The faces and voices of Occupy

A mechanic, a nurse, a leukemia patient, a cat owner, and a pair of queer activists: Don't believe the hype, they are occupiers too

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Jessica Martin: "My mother stood on the steps [of the Lincoln Memorial] in D.C. with Martin Luther King."
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

Who are the 99 percent — and what are they saying? It's not what you read in the daily papers

To read some of the accounts in the daily papers in San Francisco, and hear some of the national critics, you'd think the people in the local Occupy movement were mostly filthy, drunk, violent social outcasts just looking for a place to party. Or that they're mad-eyed anarchists who can't wait to break windows and throw bottles at the police. Or that they're a confused and leaderless band that can't figure out what it wants.

When you actually go and spend time at Occupy SF and Occupy Cal and Occupy Oakland, as our reporters have done, you get a very different picture.

The Occupy movement is diverse, complex and powerful. It's full of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. And they all agree that economic injustice and inequality are at the root of the major problems facing the United States today.

Here are some of those people, the faces and the voices of Occupy — and a celebration of the lives they're living and the work they're doing.

 

The student

Jessica Martin reflects on the First Amendment

Guardian photo by Rebecca Bowe

Jessica Martin stood and held her sign high on the steps of Sproul Hall, at the University of California at Berkeley, while a jubilant crowd of students jammed to classic dance party tunes and set up tents. They were invigorated by a general assembly that had attracted thousands following a Nov. 15 student strike and Day of Action called as part of the Occupy movement. (Their tents were cleared in a police raid two days later, yet students responded with flair, suspending tents high in the air with balloons.)

Martin's sign proclaimed, "Remember the First Amendment," and she'd written the text of the Constitutional right to free speech on the other side.

"My mother stood on the steps [of the Lincoln Memorial] in D.C. with Martin Luther King as part of the 'I Have a Dream' speech," said the graduating senior, who's majoring in Japanese and Linguistics. "And now I stand on the steps of Sproul Hall," — the birthplace of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement — "in front of the Martin Luther King Student Union, to defend my First Amendment rights."

She expressed solidarity with students who were brutalized by police Nov. 9 following their first attempt to establish an occupation.

"Part of what [police] are here to serve and protect is the First Amendment," Martin said. But on that day, "They met the First Amendment with violence." (Rebecca Bowe)

 

The artist

Ernest Doty responds to police brutality

Guardian photo by Rebecca Bowe

In Oakland, a young veteran named Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull and brain injuries after being hit with a police projectile at an Oct. 25 Occupy Oakland protest. Ernest Doty was one of several who ran to Olsen's aid and carried him to safety.

"Immediately after I saw Scott go down ... I knew I had to get him, and get him out of there," Doty recounted. "I whistled at another guy, and we both ran in. The cops were shooting at us with rubber bullets." As they ran up, he said, a flash grenade blew up next to Olsen's face, just inches from his head injury.

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