Guest article: “My Occupy Experience” by Mike Despot

 As you already know I’m in Idaho for a few weeks collecting stories by and about people that are involved in or been impacted by social justice issues.  One of the ongoing projects of the trip is to put together a book “Notus, Idaho”.  Here’s one of the stories that’s been submitted for the book.

Besides being a great writer, Mike is also a great shooter.  Be sure to check out his work on his website DespotPhotos.com Despite being legally blind, Mike has some great work there!

My Occupy Experience
Mike Despot 

I have been a news junky for most of my adult life.  Having married at twenty and going through the struggles of raising a family and working in a Detroit auto factory, I never found time to get directly involved in the anti-war demonstrations nor the civil rights struggle.  I supported both verbally every chance I had, which was often in Detroit.

Along came the Occupy movement, this I could not sit out!  Seeing the damage being done to our country by the uber wealthy and the control they have gained over our government through, legal and illegal means, I just had to get directly involved.

One day, I called my sister in Michigan and asked if she would be interested in joining me in New York to join the Occupy Wall Street protest.  She suggested I find out what was happening locally in Boise, Idaho.   I decided to search for any activity in Boise, not expecting to find much of anything. going on.  To my surprise, I found  that Occupy Boise was indeed alive and well.   I started to attend their meetings just a few weeks after they started.

The group first discussed starting a 24 hour vigil across from the state capitol building.  From the conversations I heard,  I doubted they would ever pull it off in the time frame they had set and that they would not have nearly the facilities they contemplated.   I was so completely wrong.  When I walked into the camp right after set-up, I was amazed at how well the plans of this leaderless group had come together.   They had tents over the entire lawn of the Old County Courthouse, along with a day care, library, medical and a general Assembly tents.  Yes, a whole community in one day!   I began to gain more respect for this odd leaderless movement.  It did take awhile for me to get used to all of the odd hand gestures during General Assembly meetings and the fact that everyone was an equal member.

One of the most rewarding and unexpected experiences for me, was getting to know a number of homeless people by name.  Like many people in the general population, I thought of the homeless as drug and alcohol addicts that have caused all of their own problems.  I always have had empathy for the homeless them, but I never bothered to know them.   Now I see that each homeless person is just as much of an individual as any one else, each with their own story and set of circumstances.   I found many of the homeless people in the Occupy site to be very hard working, taking care of the site and taking care of each other.   For the seven months we were at the vigil site, there were very few minor problems.  Most of the problems that did occur were from people coming into the vigil site, to cause problems with the Occupiers.

Overall, my involvement with Occupy Boise has been a tremendous experience and continues to be. I’m proud to have been part of such an important movement.

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