ST. LOUIS, MO – As we approached the holding cell, we began to hear cheers from the approximately 30 people inside. When we entered, we were asked if we were part of the protest that got broken up. We told them we were, and to my surprise the appreciation for what we were doing began to pour out from a wide variety of people. Some of them were in for minor violations, some for more serious crimes, but the consensus was clear. They seemed to have a fundamental understanding of what we were doing, and believed, as I do, that it should have happened a long time ago.
The condition of the jail was atrocious. Some had been in for as many as seven days, and were 30 deep in a cell meant to hold about 10. There was no tissue, blankets, pillows, mats, and there surely wasn’t room for everyone to sleep so people had to go in shifts. The meals were not enough to sustain someone over long periods of time, and medication was being withheld from many. They asked us if we could add to our cause the conditions of the corrections system. It immediately made me think of the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty” that is often attributed to the 5th Amendment which states “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law …”.
As I pondered this, questions started to arise amongst the group about the concepts of corporate greed and corrupt politicians, and how they play out in the lives of these particular men. To my amazement, it didn’t take long for the natural progression of the “one voice”, and “equal time to share ideas” became part of this discussion. Neither was stated, but they were implied. As I listened, and occasionally chimed in, the ideas shared were almost word for word what we have been saying all along. In short, this affirmed to me that this cause is not just for those at the Occupy encampments, or those politically active. It is a plethora of common grievances by all Americans that transcends any boundary.
I thought the willingness to give up 13 hours of my freedom to make a point of my solidarity would be the boost I needed to continue on with this occupation; but I was proven wrong. It was the voice of these 30 men, not involved in any way, and in only 20 minutes, coming to the same conclusions I have after much research and debate. I have to ask myself, how asleep must I have been to not see this massive elephant in the middle of the room clear enough to get off my ass and take action long before now?
-Angelo J. Dower-
One among many