Americans in the South join Occupy Wall Street movement

Dina Samir / Special report from Austin, Texas for Ahram Online, Saturday 8 Oct 2011

Some have started 'Occupying Austin' in the capital city of the southern, conservative state of Texas, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has spread across the US to protest corporate greed and foreign wars

"Occupy Austin" protests
"Occupy Austin" protests in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement (Photo: Dina Samir)

Hundreds of people gathered Friday at City Hall, the gateway to Texas’ Austin City government on the first day of what they have named “Occupy Austin.” A group of activists called for the event through social media to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement that started on 17 September in New York City’s famous financial district.

“People are tired; we are the 99 per cent of the US population suffering from the 1 per cent of people that are controlling our country’s wealth. We want to help in creating social justice, so everyone can have the same rights,” Hariet Collins, college student, said.

Demonstrators of Occupy Austin differ in their reasons for striking, yet, they all agree on being fed up with the US’s political and economic system. “This is one of the few times when people of America come to express legitimate outrage against the system that is letting a small group of people enrich at the expense of the rest,” Doug Fritzsche, 63, said.

Corporate greed, political corruption, social injustice, unemployment, and debt crisis are among the main factors behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has now spread across many states and cities in the US, such as New Jersey, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and others.

Occupy Austin demonstrators also showed frustration over the US foreign policy. “Occupy Austin, Not Occupy Afghanistan” a demonstrator wrote, standing beside two coffin-like boxes, one covered with the American flag and the other with the Afghanistan’s as a sign of disapproval of the US war on Afghanistan. “The US has spent trillions on wars. We did not benefit anything from those wars,” Yajaira Fraga, a Middle Eastern student, furiously said.

Fraga elaborated, “We are being put down by our government” expressing her disappointment at the government’s failure to create jobs at the same time that they help corporations prosper. “People need to be bailed out, not banks,” she said.

The first day of the Occupy Austin demonstrations started at 10am and featured many political discussions. The floor was open throughout the day for anyone to express his/her ideas on how this protest should build. Demonstrators agreed on certain guidelines for their movement: “No violence, no politicians, no religion and no drinking.” However, “We show respect to the diversity of tactics our fellow protestors elsewhere might use, such as civil disobedience,” a demonstrator said on the microphone. The heated political debates have music in the background, performed by Austin’s barefoot hippies who contributed to the event by improvising songs and dances.

Protestors at Occupy Austin do not stand for a specific list of demands and unlike the MENA region demonstrators; they do not call for the dismissal of their current government. “The problem is not with individuals: it is with the system, with corporations that are making policies.” Leah Gilman, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, explained.

“We are inspired by the revolution sweeping the Middle East,” a statement that has been uttered by many of Austin demonstrators. “Egyptians managed to get rid of Mubarak, we, too, can create a change,” Fraga said.

Protestors at Occupy Austin plan to continue with their strike although they were not allowed to camp out for the night.

Some protestors look at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the US as a movement, while others believe it is a potential revolution. “The future of this protest depends on how many people will support it and on moving the silent majority,” Gilman noted.

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