I guess I made a big mistake when I unsubscribed to Occupy Seattle’s posts on facebook. Without the constant barrage of information they had been throwing me, I found myself stepping off a bus into a riot yesterday, completely unwittingly.
Camera crews rolled on as things escalated. I saw more police officers wielding batons than I’ve ever seen.
For those of you who don’t know, Seattle was ravaged a bit on May Day (yesterday) by something of a horde. I was asked if they were Occupy Seattle protesters, to which I didn’t know how to respond. I saw ninjas, I saw a group in sombreros, and I saw a group of hipsters before finally fleeing.
I think The Warriors must have come to town, or something.
Streets were shut down and there were crowds of people… all I wanted was to get to the other side to get a chai tea!
Normally, I wouldn’t bring it up… but I know that it is our class system that is at the heart of all of this. This same system is something in America that can be seen not only in income, but in the treatment of mental health as well.
I don’t want to get on a long rant here, but in Seattle alone there is a huge discrepancy in the amount of people seeking care for mental health and the availability of both psychiatrists and therapists in the area. The people with the least amount of money (or luck, as it is sometimes a bit like a lottery) fall out the bottom. It often feels a lot like a bidding war, and that’s where those in the upper classes have a huge advantage.
I know that isn’t the point of these riots, but healthcare is certainly part of what makes the gap feel so large. And I always feel frightfully aware of where I stand in regard to where healthcare is and is not available in this city. Things like 6 month wait-lists can seem devastating to someone who is at risk for immediate suicide.
On top of that, we have a very large population of homeless people with mental illness in Seattle. If I were to say that these people are never involved in these sorts of riots, I’d be lying to you.
The tension on the streets yesterday was palpable, but somehow my fear was minimal. I became struck with an odd fascination and curiosity (which, I admit, has led me to trouble in the past) so I tried not to linger for too long.
They smashed up a pretty good number of things, and based on the list I don’t know if I’d say that these targets weren’t random. Nordstom and Starbucks, afterall, are local establishments… even if they are big corporate ones.
Do I think these rioters will accomplish anything by smashing up downtown? Probably nothing tangible. To me, though, these actions do act as something of a gauge of people’s unhappiness with the current system.
Based on what I saw yesterday, they’re unhappy.