A Visit to Occupy Atlanta

I wandered down tonight to the Occupy Atlanta tonight to see for myself my city’s version of the national protests. I was expecting a lot of things- tension, controversy, chanting, and possibly a drum circle surrounded by several half-dressed pseudo-hippies.

It was a shattering disappointment. They couldn’t even scrounge up the hippies. There were about twenty tents, but the crowd was underwhelming to say the least. The homeless and mentally ill were a prominent presence…actually, from the moment I stepped off the MARTA at Five Points Station, the homeless and mentally ill were a prominent presence. One more strike against Atlanta in my mind.

And Atlanta has it’s strikes. It’s poorly managed, corrupt and covered up in panhandlers, lowlifes, and creeps. Significant parts of our downtown looks like something out of a Mad Max movie. All that was missing tonight was a post-apocalyptic tank wandering around with a gang of hooligans hanging off the gun barrel. But I digress….a bit.  The protest was sparsely attended, overshadowed by the mentally ill/drunk people hanging around and jumping up in front of the cameras, didn’t seem to have anyone coherent within reach of a mic, and was dominated by glory-hogs hanging around shouting ambiguous slogans like “Power to the People.” Serious, someone shouted that. Randomly. Nothing was happening.

I’d use the term ‘pathetic’ to describe the whole experience. Also ‘disappointing.’

I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed in Atlanta for not having a cogent program to deal with the mentally ill homeless population or in the protest for such a miserable showing for what I consider an historic, national movement. Really Atlanta? This is the best you could do?

I want to bitch-slap the city. I really do.

There was a media presence. Channels Five and Two were there, filming live shots and taking comments. Someone offered me some free-form poetry on the protest…I don’t think he was with the media, or even the event. The ironic gentleman who posed for this photo- and he did take the time to pose- proceeded to wander over to a tree and hump it. I’m not kidding.

There were some interesting signs posted around the park. I’ll try to include some on this post. But most of the experience was dominated by the impression that Mayor Kasim Reed knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to let the protestors stay and get media coverage. Footage of this will seriously undermine the national protests. “Sure, stay in the park til Monday….talk to the press…protest all you want…<snicker>…it’s not like you’re serious.”

I’ve spoken with a friend who is involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests, and it sounds like it’s going better up there. They’re trying to form a message of some kind. It’s something at least. Better than Atlanta, which seems like the only over-arching message is “Cool! A camera! Look serious.”

I know the common complaint is that these protests don’t have a coherent message. As though that means that the criminal negligence of bankers and traders doesn’t really matter- since we can’t name it, there must be no ‘real’ injustice, just a bunch of whiners.

What really matters is that the people who’s pensions/benefits/jobs/lives were wiped out by the last few years are so overwhelmed with the injustices of the system that we couldn’t come up with just ONE message. The rigging of the system is too great.

Our problem is no that we have no place to start our protests- our problem as a [formerly-middle] class is that there are so many abuses by the people with money and power that we don’t know where to start. That’s the problem. Not the lack of a message…the large pile of them. Oh, we’ve got a message, alright. That’s why this protest spread to over 60 cities (and counting) with virtually no central organization. (Yes, Fox News, I’m sure you think the unions are behind it all. Now go put your safety helmet back on.) Occupy Wall Street has tapped a deep vein, as I’m sure many Americans realize. We’ve got a point to direct a lot of our pent up energy after years of knowing- KNOWING- that people are buying their way out of justice, that they system is off, that corporations, as Jon Stewart so accurately put it on The Daily Show, may be considered people by the law…but they are not Americans.

I’ve watched the majority of my family suffer these last few years. We are lucky that we can scrap by, although several family members lost most of their material possessions and their homes to foreclosure. I went to the Occupy Atlanta ready to join a movement that might channel my anger and resentment at the pack of lies handed down from people who want to be called ‘job creators.’ I didn’t see anything I wanted to join. Shame on you Atlanta, for such a disappointing show.

Here are some of the more poignant signs from tonight in Atlanta:

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