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I joined Resistance just over a month ago and when I heard Sydney would join the Occupy Together movement, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. From my understanding, Australia wasn’t experiencing even comparable economic conditions to the United States and while I certainly believed our system needs fundamental change I was a little sceptical about the effectiveness of these Occupy movements to say the least.
From mainstream media sources, I saw Occupy Wall Street as an amazing movement of the masses but also a movement with no direction and a movement that was unlikely to achieve any significant result. However, on October 15 I went to Martin Place to experience the Aussie occupy movement for myself.
Expecting angry protesters shouting about stuff, it was quite a shock to see the range of coloured banners, stalls, musicians and a scene akin to a festival rather than a protest. The first thing that I found truly exciting about this particular movement was the system of an open microphone, where the entire assembly of people could hear anyone who wished to speak.
Being a high school student, it seemed addressing thousands of people on political issues was a role reserved only for politicians. The opportunity to have my voice heard by people who genuinely cared about what I had to say was a unique experience and one that until that day I had believed would only come once I had gone to university, gotten my degree and become “successful”.
Later that night the police arrested (then released) a protester, tore up the campsite and attempted to move on occupiers. This served as both an eye-opener and an inspiration for me.
Seeing Australian police act in such a harsh way only further dissipated my image of Australia as a democratic nation where everyone is free to do and think as they like.
On top of this, despite their best attempts, the police could not move on the 100 or so protesters who linked elbows and peacefully resisted suppression with peace. This was a powerful statement of resistance and an inspiration for any budding young revolutionary.
After a single day of Occupy Sydney, my perception of the movement had changed monumentally and I was immediately declaring myself a staunch supporter of all Occupy movements and making my solidarity with the movement known everywhere I could. Naturally, on Sunday I returned.
All the hustle and bustle of the previous day had died down and it was here that one could discover the core of the occupation. The men and women who stayed overnight defied the law and were willing to put their lives on hold for what they believe in.
As it turned out, I visited Occupy Sydney every day of the week right until the police shut it down eight days in.
The Occupation already had evolved from people voicing their concerns about corporate greed to a conglomeration of political ideals and a forum to discuss the future of politics and ways to make our country and planet just, in every sense of the word.
So now, with another wave of occupations set to kick off on November 5, I can reflect on the experience. Over just one week, I learnt more and grew as both an activist and person than possible under any other circumstances.
I spoke to large crowds on several occasions, raised ideas and then saw them carried out, voted on decisions affecting my life and spoke to all manner of people the likes of which I would never have been able to communicate with under normal circumstances.
I spoke with businesspeople, lefties, conservatives, activists, politicians, high school students and possibly hundreds of ordinary Australians, all with different opinions and all with something new to teach me.
I felt my own views and ideas growing as I tried defending them and it was as my political views were challenged that I strengthened them and built upon them. I developed a new sense of confidence and a much better understanding of the world I live in, where its headed and what needs to be done to change its direction.
Heading down to Occupy Sydney isn’t even worth thinking about, just hop on the train and do it because you will not regret it.
Whether you are intrigued by the group’s politics, an active socialist or a staunch conservative, the opportunity to talk politics and take part in such a unique democratic movement is one that should not under any circumstances be passed up.
The invitation to Occupy Sydney is an invitation to challenge yourself, to learn and to take part in a movement that, with your support, could very well shape the country and the world for years to come.
Video by Davi Bertges.