At 10 AM on Sunday, Nov. 20, community-based peace group Waynepeace successfully completed its first “Occupy Honesdale” action. This action had begun 40 hours before, at 6 PM Friday, Nov. 18, with the setting up of tents and canopies in Honesdale’s Central Park – directly across the street from the local affiliate of investment firm Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. We conducted this action in support of, and in sympathy and solidarity with, the “Occupy Wall Street” gathering in New York City and the many similar “Occupy” protests taking place across the country and around the world.
“Occupy Honesdale” was a legal, permitted action; we had obtained a permit for the encampment, with minimal restrictions, from the Honesdale Borough Council on Monday, Nov. 14. Word was sent out to local activists and the media through email and social media immediately after the approval.
Our intents were simple: in the face of the increasingly violent repression of the “Occupy” encampments in major cities such as New York and Oakland, we wished to let the political and financial “Powers That Be” know that the virus has already spread – that the discontent embodied by those protests is in fact already present everywhere, even in small towns and rural areas like our own. We also wanted to encourage people to discuss the many issues raised by the Occupy movement, and how those issues are affecting their lives and the life of our communities.
Three Waynepeace activists, Kathy Dodge, Chuck Heyn, and Skip Mendler, camped out in the park for two nights. During our time there, we were joined by approximately three dozen local citizens who dropped by to share support, food, music – and most importantly their stories, their wishes, and their concerns about the problems inherent in our current economic and political systems. Our visitors included working people, professionals, academics, farmers, the unemployed, students, and children.
Together, we found much to be concerned about. From a health care worker who spends more time with her paperwork than with her clients, to overworked teachers, to struggling farmers, again and again we heard of hard-working people who are finding it difficult to cope with the physical and mental demands of a system hell-bent on profit. Above and beyond these personal struggles, we view with growing apprehension the emergence of a world order marked by two trends – either of which would be disturbing enough, but which in combination give reason for profound alarm.
On the one hand, we see the insidious but increasingly blatant hand of “corporatocracy” shaping public policy for the benefit of corporations and their wealthiest shareholders and executives – the rule of the so-called “1 Percent.” On the other, we see the increasing scarcity of resources leading to a “leaner, meaner,” and more militarized world of ever-growing inequality and poverty. We fear that democracy cannot survive in a country starkly divided between rich and poor.
But we also found reasons for hope, and examples of successful resistance to the burgeoning power of the “corporate state.” Consumer-based revolts such as the recent Netflix debacle and the backlash against increased debit card fees show that citizens can effectively exert the “power of the purse” when they want to. Events like the delayed DRBC vote about fracking in the Delaware Valley, and the postponement of the Keystone XL pipeline, suggest that political institutions are indeed still sensitive to shows of popular outrage and opposition.
We believe that part of the solution lies in increasing the resilience of our communities – in making them both more interconnected and more individually self-sufficient. We believe that we must develop broader awareness and a greater sense of empathy with others, both close and distant. We must be willing to seek new solutions, and leave behind old and tired debates. The Occupy movement is not just about redefining our institutions, it is about changing the ways we interrelate as human beings, and the ways we make decisions that affect each other. We invite all those who are dissatisfied with “the way things are” to spend the winter re-examining and re-evaluating the “truths” we have always been told – and to meet us in the parks and on the streets when we re-emerge in the Springtime of 2012. We will be posting information on our website, http://www.waynepeace.org, that may be helpful in this process.
We would like to express our gratitude to the many people who helped make this happen – first of all, to the Honesdale Borough Council, for allowing us to move forward; Assistant Borough Secretary Judy Poltanis and Public Works Director Rich Doney were very helpful. Grace Episcopal Church was, as ever, very generous in making its facilities available to the public. We wish to thank Mark Terwilliger, Dennis Keller, and “Banjo” Ron Streczyk for sharing their musical talents with us. We would also like to acknowledge the young men who staged a creative mock “counter-demonstration” Saturday afternoon, and whoever it was that set off some firecrackers in the early hours of Sunday morning – thank you for bothering to take notice. We are grateful to Andrea Heyn, Heidi Schneider, Nancy Dymond, and everyone else who brought food for us to share. Frank PeterSun of All American T Klothing and Kulture shared some of his T-shirts and artwork. And to those who stopped by with concrete offers of assistance and information – we shall move forward. “This is the beginning of the beginning.”
Finally, we wish to dedicate this action to the memory of Fran Hepburn of Callicoon, who passed away recently. Fran was with us from the beginnings of Waynepeace and our sister organization in Sullivan County NY, Sullivan Peace and Justice. She will be missed.