Occupy St. Louis: The Smell of Democracy
I arrived at Keiner Plaza in downtown St. Louis at around 2 pm in anticipation of the scheduled march in cooperation with the National Day of Action Thursday. After I arrived I milled through the crowd looking for familiar faces. I saw a couple of the homeless men that have been there since the beginning, one of them recognized me. We shook hands and talked a bit. He said it was a big day for the Occupy movement in St. Louis. Then I signed in and asked the greeter how many people they were expecting, she said around 750. There were a lot of unions there and each one “occupied” a section of Keiner Plaza. You could feel the electricity in the air.
I had been contacted by Lee, an FDL reader from here in St. Louis who had been given my email by Jane. Lee wanted to get involved so we exchanged phone numbers and then talked. He said he would try to get off work so he could march with me and then report his experience to FDL. He called me while I was waiting for the march to begin and I told him where to find me. People were starting to arrive for the march in bigger numbers now. Lee finally arrived during the pre-march rally, as we talked I pointed out various people involved with the Occupy St. Louis movement. It was great to see how FDL has influenced people in the various communities throughout the country. I have met some real good people who want to get involved. It’s like a ripple in a lake that reaches and spreads out when a rock is skipped over the surface.
Once the rally started there were various speakers for about an hour, then the liaisons of Occupy St. Louis started off the rally. They recognized all the unions that were there, about 8 of them. One woman who spoke was involved in the healthcare field and had lost her job. Another was a teacher who lost not only her job but also her home. These were truly the 99% in the strictest sense of the word. The final speaker was the pastor of a local church. It was nice to see the divergent array of people involved. In my opinion all these groups had rallied around the Occupy movement and were there in solidarity with them, not trying to co-opt them. [cont’d.]
Then the march got under way. Around 1000 people started down Market street towards the Martin Luther King bridge, it was electric as the crowd marched. They had a set list of chants that they used. We passed all the corporate headquarters in St. Louis. Bank of America was the first corporation of interest and the crowd chant went from “We are the 99%” to “Bank of America Bad for America.” When we came upon the Federal Reserve I looked up and noticed 4 men staring out of the windows of their offices above. I wondered what they were each thinking. The march stopped traffic at all the intersections. The police were with us the entire way blocking off the intersections so we could pass. There was no violence and the police allowed the protesters to exercise their first amendment rights. Kudos to the city for allowing the march. We passed the Arch and headed for the bridge.
I overheard one of the marchers say “we are going to be arrested” so I assumed there was a group of people who planned on some civil disobedience once they reached the bridge. When we reached the intersection of the bridge I lost Lee in the crowd and broke off from the march. There was a line of police blocking the entrance to the bridge and that was the final line the city was going to allow. I couldn’t be arrested because of my health which was my only regret, not being arrested.
This was my first march and it is an experience I will never forget. Here are all the pictures and video I took. The still pictures were of the rally and pre-march activities. There is one video of the rally and two videos of the march. The videos are named as such so just point to the one you want to see. And here’s the link to channel 2 coverage of the arrest of the ones who sat down at the entrance to the bridge. Yeah I know it’s a Fox station but they were the only local channel that had complete coverage of the stand off. There is a 15 second ad before the start of the video, sorry for that. This video is the coverage after I broke off from the group.
In closing, this is an experience that “Gets in your blood” as Southern Dragon told me. My only regret is that I was not able to be arrested. There is a lot of work to be done and this is only the beginning. I hope there will be future marches and rallies, if so I will be there covering it. My thanks to Jane for allowing me to be a part of the FDL family. We are a truly tight knit group of intelligent, thoughtful and respectful people who are the forefront of the American Revolution.
Please support your local occupy as you are able and as you have. There are many things you can do. There have been some great diaries of the protests around the country and I applaud those efforts. Don’t forget to donate to the #OccupySupply fund to keep the supplies flowing. FDL has raised almost $125,000 for Occupy supplies which is truly amazing. Keep up the good work. The weather is turning nasty and the occupiers need our support.
This is a marathon not a sprint and it will take all of us to make change in this country. The floor is yours. Please provide feedback for me as I am striving to become a better diarist and voice for FDL.
An O/T comment: Masoninblue posted a very inspirational diary here. In his post he put a video of Kseniya Simonova and she tells an amazing story with sand art. If you haven’t seen it is well worth your time to do so. It is a tear jerker so have plenty of tissues on hand. Mason’s writing is very inspirational as well and he shows why we need to end the wars and bring our troops home.