About three weeks ago, I went on a trip to the East Coast and visited the camps at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston. While I was gone, Occupy Madison launched at Reynolds Park, and moved shortly thereafter to the State Street corner of the Capitol Square, with general assemblies held every evening to discuss the business of the demonstration. Now its participants are moving again, and have landed in the old Don Miller lot on East Washington as a hopefully permanent "home" in their quest to maintain a visible presence downtown.
In New York, I wanted to love Occupy Wall Street, known on Twitter as #ows. I wanted it to make me feel the way the Wisconsin protests this spring made me feel -- a sense of community in which people were willing to stand up for each other. On Oct. 5, the New York demonstration came close to what I'd experienced in Wisconsin during a joint #ows and labor march from Zuccotti Park to Foley Square and back again. In Boston, a community of tents had popped up on Dewey Square, reminiscent of this summer's Walkerville in Madison. This felt more like the moment I had been waiting for -- a broad coalition with a united message of "We are the 99%," announcing that is time for reform of Wall Street.
Although occupations have sprung up in both Madison and Milwaukee over the last few weeks, they have struggled to get the number of overnight demonstrators we have seen in some cities, or even the numbers we saw at Walkerville this summer. It remains to be seen whether they will grow. The planning for Occupy Boston started with only two people; now, tents cover all of Dewey Square, and they have to turn away potential campers.
There's certainly something to be said for the constant presence. It sends a visual statement that you are committed to change, in it for the long haul, and are not backing down. Indeed, those are the very reasons many Wisconsinites occupied Madison this spring. We occupied the Capitol. We slept on its steps in March, and moved across the street when Capitol police threatened arrests. We slept in tents lining the Square in June. We've slept outside. We've occupied.
And now the occupy movement calls us back. Not just for an occupation, but to be part of the actions that have sparked a nationwide conversation about class issues, something we rarely see in the United States. The unions that joined us for the labor march in New York did not have to camp out to be part of that conversation.
Here in Wisconsin, in many ways, we started that conversation back in February. We talked about campaign contributions, the Koch brothers, an attack on the middle and working classes, and the lack of respect and responsiveness shown to constituents by many elected officials. We chanted that the people united would never be defeated. We poured our hearts into protests and legislative recalls, and are regrouping for the Walker recall.
Now, that same chant echoes across the country as Occupy actions send the message that the influence of money in our government is not simply an isolated issue. It is a problem with the potential to affect every issue that our elected officials consider, and one that affects all of us in the "99 percent." Whether one intends to sleep outside or not, this movement offers an opportunity to directly rejoin that conversation.
Jenni Dye is a Madison-area attorney who has been actively involved in the protests at the Wisconsin Capitol, and has actively covered the events via Twitter. She is running for the District 33 seat on the Dane County Board of Supervisors.