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A Night of Hope in Berkeley

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Posted on Nov 16, 2011
Flickr / c_baek (CC-BY-ND)

Part of the crowd that gathered for Tuesday’s event at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza.

By Cherilyn Parsons

(Page 2)

He didn’t have to say that the bullies remain.

After the speech, the crowd milled around as if not quite sure what to do next. There were a few tents in the middle of the plaza; the Occupiers had announced earlier that evening that they were going to keep their tents up, despite the expressed intention of the UC police to remove them.

But the hard-core Occupiers were only a tiny fraction (less than 1 percent, I dare say) of the larger crowd, which also wants to “do something.”

I walked back from the gathering with a friend who had been in Sproul Plaza on that day in 1964 when Savio gave one of his most famous speeches, including these lines: “There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels.”

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I asked my friend how the current vibe differed from then. She said that back then, she and other young people had a tremendous sense of hope. They had no doubt that a better future was ahead, and if they wanted a piece of the American pie, they could have it. They could do anything. Today, she said, kids feel like they have no chance. The system is stacked against them. They’re more realistic, true, but there’s despair, frustration and a casting about for a way to create change.

She added that she feels a sense of loneliness in this movement today, a social loneliness. Back then there were so many different movements, and they connected together. There was so much to become involved in.

Last night, at least, the crowd remembered and renewed the wellspring of hope. Before Reich spoke, one of the three young Savio award-winners stirred the crowd with a vivid vision of “when hope comes back.” Here’s hoping.


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By larrypsy, November 20, 2011 at 12:23 am Link to this comment

It’s going to require more than hope, like 99% getting off their butts long enough to skip reality
TV and engage reality - select candidates and VOTE!

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By felicity, November 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment

One of my granddaughters is a senior at Berkeley and
attended the rally at Sproul. She told me that it
inspired her to “get more involved.”  The fact that the
University, rather than just the students, was involved
in the events of Tuesday - a teach-in at noon along
with the rally and the speech - is a really positive
sign.  Would that universities across the nation follow
suit.

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By gerard, November 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

P.S. The thing I’ll always remember from Berkeley this year was the two line-ups in opposition—young people with no weapons and no protection facing cops with all the outer equipment of violence and terror.  Police jabbed with batons toward young people; young people stepped back.  Young people stepped forward; police jabbed with batons. Each time young people stepped forward, they said, in unison and without threat a simple request-plea:
  “Don’t beat students!  Don’t beat students!” And guess what?  Police gave up the threatening and the jabbing, and the steam leaked out of their angry intent.  Few have remarked on this, but I clearly recognized the power of nonviolence in those moments of danger and trial.

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By Katya, November 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks for an excellent report from the frontline Ms. Parsons. I’m heartened to hear that the crowd was multi-generational. Young people could learn the techniques of peaceful protest from these elders. We all can’t leave our jobs and occupy full-time, but the movement has many allies in the working ranks. Their occupation represents widespread outrage at the TLC our government has been affording the mega-rich, while cutting off the poor and middle class at every turn.

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By do over, November 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

“Reich himself brings such moral authority, intellectual firepower, eloquence and experience in the belly of the beast that both students and elders hung on his words. The only problem with the speech was that it was way too brief. He was being considerate of the cross-legged seating arrangement, but I think everyone wished he had talked much longer.”

Reich has nothing to say to me.  He is a captive of the Democratic Party.  I respect his past but his time has passed.  Reich doesn’t get it.  Move on.

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By gerard, November 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

There is tremendous potential in the Occupy movement:
Not only the hope, but the faith that imbues every generation and the energy that brings it to life. Perhaps above all else, that is what the Occupiers know in their hearts and are trying to “organize” into practical nonviolent changes. 

We all need to join them, but first we have to put down our own hopelessness, our own disgust and cynicism.  We have to really join—not “advise” or
criticize, but join—organically, so that they and we become one civil body of determined resistance and year-long engagement—for it is going to take years of intelligent cooperative behavior to undo the crimes of the day.

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