consequences include rising tuition costs, program cuts in schools, veterans losing benefits, lack of jobs, and adequate health care, the "Why" of Occupy is about economics.

Without reform America is headed to a lifetime of servitude. See it as a wheel, without affordable education, the middle class is ill prepared to take on better paying jobs. Jobs that help pay for basic needs of our families – like food, health care, and education. Without change, the next generation will suffer a nationwide poverty cycle much like the depression of the 1930’s.

Ironic, because America used to be one of the few place in the world where immigrants could work and break through the status quo by building a business.

The opportunities are slipping away taking our best and brightest overseas where cost of living is still affordable. One such example is some UC Davis students who are opting for studies abroad to finish their college degree. Countries like Spain and the Philippines offer a college education for a fraction of the cost in California.
“You can dissolve corporations, but you can’t dissolve the people,” said Steve, who asked not to use his full name. Despite losing a home that housed eight students barely getting their start in life in West Sacramento to a loan-modification scam by Bank of America, Steve lifted himself up by giving time to mentor a high school student.

“It’s going to take more than occupying a park to rebuild the dream. Everyone needs to support each other. That’s one way to make a difference”.

Shane Mackey, 29, April Junio, 18, Autumn Thomas, 22, Kevin Carter are some of the occupants of Occupy Sacramento. 10/20/11

Occupy Sacramento holds open forum at Cesar Chavez Park on a regular basis, come visit with the volunteers under the blue tent or check the website for meeting times.

*This is a photo documentary of Occupy Sacramento from October 6th to present.

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