Welcome to the American Spring - I saw dozens of peaceful protesters violently choked, stomped on, and beaten with night sticks. I saw police beat retreating protesters trying to escape. I saw a woman get sent to the hospital after police brutally beat her and left her seizing on the ground.
This week, the American Spring began. You may not have heard much about it yet, because the media seem mostly to have missed it (much as they missed the original occupation of Wall Street at first). But the seeds of the occupation have started to flower into a movement reborn.
Last night, the cracks in the surface began to show. Hundreds of mostly young people came together for a few brief, beautiful hours to celebrate the six-month anniversary of the occupation of Wall Street. On St. Patrick's Day, a night usually associated with mischief and drunken debauchery, we met in a public park to connect with each other and reestablish the bonds that hold our community together. It was a celebration of what's best in America -- civic community, freedom of association, self-expression -- and an indication that the American Spring will be as big as last fall.
But, last night I also saw the worst of America. The movement to restore democracy may find a willing public, but it will be violently opposed by Wall Street and their cronies in elected office. Instead of protecting, or celebrating, a generation of young people fighting to restore hope to our nation's future, I saw police do everything they could to suppress our right to express ourselves and gather freely.
I saw dozens of peaceful protesters violently choked, stomped on, and beaten with night sticks. I saw police wantonly beat retreating protesters trying to escape. I saw a woman get sent to the hospital after police brutally beat her and left her seizing on the ground. I saw the first broken window of Occupy Wall Street; ironically, it came from police smashing it with a protester's head. Coming on the heels of recent reports of police infiltration and monitoring of the Occupy movement, it was a chilling vision of what democracy looks like in America.
We have always been a nation where our legally afforded rights are only as valuable as our ability to fight for them. The American Spring is an echo of the international movement started in Tunisia, Spain, Greece and Egypt. But, crucially, it's also part of the long struggle within the soul of our nation founded as a beacon of freedom with millions in slavery. Our democracy only works if each generation takes up the struggle to build a more just and humane world.
We are a generation rising from the ashes of the American Dream, staring out at a nation, and a world, stripped bare by the unshackled forces of international finance. Although some of us grew up in plenty, our horizons were limited by the poverty of a culture that suggested our only legitimate aspiration was private profit. As we came of age, the notion that countries dedicated solely to profit suffer some form of poverty went from a moral argument to an economic reality. We saw our economy collapse and our democracy implode because too many people believed individuals deserve sole credit for their successes or their failures.
The Occupy movement is determined to build a society where every individual is valued because we believe no one succeeds or fails on their own. We are each as responsible for ourselves as we are for each other. We will continue to attack a political and economic system designed to concentrate power in an increasingly smaller number of hands. We believe in a nation where our democracy controls Wall Street, instead of letting Wall Street control our democracy. We are building a movement to hold the people who destroyed our economy and privatized our democracy accountable to the will of the public.
We know our struggle to build a truly democratic society will be met by increasingly strong resistance from the oligarchs that benefit from the status quo. That's why we are making our struggle more fun, more accessible, and more easily understandable to the public. As the weather begins to turn in New York, the movement has started to re-emerge. Last Thursday, we launched FightBAC, our first corporate campaign, by bringing furniture to a Bank of America to say if they continue to foreclose on homeowners, the American people will foreclose on them. We started holding weekly Spring Training marches from Liberty Square to Wall Street to practice for May Day.
Last fall, our movement showed what was possible when people came together to fight for their vision of the future. The movement will take off again if more people feel empowered to speak their minds and share their dreams. Days like yesterday show the promise and the peril of becoming a part of a movement for democracy at this point in our nation's history. It was a reminder that our rights are only aspirations and our democracy only exists if we continue to create it together. The American Spring will succeed if people like you believe our rights are worth fighting for, and our democracy is worth reclaiming.