Occupy Bergen County has been busy since it launched late last year. Like many Occupy groups around the country, it has lately focused on educating its members and the community at large about local and national injustices.
Educating people, helping them to become more aware is not necessarily a process that makes a big splash in the news, but it is impacting communities nonetheless.
In July, Occupy Bergen County staged a protest in Fairlawn. This past weekend, Occupy Bergen County staged a protest in front of Bank of America in Westwood. Members from vigil groups throughout the county, even a member of MoveOn.org, a national democratic anti-war movement, attended, marching with signs and handing out fliers in the sweltering noon heat.
As people know by now, big banks precipitated America’s current financial crisis. Yet these banks and the big executives that run them have yet to be made accountable for the harm they have done. For years, big banks have paid little or no Federal taxes while ordinary American citizens have paid through the teeth. Big top bank executives have gotten rich off the backs of hard-working Americans and have cost the public billions. Specifically, Bank of America continues to kick poor families out of their foreclosed homes; it also finances the ecologically-damaging extraction of coal from mountaintops, a practice that often takes its toll on poor rural families and has been known to poison water resources in Appalachia, forcing people to abandon their domiciles.
What does Occupy Bergen County want people to do about the injustices perpetrated by the big banks? Tell Congress to impose strict regulations to keep big banks from gambling and tell Congress to hold big bank executives accountable. Individuals can also move their checking and savings accounts and investments out of big banks and into local savings and loan institutions and credit unions. They can put their credit cards away instead of using them.
Very few Americans have not felt a pinch in the economic crisis. Most Americans have a depressing story to tell: a loan that can’t be paid; an impending foreclosure; unemployment or the loss of savings. But while Americans may be suffering losses, most don’t want to feel victimized or live in fear.
The Occupy Movement has empowered individuals to take a stand for their rights, to help one another, to return to important values and negate the trends of selfishness, greed and fear that have dominated too long and threaten to break America. Those protesting on Wall Street and making a mark on Main Street know it’s time for a change and are prepared to take over where politicians have failed.