By Karl Grossman
Occupy Wall Street came to Sag Harbor this weekend.
Some 150 people gathered at an “Occupy the Hamptons” rally inspired — as were demonstrations all over the world Saturday — by the now month-long protest on Wall Street.
At the foot of historic Long Wharf, corporate greed was being decried along with the massive redistribution of wealth in the United States in recent decades that has made the rich yet richer — at the cost of regular people. Also assailed: the collaboration of politicians in this hijacking of America.
“It’s Not A Recession. It’s A Robbery,” declared the sign being held by Kristina Gale of Sag Harbor. She now works “three jobs,” she said, and, still, “I’m losing my home. I have two kids. The banks get bailed out, but there’s no help for regular people.”
The wide variety of people — many of them young — clearly shared a sense of outrage and anger.
With the revelations of extreme Wall Street profiteering and the associated financial meltdown, “I’ve asked: where is everybody?” said artist Ruby Jackson of Noyac. She wondered why people were not on the streets protesting. “Well, it took a long time, but it’s catching fire now.” She noted: “Obama says we’re frustrated,” quoting a recent line of the president. “In 2008 we were frustrated. Now we’re enraged and furious!”
For this sort of protest to happen on eastern Long Island says a lot. As another sign said: “Main Street Yes – Wall Street No.”
With Sag Harbor’s Main Street in the background, Ken Dorph commented: “There’s too much concentration of wealth in the U.S. which is a danger for democracy.” And Mr. Dorph, of Sag Harbor, knows a good deal about economics — indeed, he had returned the day before from Baghdad where he was assisting as a consultant in the rebuilding of Iraqi banks.
Since the 1980s, said Mr. Dorph, there’s been a major “upwards” redistribution of wealth with now “the top one percent owning more than the bottom 90 percent” of people in the U.S. We must not, he said, follow the “Latin American model of one percent owning everything.”
There are “obvious flaws” in capitalism, he said. If the “excesses are not tamed, too much wealth will be in too few hands.” That’s the situation in the U.S. now, with “both Republicans and Democrats in bed with the financial elite.” Meanwhile, there’s been a “collapse of unions” which provided a counterbalance, and keeping the growing disparity unexposed has been a “media in too few hands and mainly right-wing.”
“There is definitely a groundswell of people not happy with the status quo,” said artist David Slater of Sag Harbor who had been to the Wall Street demonstration. “The spirit there was so good and wholesome.” So was the spirit at the protest in Sag Harbor on Saturday.
And there was a remarkable amount of democratic, equitable participation — one after another people got up and spoke, with no hierarchy.
The Wall Street initiative and what it has spawned is being conducted on a “horizontal basis,” Matt Laspia of East Hampton told the crowd. This is the “opposite of top-down centralized control,” said Mr. Laspia, a regular on Wall Street. Also, this way, “police can’t target specific individuals—so we’re not going away.”
In history, of course, there are often times when people are put upon and rise up.
The spreading Occupy Wall Street effort could easily signal that. “There is a general feeling in the United States that something is wrong,” said Miriam Foley at the Sag Harbor protest. Ms. Foley, an attorney, said that “people don’t think they are being represented in Congress, their concerns not reflected on television.”
David Falkowski of Sag Harbor, a farmer, spoke about his mother taking him to a magic show in Southampton when he was young. He has concluded that this is what we have been exposed to now for years — “politicians, corporations, banksters blowing smoke into mirrors. Everybody needs to wake up!”
And it seems many people are.
“It is extremely inspirational to see this where I live,” said Ty Wenzel of East Hampton, who created and runs the website www.occupythehamptons.com.