Occupy America movement comes to Plymouth
Dozens of Occupy America protesters from around the region gathered together on the Plymouth Common this past Saturday afternoon to help grow the nationwide movement and start to get their message out to the public. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
November 02, 2011PLYMOUTH—There is currently a cacophony of messages coming out of the Occupy Wall Street and affiliated protest demonstrations across the country. But there is a discernible coherence, as well. In the myriad of placards and protest signs on display at the Occupy Plymouth protest on the Common this past Saturday, there were several messages that came through loud and clear – even if the protesters were not very noisy or disruptive.
One person who can tell you a lot about what is going on is A'lynn Hayward, the steady and reliable "space-holder" for the protesters in Plymouth over the course of the last few weeks. Articulate and extremely thoughtful, Hayward has personally spoken with literally hundreds of local people in the past few weeks, and has patiently explained his purpose to those who are either confused or uninformed about the aims of the movement.
For days on end, Hayward has spent countless hours keeping an occasionally lonely vigil on the Common, and has endured name-calling and rude gestures from passersby as he has kept his steadfast presence.
But this past weekend, his efforts started bearing fruit, as dozens of Plymouth area residents answered the invitation and joined him in an Occupy Plymouth public demonstration on Saturday afternoon. And the response from passing motorists and pedestrians was anything but negative. Thumbs up, horns honking and passengers waving greeted those who stood by the side of the road with signs that descried corporate control of elections and runaway income inequality. There were almost no negative reactions.
Hayward says he has been called a "communist" and a "socialist" in the last few weeks, but he smiles and says he thinks people just don't yet understand. He is a patient guy.
While he says he cannot speak for anyone else who identifies with the movement, he is very clear on what he personally is trying to achieve.
"I am hoping for a change in the way officials are elected, particularly at the federal level," said Hayward. "I'm looking to see how we can take the money out of the political process and bring us back to a time when corporations and big money interests were not buying our Congress and our leaders.
"I also want to call attention to the fact that there is a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor in this country," continues Hayward. "It is the widest it has ever been in our history. The CEO's of big corporations, particularly the defense contractors, are all making $15 million to $20 million a year…and they've got people working for them at $8 per hour who cannot make a living for themselves. America is losing its values at the top. Our leaders are really in trouble."
Hayward acknowledges that there are some public relations problems to address.
"Some people think I want to reach into the pockets of someone who has some money and give it to someone who does not – for nothing," said Hayward. "But when we talk about income inequality, we are not talking about Robin Hood — robbing from the rich to give to the poor. We want to create a system that really works well for everyone."
That is why he thinks the grassroots movement has suddenly taken hold in Wall Street and the world.
"Young people started the movement…because they don't have jobs," said Hayward. "Some may be in college still, but they don't feel they have any prospects for the future. Some of them are looking at $50,000 to $100,000 in college loans—which they just can't pay because they don't have jobs. That is one of the seeds that started this."
While in Plymouth, most of the demonstrators, mirroring the demographics of our local population, perhaps, could only be described as "somewhat" mature — there were a few Plymouth State University students who stopped by to visit the gathering, as well. They said they were studying the movement for a class, and explained that it began well before Wall Street in September, with Spanish university students expressing their despair over the unemployment rate in Spain—the highest in the European Union.
Hayward says he hopes more people will turn out for the next Occupy Plymouth demonstration on the Plymouth Common this upcoming Saturday at noon.
"I hope we can overcome apathy," said Hayward. "I know that there are a lot of people who support the aims of the movement. But those people are not necessarily standing out here with me. I think it may be because they are afraid of being judged by their neighbors."
If so, Hayward will wait patiently until they gather strength.