|image from http://weknowmemes.com/2011/10/50-cities-that-have-joined-the-occupy-wall-street-movement/|
On Saturday, my husband, father and I drove two hours south to San Francisco to march with Occupy San Francisco, which is affiliated with Occupy Wall Street. We felt we needed to be there for our daughter, Queen Teen, and others who have disabilities. Services for people with disabilities and the elderly are being cut to dangerous levels. Health care, supported living, therapies, In Home Support Services, jobs programs, day programs, and every other service necessary to the health and well being of people with disabilities have been slashed. People are being forced into nursing homes because no one can care for them in their homes. Imagine what it must be like for a 25 year old man with a disability to live in a nursing home, surrounded by the elderly and the dying, just because he needs a physical attendant to survive. The wealthy can get all the health care and supports they need while the elderly and disabled are forced to choose between food and medicine. This is a crime, and any civilized nation should be ashamed. I will not sit silently while one more person with a disability is killed because of "budget cuts."
The other reason we needed to go was because last year we almost lost our house. My husband had been laid off for the second time in 5 years and was unemployed for over two years. We tried getting help from our lender, Bank of America, but they wouldn't talk to us. We didn't qualify for any of the programs available to help people from being foreclosed on because we actually did everything right. We had a traditional 30 year loan at a good, fixed interest rate (for then) and put down a large down-payment. We were never late on our payments and when we had to refinance the first time my husband had been laid off, we refused when the bank wanted us to pull out ALL of our equity. They practically begged, but we only took what we needed to survive. But then, 3 years later when we needed to refi because he had been laid off again, B of A wouldn't grant us an interview. They got bailed out... we got ignored.
The protest and march were small and disorganized, but the people were passionate. It was a mix of old and young, but the young were the majority. Different races and different cultures were represented. I saw young professionals walking side-by-side with tattooed hippie kids. The image you see on the news is that the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement is primarily made up of communist and anarchist kids who have nothing better to do then drum and rant about revolution. That image is only a tiny part of who is really there. I am a working, highly educated, middle class, woman from a small town and I saw many more people who would fit into my demographic. The idea that there is no message or cohesive point to the rallies and marches is ludicrous. Pay attention! This is a wake up call to our government demanding that our needs, the 99%, become more of a priority then multi-national corporations and banks. I don't know who payed for Obama when he got to be President, but he sure doesn't seem to be listening to us anymore.
We marched from the Federal Reserve Bank up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza near Van Ness Avenue. It was peaceful, but loud. The police traveled along side us in their cruisers, watching us with impassive faces, keeping us from blocking the road, but allowing us to walk in it. I ended up walking on the outside of the marchers closest to the police and it felt eery having a cop car slowly moving beside me while I shouted, "Who's streets? Our streets!" The march was going all the way up to the Mission District and Dolores Park, but we couldn't stay that long. We had to be back home by 9:00 p.m. for the sitter. Queen Teen had stayed home because we felt the noise and all those people would be too scary for her. Plus, it's hard to run away in a wheel chair if the protest gets violent. I've seen the pictures from New York City. We may be peaceful, but sometimes things happen. We may not be able to camp out with the protesters, but we supported them the best we could.
Occupy Wall Street is growing all over the country, including here in Ukiah. I'm excited. Perhaps as the OWS grows, our government and our president will finally start to think about the rest of us, the 99%, and the responsibility we all have to support those who need our help.
Stop the killing of people with disabilities through draconian budget cuts. I will gladly pay more taxes if it will save a life. Wouldn't you?