Alex Knapp, Occupy Harrisburg discussion leader
By Frank Pizzoli
Democracy is a messy stew. It’s also delicious.
About 100 people filled the community room tonight of Metropolitan Community Church of the Spirit, Jefferson Street, Harrisburg.
Tattoos and piercings mingled with tweeds and button downs. New and nostalgic plaids crowded next to children and senior citizens. At least one elected official was there. There were pastors, a rabbi, and union representatives. A veteran of both the Iraqi and Afghan Wars stood next to pink and green hair. The visual was a colorful Kasbah of dissent.
Comments came from both 60s veteran radicals and nouveau activists. “You guys have Facebook too?” asked one young woman.
Although the impromptu organization Occupy Harrisburg is meant to be a leaderless one, Alex Knapp moderated the discussion. Another volunteer Alex Blitzer created their online presence. Knapp instructed participants to hand an invisible baton to the next speaker. No soap-boxing and keep it short.
The originally proposed reason to meet – ousting of Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson – faded early in the discussion. Pretty quickly, as these types of assemblies go, the group decided that although they had numerous concerns, they all had one thing in common – Wall Street. Their nemesis is the 1% of the nation who owns most of the wealth and is symbolized by Wall Street.
“If we’re the 99% it stands to reason we’re going to have issues all over the place,” said one participant. “But we agree that we’re plain tired of not having a say on issues important to us – health care, jobs, stagnant wages,” she continued. A friend chimed in with “the 1% on Wall Street wants us arguing on Main Street. If we remain divided, they remain impenetrable.”
Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski said, “You can’t get 100 people together in Harrisburg to do anything,” amazed at the turnout. He said, “This is precisely the message we’ve been trying to deliver about Harrisburg’s fiscal crisis. The solutions offered take care of Wall Street while leaving Main Street holding debt.”
Before too long the diversity of issues heating up the room cooled off into consensus. Those assembled agreed that their diversity of issues was their strength.
What were their thoughts after the meeting?
“This is a revolution,” said one attendee.
“I’m pissed off; I work hard, for what? Wall Street wants to take every penny from everyone else. Our country is in the mess it’s in because of their greed and they just aren’t going to stop unless we stand up,” groused another participant.
“Are politics are broken,” said one individual. “Money controls everything, controls both political parties. The Supreme Court tells us corporations are people and have the same rights. No, they’re not. No, they don’t. Time for action.”
“I come from a Communist country. I know what it’s like when those at the top have everything,” said one man.
Is tonight’s Occupy Harrisburg meeting, and gatherings elsewhere around the nation where the “Occupy” movement is coalescing, a center/left version of the Patriot Party? “Yes, it is,” said one young man.