Parent Activism Within OWS by Mark Hamilton

Mark and Scarlett HamiltonOn October 6th 2011, I wandered into a packed Zuccotti Park pushing a stroller–– inside my two and a half year-old daughter was, as always, directing affairs.

We only stayed for around forty minutes, listening in on the myriad conversations, trying to understand what was going on and why the global media was obsessed with Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

In those early days, OWS had an exhilarating, infectious energy. People seemed optimistic about the rise of a mass populist movement — the “99%” — and that it could really rock the foundations of Wall Street. Those first forty minutes were enough to get me hooked. We’d return to “Liberty Square” regularly, three times in the following week and started going to daytime marches and rallies. By November we’d found the Parents For Occupy Wall Street group, which we participated in for the next year or so. In time I also joined with the Peoples Puppets of OWS, whose crusade against Wall St. with giant puppets and subversive art continues indefinitely.

My parents were not vocally political. Growing up in Northern Ireland during the troubles, politics were very divisive and mainly along religious lines. It made me very apathetic to all politics as all I’d ever hear about was, “talks about talks” and very little else, bar one side condemning the other for the ever growing body count. Because of that it took me a long time to awaken and become politically aware.

Being the parent of a highly demanding infant is a full time job and it certainly restricted how involved and how much time I could commit to Occupy. Evenings were generally out of the equation, except a few late ones on big event days, which her mother didn’t approve of! Luckily for me, OWS embraced social media and online organizing tools, so even when I was at home I could follow the General Assemblies, read the Twitter feeds and be spoiled for choice when it came to watching actions on live-stream. I yearned to be able to plug in more, so it was nice to find a group of concerned parents who had similar political views and we were able to organize some actions with the safety of our kids at the forefront.

Scarlett ZuccottiIt’s hard to know yet what lessons my daughter will have learned from being around Occupy, but I hope she’ll yearn to seek out the truth. Investing her energy in people, community and protecting our planet against powerful, nefarious forces–– while not always the easiest option–– are values that come with rewards money can’t buy.

I hope that she’s learned to express her self without fear and learned that defiance, not compliance, is at times absolutely necessary. I hope that she’ll want to continue fighting for social justice and those who are not as well off as she. I know she has learned not to judge people on how they look, or what they wear, and to embrace diversity and make friends with anyone. I hope she continues to develop her interest in nature and fight to protect our environment from those who would destroy it. And I hope she’ll continue to be a light of positivity and bring happiness to others throughout her life, like she has within the Occupy community.

Some people are shocked when they hear that you’ve taken your child to protests. It’s up to us who are awake to what’s happening to challenge their belief systems and expose them to reality. I’d wholeheartedly recommend any parents who hope to get involved in activism to do so. Seek out and engage with groups who fight for issues you support. Search and find them online and then find a way of connecting in person. Feel a group out first; go to a rally or event and see if you like it. While it may seem daunting to turn up and try to fit in with people you don’t know, it’s worth the effort. I’ve met and made so many new friends who I would never have encountered, and human connections and friendships are one thing Wall St. can’t destroy.

Spending time with my daughter in what I see as the front line against Capitalism with Occupy, and Occupy related groups in NYC has been a truly rewarding experience and I will defiantly continue to do so as the class war continues.

Mark Hamilton is the bassist and songwriter for the indie rock band Ash.