SEBASTIAN GIRALDO | GUEST COLUMNIST
During fall break I went to the Occupy Wall St in New York in order to find out what it was all about. When I got there I saw a table that said OWS en Español and offered my help. It turns out the working group had only formed two days earlier and the first meeting was scheduled for that Sunday. Since I was one of the few staying at the park, I basically became the point of information for any Spanish speakers that came by for the rest of that week.
I learned that Latinos were not as represented within the movement as would be expected because they were afraid to come out to the park. Whether they were in the US legally or not they could not risk arrest so they did not come. Thankfully through the efforts of all the people that came by the Sunday event was a success with hundreds of people attending.
In Raleigh this is also an issue. From conversations I’ve had with African American and Latino occupiers, the police presence are possibilities of arrest are why they have not come out. For many minorities staying safe means staying away from the police and that keeps them from joining the movement.
What we need now is to show that the occupation is a safe place to meet. The people arrested at Occupy Raleigh on Thursday could havewalked away, but they knew they had a right to be there. The occupiers were given a number of warnings before they were arrested but decided to stand their ground. The Raleigh mayor agreed, as he censured the RPD for helping the capitol police during the arrests. On the balance between free speech and the need for orderly conduct the mayor said “I am concerned that the constitutional rights are not being given adequate weight.”
Anyone can attend without any worry of arrest. All they have to do is be polite to occupiers and bystanders and follow the directions of the police that are present. Anyone can walk around, talk to people, hold up signs, chant, and even sleep at the occupation without much fear. The occupation has been going on for 17 days and it is unlikely they will start arresting people without warning now.
Minorities have known the system is broken for a long time, and this is our opportunity to share that knowledge with the people who are now coming to terms with this. It is also a great opportunity to bring to light some of the issues our communities deal with. The unemployment rate in the US is 9% but the rate for African Americans is 16% and for Latinos it’s 11%. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
To do that we will need your help. Right now the movement is still in its infancy. It is very easy to get involved in outreach, communication, human needs and many other working groups. http://forum.occupyraleigh.net/ has the whole list. We have a Diversity working group that meets Wednesdays after the General Assembly (about 8pm) and Sundays at 4pm. General Assemblies take place at 6:30 every day. If minorities don’t take the chance and get involved, we risk missing out on a great opportunity to improve our communities.