October 16, 2011

The kids are alright: occupying Charleston

Charleston, WV was one of many cities around the country and the world that held Occupy Wall Street solidarity actions. I attended it for several hours on Saturday. The nicest thing about it was the fact that here was a decent crowd of people gathered together to confront economic injustice--and I didn't know 90 percent of them.

While it was a diverse group, many of the people who participated were young in years, in activism or both. That was good thing. Many members of the initial group that called for the action were young adults, most of whom had never done this kind of thing before. Overall, I'd say that around 200 people were there for some or all of the action.

I wasn't able to attend the preliminary planning meetings, but the group made some smart decisions early on to focus on the main message of Occupy Wall Street: the power of corporations and growing economic inequality, rather than getting sidetracked on issues such as mountaintop removal. Issues like that need to be dealt with, but this wasn't the time and place.

After gathering for a time at a small park on Kanawha Boulevard, the group marched through the city to assemble outside Chase Bank, a protest magnet these days, then marched to the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse.

A number of protesters had arranged with the city to camp at Haddad Riverfront Park for the occupation itself and I think plans are in the works for a series of events in the days to come.

The people who pulled this together very quickly did a great job. It was interesting to watch the interactions. Public response was overwhelmingly positive from people driving by. Similar events were held at other places in West Virginia. All told, a pretty impressive day of action, not just here, but all over the place. The challenge in the days ahead will be to find ways of keeping up momentum while also reaching out to more allies and developing a greater variety of actions and strategies.

If you go to facebook, you can follow charleston events at


And, by the way, check out the American Friends Service Committee WV Ecnomic Justice Project's Facebook page here.

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