Mike Huckabee was in Valdosta, Georgia to speak at a fundraiser. There were no protests against him, so I decided to try to organize one myself. I created a Facebook event and publicized it on the Occupy Valdosta page. Ten people said they would show up according to the event page, but when it came time for the protest I was the only one protesting. So, I held up my sign that said “Trust your neighbor, not the news” and stood in front of the building Huckabee was in while all of the well-dressed gala participants entered the event. A homeless man came up and talked to me about why I was there. His presence felt like a god-send. I was there for about 15 minutes when a police officer pulled his car onto the sidewalk in front of me and got out to question me. I talked with him calmly for as long as I could, hoping that another protester would show up. Then 4 other police officers walked up and told me if I didn’t leave I would be arrested for criminal trespassing. I chose to not be arrested.
I was walking home by myself a couple of hours later, it was dark, and a police officer saw me, as far as I know, he had no idea what had happened with me earlier. The officer did something really kind, he drove ahead of me and shined a light into a dark corridor before I got there to make sure there was no one lurking in the shadows. He was concerned for my well being, it was a small thoughtful act of service and protection, not mindless use of oppressive force.
It occurred to me then that the police are more afraid of the world than we are. They see danger where we find trust, and where they fear the unknown, we imagine the beautiful possibilities of the moment. The people in the police force are not the enemy and if we do our job right, eventually they will join us.
I don’t know what the future holds, our small group is now largely inactive outside of the online dialogues on Facebook. Revolution ain’t easy, and very few in our town see Occupy as something they want to be part of locally in its current form, so the challenge now is to transform. It means keeping the dream alive beyond the name, I will continue organizing but I will figure out a way to do so that will encompass as many people and ideas as possible, yet join with the vigor and urgency of the revolution already in progress.
-Julia Ward Howe-