Occupy Shawnee!

by Donna Schoenkopf

I said I’d be there at 4:30 that afternoon. Jo said that she thought we wouldn’t have but a couple of people show up. “Well, I’ll be there,” I said, so now I am on my way to Shawnee, a 20-minute drive from my house to Woodland Park.

(Actually, it’s not Woodland Park anymore. It’s Woodland Veterans Park now. It has a large circular area of imprinted bricks on the ground with donors’ names on them and a beautiful arch and a huge, honest-to-God army helicopter mounted on a pillar, donated by Bob Ford. He was my neighbor back in the day. He became a medic helicopter pilot during the Viet Nam war. He had that helicopter—his helicopter, the actual one he flew—restored, transported hundreds of miles, and mounted in the park. It is huge.)

I am on my way to Woodland Veterans Park to participate in “Occupy Shawnee.” I am thinking about how I had never gotten up to Oklahoma City to participate in “Occupy Oklahoma City” and how things kept coming up all week, keeping me from getting there. I am also thinking about how grateful I am that Shawnee is having its own “Occupy ...” and I wouldn’t have to drive all the way (a 100-mile round trip) to Oklahoma City to participate in democracy. I take my citizen’s duty seriously. Those of us who don’t keep up on things, who don’t speak out, who are silent and uninformed, are neglecting their duties as citizens of a democratic country, in my not so humble opinion.

Occupy Shawnee

I am happy as I drive. I love demonstrating for a good cause. I love being outside. I love the interaction between us folks on the sidewalk and the folks who drive by. I love the camaraderie of the group. I love the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of being a good citizen when I peel myself off of my couch, put on a pair of jeans and a clean shirt, and stand in the public square to witness for justice. Or peace. Or the environment. Or some such.

I think about how I have been doing this for a long time. I smile to myself. All my children have been on corners with me, including toddler son John in his stroller. It made them conscious of the world. It made them feel that they could effect change. It taught them that it is important that they pay attention and do something about things that are wrong.

As I drive I think about Egg City and marching with Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers in the middle of nowhere outside of Moorpark, California. I had talked Judy and Carole and Marlene (and I forget who else) into going with me to stand for justice for the men and women who worked there. A worker the week before had fallen into the feed grinder and had been ground into nothingness at that place of horror. I spoke one-on-one to Cesar Chavez that day as we stood on the lonely road outside of Egg City. He was kind and friendly. He was glad to see us.

Occupy Shawnee     Occupy Shawnee

I remember Marlene saying that the chickens themselves were being tortured. The tops of their beaks were cut off so they wouldn’t peck each other to death because each chicken had no more room allotted than the size of a piece of typing paper.

As I drive I remember the time it was my birthday and I asked all my friends to join me on a peace march down Pacific Coast Highway as their birthday present to me. Some of them marched. Others ... well, it just wasn’t their cup of tea. But they brought us snacks! And that counts, too. Truly.

I go through one experience after another and then ... I’m at the park.

The park looks empty. I don’t see any cars. But when I get out with my fluorescent pink poster board and black marker I see a group of people far off under the pavilion. I walk over, thinking they are part of our group but see that none of them know me nor I them. One of them, a guy in his 60s probably, approaches me before I actually get to the group. He asks me who I’m looking for. The rest of the group is silent and wary. I realize they don’t want me there and imagine all kinds of reasons for this. Are they part of the homeless people who hang out at the library? The library’s a few blocks away. Are they doing drug deals? Don’t they like the cut of my jib?

Of course this bothers me not a whit. I walk right up and lay my poster board on the sitting wall and, still talking to them about what I was doing there, start making my “I Am The 99%” sign.

A conversation begins. We talk about how 99% means everybody who’s not a millionaire; about how it’s the top 1% taking most of the goodies while the rest of us struggle to get by.

Occupy Shawnee

That gets some interest from the group. The talk gets lively and fun. But when I offer them signs and invite them over to join us, I see that there is no chance in hell they will. Finally, one guy says that he’d like to be the Native American representative for us. I am happy when he says that and tell him we’ll get him sign-making stuff.

No, no, that’s not what he meant, he says. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and he would be happy to be our spokesperson and speak to people about the subject. Another time. Another place. I take down his name and write it on the back of my poster board. He doesn’t have a phone and asks the woman next to him for “the phone number.” I write that down, too.

Sigh. That group needs to join us, I think as I walk away. But I smile and wave goodbye and get on with my business.

By the time I get up to the sidewalk Ed Cole, who has organized this event, and Jo and a few others have started to arrive. We start setting things up. Jo, who had not expected much of a turnout, is happy to see people. We laugh and joke and have brief conversations with each other. And then we walk out to the street with our signs.

The dance begins. We hold up our signs and wave to drivers passing by. Some of them look curiously at us, not knowing what 99% means. When they are stopped because of the traffic light we yell out something like, “We are the 99%! We are below the 1% of the richest people in America and we want them to pay their fair share!” Then those folks smile or give us the peace sign or honk. Sometimes they honk until they’re out of sight. We always cheer mightily when this happens.

I keep a mental list of the kinds of people who approve of us. They are mostly in older cars or young or African American or seem to be down on their luck. Of course, they are with us! One guy yells as he passes on his motorcycle, “Kill the 1%!!”

Some folks instinctively don’t approve of people on sidewalks with signs. They consider it very bad manners. To them it means hippie, peacenik, lefty, all of whom are bad people, in their opinion. They are stiff in their cars, never even glancing at us, pretending we don’t exist.

Occupy Shawnee     Occupy Shawnee

Two fire engines and a police car pass us. Were they sounding their sirens for us? Probably not.

I realize I haven’t taken any pictures or any video of our people so I put down my sign and visit each person and ask their name and why they are here today. Every answer is intelligent and cogent and filled with feeling. This is personal to us all.

Cecil, who is an older veteran in a wheelchair, tells me how it is a shame that men and women in the military who have sacrificed so much, are being let down by our country.

Mary Ellen says it really bothers her that corporations are now counted as people. She is really angry with the Supreme Court about that. Vicki hates the greed of the corporations. An older woman, probably in her 80s, whose name I’ve forgotten, talks about the Dylan Ratigan show working on keeping money out of politics. She is bright and snappy and hip.

These voices and more are recorded on my new video camera, which I tuck into my jeans pocket.

I go back to my shenanigans on the sidewalk and after a while I pull out the video camera to record some folks in their cars waving to us and the camera has erased everything I’ve taken!

Occupy Shawnee

I am filled with frustration and almost cry, but I start re-recording and get some people back on camera.

After an hour and a half we wind things up. We are all exhilarated and happy. And tired. We pack up our stuff, hug each other goodbye, and trudge back to our cars.

On the drive home I think about how I’m going to incorporate these great videos.

I pull into the driveway with the dancing dogs greeting me. I go right to my computer and plug the camera in. I load the videos and press play. They are all garbled.

Awwwww, crap.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll do better.

That’s right. We’ll be back.

Donna Schoenkopf recently retired from teaching at 61st Street School in South Central Los Angeles, and has moved back to Oklahoma, where she spent her teens.
donna@fourstory.org

Comments

We’re occupying Lawrence, too, in a big park at the south end of our downtown, a really good, visible spot.  About 30 people are camping, staying day and night.  The mayor says they can stay as long as they want as long as they’re peaceful.  I’m going there this afternoon, after making some cookies for the occupiers.  I’ll take some photos.

2011-10-19 by betsy

Good write-up, Hermana.  I was really impressed by how much the vast majority of the people we encountered showed support.  I don’t think most Oklahomans are as enthralled to the ruling class as we would be led to believe.  Hope is under-rated.

2011-10-19 by Fr. Clark Shackelford

Yippee!  Good on you.  Tht’s always been the irony in all of this.  We ARE the 99.99999% and all along we could have made sure that we got the goodies we needed for ourselves and our children and their children—99.999999 trumps 00000000000000001% any time.  But we didn’t/don’t do that until it’s too late.  Wierd.  But bless you and your signs and all who stood with you. Time to take some of the pudding back!

2011-10-21 by Ann Calhoun

OccupySanDiego is maybe going to do some teach ins with college professors.

Apparently someone has been spreading information.

Heres Gustavo Cerati flexing his vocal chops w/bajofondo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O2QQ3NMa54

2011-10-22 by Robert Hagen

Theres going to be ups and downs, but overall, I think the occupation is a very good thing.

For example, everyone else in the world gets to protest, but Americans dont? We should protest too, when its called for. Look at it like a football game (Im dumbing this down out of personal laziness:).( Alright.

People get enthusistic, and motivated.

Another thing- media attention. If it isnt in the newspaper, it didnt happen. We 99% deserve to be in the newspaper.

Last argument- I can be right as rain, but if Im ignored, or shut out of the grand decision making process, what good is it? Enter the occupation.

God bless these kids that participate. Us long time ballers owe it to them to be there. We have to be there for the youngsters, because lets face it, when we were their age, the world was our oyster. Now that times really are a little tougher, and the youth are challenged to make a decent life for themselves, which I would consider starts with removing the fear of the future before going on to technical arguments, we have to be there for them.

Does that mean supporting their movement, which stands in stark contrast to more mature tea partiers in terms of average age demographic? I think it does. For me it definately does. In fact, I go to bat for the women in society. If you really want to see me go crazy, give problems to the young people. Am I alone? No. Im just like about 99% percent of people.

In summary, I propose we first have a discussion of how we intend to support young people, and participants in this new movement. When commitment has been established, we can fine tune a program. Right now, the primary objective is to outlast the short term news cycle, and survive the sabotage measures which have, and will continue to come our way.

2011-10-24 by Robert Hagen

Heres Gustavo Cerati ‘Impossible Things’ from ‘Its Always today’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnAoyF0FoH4&feature=related

2011-10-24 by Robert Hagen

Don’t forget Michael Moore will be on CNN, Pierce Morgan tonight, Tuesday, Oct 25 about his new book and the Occupy every city campaign. We expats will be watching!
Jeanita

PS Is the old library, Jr. High School and the swimming pool still in Woodland park?

2011-10-25 by Jeanita Ives

Well i guess I’ll go down to city hall tonight for a while and hang out. love you, mom.

2011-10-25 by john schoenkopf

Yet another exquisite post, Donna.  What I love about your writing is that you always manage to do two very important things: 1) You incorporate human interest elements that really grab the reader (and yes, that DEFINITELY includes me); and 2) You express a certain vulnerability (in this case, losing your video captures and then, after re-shooting everything, discovering that it’s garbled), which most (if not all) of us can relate to (MY BAD - NEVER END WITH A PREPOSITION - I SHOULD KNOW BETTER BUT I’M TOO DAMNED LAZY AT 4:38 A.M. AFTER A MUSIC GIG). P.S.  I’m really touched by your son’s post, which is the one directly preceding mine.

2011-11-12 by Gary Eisenberg

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