standing armies

When I was growing up, I remember studying the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam war protests. It was inspiring to me to see such activism. When I learned about Kent State, the momentous photograph stirred me inside.

So I took it upon myself as a student, to walk in the footsteps of those Kent State students and head down to Occupy Denver in my break after midterms. Through various sources, I had heard it was just a bunch of homeless people and unproductive naysayers. I wanted to see for myself.

As it turned out, it was a very lively protest. We marched to various places in the city, chanting slogans and such. But what struck me most was the stories from the people I met. There was Joe, who had worked for Comcast and had been laid off (and he therefore cancelled all his internet, tv, and cell phone services, as well as his credit cards) after several years on the job. And Miles, a middle-aged postal worker afraid because his health benefits are at risk of being cut. And finally, Anthony, a photographer who supported the movement and wanted to document it.

Then a string of incidents took place, resulting in the SWAT team coming out. It happened almost instantly–the police set up a dividing line between the two sides of Broadway. I have never seen so many police cars parked in a green space before. They were everywhere! And they were armed: tear gas guns, pepper-spray-filled paintball guns, billy clubs. I’m sure they had rubber bullets and beanbag shot, but I wasn’t sure where.

Even though they gave us the required 10-minute warning before firing tear gas (which they never did), I was not scared. I had done nothing wrong and found it comical as the police handed out Cliff Bars to the front line officers. I guess they needed their energy.

So where were the students? I met one person who was a Metro State graduate. But on the whole, it was a very mixed crowd. I could not find one particular demographic in common. With all of us graduating soon to a pathetic job market, why weren’t students more enraged?

Some comment must be made about the army which stood before me. Silly. That’s the comment I have. I realize they were there to do a job but I really felt their show of force was, to say the least, excessive. I mean really–what were we going to do? Tear down trees? I cannot even imagine how much it costed the City of Denver that day, not to mention the State with all the Staties and Park Service Officers (it is a park, after all).

I identified with Joe, Miles, Anthony, and many others with whom I spoke. I realized this Movement is not just against New York banks–we have the same banks right here in Denver.

I leave you, then, dear reader, with a quote from my literary hero, Thomas Jefferson: “And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

That day we had both swindling and a standing army.

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