For my internship last week, I was assigned to cover Occupy Portland — the latest in a series of demonstrations across the country that began in mid-September as Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan’s financial district. Not only had I never covered a political event of any kind, but I had never been to any sort of political protest or march before, period. Once again, journalism opened my eyes to a new experience that I learned greatly from.
I had been following Occupy Wall Street closely, but I still found myself at times a tad bit confused about the group’s intentions. Although I tend to always agree with any sort of public display of disapproval with corporate America, OWS’s refusal to name a specific policy or institution made the meaning of their movement unclear to me, as well as many mainstream media outlets and audiences. So, I found this event to be an opportunity to not only help myself learn the significance of the protests, but also help other people understand what’s going on.
The main thing I learned covering the event was that the Occupy movement is not about targeting certain greedy individuals or companies that have created social and economic inequality. At this point, everyone involved in corporate America is doing it; the whole system is faulty. Instead, the march served as an opportunity to spark dialogue — people of all ages and races were able to tell their stories and opinions of the matter. Before the march, organizers created an “open forum,” where anyone could speak — from Iraqi veterans, to struggling college students, to organic farmers. Never before had I experienced such rich dialogue between people of so many different walks of life.
After the forum, protesters holding signs that read “Tax the 1 %ers” and “Stop corporate greed” took to the streets of downtown, walking through the middle of the normally car-clogged streets of West Burnside and Broadway, which, as someone who has lived in Portland their whole life, was a tremendous experience for me.
Once the march settled in Chapman Square, I quickly ran to Starbucks, where I cranked out a piece. I had collected a large number of quotes from people who were eager to speak on the matter, and I believe it was their words that helped explain the significance of the event best.
Since being posted, the piece has generated numerous comments, continuing the dialogue and hopefully demonstrating people’s new-found understanding of the Occupy movement.