Do you remember what was happening last year at this time? All across the United States, in cities and towns, concerned (and sometimes angry) citizens were gathering in public squares and parks in a show of protest against big banks and corporations that have derailed the nation’s economy. Calling themselves the 99%, these everyday folks, who had been cheated, hoodwinked and lied to by robber barons at multi-national financial institutions and by elected public leaders in the government, came out and peacefully told the world they were sick of it. To get their message across the 99% Occupiers crafted a lot of signs, which they posted all around their encampments and waved at their many rallies. These signs are the legacy of the movement, which remain relevant today even though the protests have largely disappeared from public view.
While the Occupy movement was growing bigger, Laura and I were abroad in Beijing. We had flown there earlier in the summer and were there to find jobs to jumpstart our professional lives after the American Dream had been outsourced to China. Not wanting to stand on the sidelines as the protests kept building back home, we attempted to take a picture of ourselves holding our own Occupy sign right in front of The Forbidden City directly across from Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 student-led protests against the Chinese Communist Party that ended with army intervention and the killing of unarmed young people. Needless to say what we attempted to do drew a lot of attention from the police who keep a close eye on everyone around Tiananmen. After we stood and took a few pictures several officers quickly came over, confiscated our sign, made us delete our snapshots and questioned us about our actions. Lucky for us we were protesting the U.S. government and not China’s or we most likely wouldn’t be able to share this story due to having been “disappeared”.
photo: Uncommon fritillary
A healthy democracy must be able to accommodate the voices, words and images of opinions that go counter to that of the mainstream. As we spent the autumn months in Beijing it was sad for us to read so many news reports about police brutally assaulting unarmed and nonviolent Occupy protestors. This type of behavior would not be shocking to hear about in China. But in the United States, where the First Amendment explicitly guarantees the freedom of speech, it is an outrage to bear witness to such unfortunate events. When the police crack down on peaceful protests a fundamental question arises, “Who, then, are they really protecting?”
In a show of support and remembrance to those who sacrificed much to come together and share their concerns about our country and the state of the world’s economies in an open and transparent public forum, we are posting a collection of images from last year’s Occupy Wall Street protests. The hand-drawn signs are powerful in their raw and naked honesty. In this respect, only a lying scoundrel could be afraid of them.
photo: Liz Mc
photo: K. Kendall
photo: Kelly Finnamore
photo: K. Kendall