The following is a personal testimonial from an American Party of Labor cadre who attended the October 15th “Occupy Omaha” march in Omaha, Nebraska.
October 15th was a busy day for Occupy Wall Street solidarity groups the world over, and here in Omaha a triumphant three-hour march through downtown Omaha was staged. Weeks of careful planning, promotion, group meetings, sign making, and committee work made it possible.
The end results far exceeded expectations, with the Omaha Police Department estimating that about 1,000 people came out to make their voices heard.
A diverse group of protesters assembled at Omaha City Hall at 9 a.m., and with them hundreds of handmade signs protesting corporate control, greed, banking institutions, and the influence of corporate money on politicians.
The crowd included concerned citizens from every possible demographic and political ideology and a number of campaigns, unions and organizations made their presence known.
At 9:50 we began our march to the Omaha Federal Reserve Bank as was planned in advance. Passing motorists honked their horns in approval, waved, and held up the peace sign, eliciting cheers, waves and salutes from the marchers.
Different sections of the march took up a series of democratic and anti-corporate chants, among them “We are the 99 percent!” “Our children are hungry, our bankers are fat!” and “No war but class war!”
The mood was determined and energized and although occasionally a few people got lost or split from the group, the march was by and large orderly and well-organized.
A few predetermined individuals spread out amongst the group made sure that traffic and crossing laws were observed and in general that the police were given no reason to arrest us.
At City Hall, there was a minimal police presence, but once we began marching it became clear that there were police stationed all along our planned route. Some sat and watched in parking lots, others astride horses looked on from a grassy spot by the Federal Reserve, others seemed to move from spot to spot, following the front of the march.
A few in the group repeatedly called for the protest to move into the streets, which would have given the police justification to arrest anyone not on the sidewalk. Fortunately, the marchers were not swayed by this and interaction with police was mostly restricted to waves and nods.
The Tea Party had planned a counter protest, but it quickly became clear that they were helpless to disturb the march. Only about five or six of their members bothered to show up for the counter protest, waving “Don’t Tread on Me” and US flags and holding up signs either telling the hundreds of people before them to collectively “work” or claiming that attacking this nation’s richest 1% was “bigotry.”
Some of these people left when it became clear their attempt at disruption was a failure, but a couple holdouts stayed at their spot by City Hall until the number of flags they had lying around outnumbered them.
In general, there was no serious disruption in the march. It remained peaceful, collected, and strong throughout. Participants behaved responsibly and people went around with bags collecting trash.
After about three hours, upon reaching our final destination in Gean Leahy Mall (a large, scenic park in the center of the city), details were announced over a megaphone about the next General Assembly.
After a final, rousing chant of “We are the 99 percent!” the crowd began to disperse and those who remained decided to convene their own General Assembly in advance of the official one. This went on for around an hour, and about one hundred people stayed and listened or participated. Many topics were discussed, from group hierarchy to funds to our future plans for a long-term occupation in Omaha. A hat was passed around and over $100 was raised for future permits and supplies.
The group employed “the people’s mic,” a system by which speakers break their statements into small parts, which are then repeated in unison by everyone around them, ensuring that all speakers had a voice, and that voice could be heard more than a block away.
The next General Assembly will be held October 16th in Memorial Park (near the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Dodge Street) at 3 p.m. All are encouraged to attend and participate. There is an ongoing daily protest at Turner Park, where Occupy Omaha protesters are staying from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, the hours they are legally allowed to be there. Plans were made at the impromptu General Assembly to informally occupy Gene Leahy Mall overnight.
Today’s march was a rousing success in terms of orderliness, effectiveness, and sheer number of people who attended. It is my sincere hope that the movement continues to grow and strengthen from here.