I Was There: Occupy Louisville

A sign posted at the edge of camp.

On Thursday, I went down to Occupy Louisville for the solidarity rally. The rally was across the street from City Hall, at 6th and Jefferson.

The people gathered were buzzing about the attacks on protesters in other cities–yet here in Louisville, the police were absent. Occupy Louisville and LMPD have not had any issues. In fact, the only officers we saw were overseeing traffic redirection for the decoration of the city for the holidays!

This video was actually shot the second time we sang, since so many more people arrived.

We started off by singing happy birthday for the Occupy Movement–now two months old. Next, Keith R. gave us a quick overview of what the movement is about, and what events sparked its beginning.

Next–people stepped forward to tell their stories. Heartbreaking stories of job loss, predatory banking practices leading to people having to fight for their homes–all manner of struggle and loss.

The woman in this story preferred to stay anonymous, but wanted to share her story, so Keith told it for her. 

I stepped forward, and told my story. Here iswhat I said:

When the economy collapsed, I was a student at Western Kentucky University. I watched as millions of homes were foreclosed on, and millions lost their jobs. Despite all of that, I thought I was safe. I was doing what everyone told me to do in order to succeed–I was getting a college degree. I was involved in more extracurriculars than you can believe. I never thought that I’d have trouble finding a job. However, graduation came and went, and I couldn’t find a job. Three months passed, and I was getting desperate–I had bills to pay!

Finally, I found a job–it was entry-level. Nowhere near what a college graduate might expect. It was a job I could have gotten had I dropped out of high school–50% of college graduates do not find jobs in their field–fifty percent!

But that’s not all of my story. I never thought that I might not find a job in my field after graduation—but I never dreamed that six months from the day that I received my diploma, I would be homeless.

I woke up one morning to find the eviction notice on my door. I cannot describe to you the fear and panic I felt. I rushed around, packing essentials for my family and I: clothing, toiletries, valuables, expecting every moment to hear a knock on the door. My family and I worked for the next twenty-four hours. Have you ever packed up an entire house in one day? We were lucky. We had access to a trailer, and managed to get a storage unit. We packed with very little sense of organization of caution–we worked every minute knowing the next minute might bring a sheriff to our door to toss us out.

For a month my family was split apart. I slept on a couch at a relative’s home, with no privacy, and few belongings. A month before my family found a house for rent.

There are many different ways to be homeless. Certainly, you would never look at a young college graduate and believe her homeless–but with the plague destroying the land of opportunity, anything is possible. As long as greed creeps in the American Dream–poverty and homelessness are closer than any one of us would like to think.

I came to the rally knowing I was going to speak. I’d spent some time the night before thinking about what I wanted to say. I was prepared. But as I spoke, my voice started to waver, and my hands shook. The people were silent. When I finished, they cheered. When I passed the megaphone back to Keith, and took my spot back in the crowd, a man nearby gave me my coffee–he took it from the table so it wouldn’t spill. (It was quite windy.) As he passed me my coffee, he patted my arm and thanked me for sharing my story, and offered words of encouragement and support.

That interaction repeated itself throughout the afternoon. People came up to me, offering me hugs and support, and thanking me for sharing my story. For making it real to them.

Then, surprise! A reporter from a local news station, WHAS approached me. He heard my story, and wanted to interview me.


Definitely not something I expected.

After all, I only wanted to come down to participate, and record as much of it as possible to share online. Now I’m being made the representative? I did it–but it didn’t feel right. Thursday was the first time I’ve been down at Occupy Louisville, after all.

No moral panic, ya’ll. Everybody stayed on the sidewalk.

After that–the rally concluded, and we marched to the Occupy Louisville camp. Everyone milled about a bit, and I got to chat with some of the other people there. Soon, it was announced that a discussion circle was about to begin, so I joined the group heading over.

My first view of Occupy Louisville: clean, beautiful, and strong.

So many passionate people!

So many different walks of life represented!

I had the pleasure to meet Linda, an elderly woman with a myriad of health issues–I won’t list them here, to respect her privacy, but wow. She believed so much in getting involved that she made her way downtown on such a chilly, windy day. I walked with her back to her car; we stopped several times so she could rest. She told me she’d be back. I can’t help but to admire her strength.

There was only one hitch: as we arrived at the camp, we received word that the fire marshal demanded the straw spread over a few areas had to be removed, or the camp would be evicted. The straw was spread on the ground to absorb moisture, to prevent the ground from being muddy. The straw? Wet. Not a fire hazard. Regardless, I joined a few others to rake and scrape the straw off the ground and into a garbage bag. (Yep, only so much as to fill one garbage bag.) We had only one rake, so mostly we picked the straw up with bare hands.

No leader needed when there are people willing to cooperatively work together to solve problems.

(Note: Sorry about the horrible formatting. However, you’re welcome for multiple forms of media! Check out more videos from Thursday here.)