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The Cost of Erasing Dissent (#Chalkupy Austin)

A man in a Guy Fawkes mask is handcuffed as two scared children and their mother watch.

Corey Williams is arrested in front of Hillary Procknow's children (photo: John Jack Anderson, used with permission).

By Hillary Procknow, Ph.D. Crossposted from Occupy Austin

On Thursday, August 9, I took my two children, ages 4 and 7, to an Occupy Austin event called “Chalkupy the World.” Many other cities around the country, and even abroad, participated in this event. I’ve been to a few Occupy events, support the methods and messages of Occupy, and am somewhat active in one of the Occupy groups that does work dealing with the local school district. The Chalkupy event was supposed to be a gathering of people using sidewalk chalk to express, well, anything really, but mostly dissent or disenchantment with the way things in our country have evolved to either favor the ultra-wealthy or punish the poor, middleclass, marginalized, or otherwise “different” people.

I anticipated that this was going to be a small event, and one that would allow me to show my support of the Occupy movement while also letting my children participate, or at least keep them occupied. They like chalk; they like to draw. I wasn’t really expecting police intervention. I’m a responsible mother; I would never knowingly put my children in harm’s way. I thought, particularly in Austin, this event would be reasonably innocuous. But I’m also responsible enough to want to teach my children to participate in the citizenry, to stand up for what they believe in. I can’t say I’m altogether surprised at what happened, which is really a sad comment on our society.

I took my children because I thought it was an appropriate place for children to participate in coming together, in citizens who don’t know each other meeting in person, in public space…in space that is for the public. I think it’s worth mentioning, too, that the day before, I had just read William F. Buckley Jr.’s essay “Why Don’t We Complain?” Writing in 1960, the famous conservative commenter remarked on how much people at the time were willing sit back without remark and endure unreasonable situations. He explains that it’s sometimes complex, that there are often hidden reasons for why some things are the way they are. But his essay challenged me. And on August 9, I was feeling a duty to myself and my country to speak up for things that seem unjust. If I didn’t, who would? How would my children learn to speak out against injustice?

We had picked up two packages of giant-sized sidewalk chalk earlier in the afternoon. They were the biggest chalk sticks I had ever seen, and I found their cartoonish proportions a little humorous. Two sticks in each pack. Two sticks for each child. I knew there would be more chalk waiting at the event, but it’s always good to come prepared. As we drove to the event, I reminded my children they could draw anything they wanted. I want my kids to participate in the public sphere, but I don’t want to be too heavy handed in what messages they feel forced to repeat. They will change their minds about many issues many times as they grow. I don’t think I need to force them to accept any point of view right now. I did tell them, though, that they might want to think for a minute about one thing they thought would help make the world a better place. My younger child thought about rain. My older child mentioned recycling. I told them that would be great, and that they could draw as many pictures as they liked. [cont’d.]

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The Cost of Erasing Dissent (#Chalkupy Austin)

Editor’s Note: For more on Chalkupy Austin see The Crackdown on ChalkKit

By Hillary Procknow, Ph.D. Crossposted from Occupy Austin

A man in a Guy Fawkes mask is handcuffed as two scared children and their mother watch.

Corey Williams is arrested in front of Hillary Procknow's children (Photo: John Jack Anderson, used with permission).

On Thursday, August 9, I took my two children, ages 4 and 7, to an Occupy Austin event called “Chalkupy the World.” Many other cities around the country, and even abroad, participated in this event. I’ve been to a few Occupy events, support the methods and messages of Occupy, and am somewhat active in one of the Occupy groups that does work dealing with the local school district. The Chalkupy event was supposed to be a gathering of people using sidewalk chalk to express, well, anything really, but mostly dissent or disenchantment with the way things in our country have evolved to either favor the ultra-wealthy or punish the poor, middleclass, marginalized, or otherwise “different” people.

I anticipated that this was going to be a small event, and one that would allow me to show my support of the Occupy movement while also letting my children participate, or at least keep them occupied. They like chalk; they like to draw. I wasn’t really expecting police intervention. I’m a responsible mother; I would never knowingly put my children in harm’s way. I thought, particularly in Austin, this event would be reasonably innocuous. But I’m also responsible enough to want to teach my children to participate in the citizenry, to stand up for what they believe in. I can’t say I’m altogether surprised at what happened, which is really a sad comment on our society.

I took my children because I thought it was an appropriate place for children to participate in coming together, in citizens who don’t know each other meeting in person, in public space…in space that is for the public. I think it’s worth mentioning, too, that the day before, I had just read William F. Buckley Jr.’s essay “Why Don’t We Complain?” Writing in 1960, the famous conservative commenter remarked on how much people at the time were willing sit back without remark and endure unreasonable situations. He explains that it’s sometimes complex, that there are often hidden reasons for why some things are the way they are. But his essay challenged me. And on August 9, I was feeling a duty to myself and my country to speak up for things that seem unjust. If I didn’t, who would? How would my children learn to speak out against injustice?

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