King’s method of protest was to occupy the public square in order to call attention to the issues of discrimination and economic inequality. He knew that solutions wouldn’t be created in the public square. He also knew that unless we were talking about the problem, there would never be any solutions offered. His strategy was to stand in public until people in power acknowledged that the problem existed, and started talking about it. He expected solutions to come from those discussions.
It is fitting that this celebration of King’s life is the day after Occupy Earth made international news. King was following in the footsteps of Gandhi, who stood up to British power, inventing non-violent techniques, in his quest for freedom for India. And now the protestors of Occupy Earth are following the paths left by Gandhi and King. They are standing in the public square. They are willing to question the right of establishment to ban them from assembly in the square which was paid for with taxes on their work. They are willing to go to jail to highlight the growing economic inequality and resulting alienation from political leaders.
I attended the Occupy Grand Junction event yesterday. The people who showed up were of all ages and from all walks of life. We all had the opportunity to speak into a bullhorn about what motivated us to be there. A young high school student said he came because he was learning about freedom of speech in an American History class. A World War II veteran came because he wanted the American Dream to be alive for his great-grand-children. A young teacher came because she was concerned that we weren’t providing an adequate education to our kids. A grandfather, who manages restaurants, came because he is concerned at the growing economic inequality. A councilor in a mental health clinic came because budget cuts are hurting the people in her care. A homeless man with mental illness came because he thought the power of love was more important than the love of power. A community organizer came to remind people that democracy works for people when they organize and stand up together to demand change.
I don’t know how many of those people stayed until the bewitching hour, when the space was supposed to be vacated, according to signs posted all around the courthouse lawn. I know that some planned to pitch their tents in the public square, and stay until government began to listen to them. They also planned to be arrested, without resistance. They had attorneys standing by to represent them. This middle-class lady left when her back pain got too great. Clearly she has a big mouth, but not the heart of a Gandhi or King.
Martin Luther King May 4, 1966
Biography of Gandhi
Occupy Grand Junction