Occupy Wall Street’s Volunteer Medical Aid

Elaine Hirsch, Kmareka’s West Coast correspondent, sends a post about some of the professionals who volunteer their skills at Occupy Wall Street. Here in Providence the need is clear, and Occupiers with first aid skills have responded and in cooperation with Public Safety have helped people in need get to the Emergency Room. Health security for the 99% would free our workers from scrambling for a job with benefits or being one health emergency away from financial disaster. Small businesses would be the first to benefit, and I know some doctors who would welcome an integrated system that let them do what they went to school for– and I don’t mean billing.

Occupy Wall Street’s Healthcare

A number of sympathetic doctors, nurses, veterinarians, and other healthcare professionals have banded together to volunteer their time, seeking to provide free medical care for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. A number of the healthcare professionals involved in the endeavor identify with an informal group calling itself Doctors for the 99%. These caretakers’ assistance goes beyond merely supporting the Occupy protests, but in its way constitutes its own protest, adding dissatisfaction with the American healthcare system to college and master’s degree debt, bank bailouts, joblessness, and other woes.

Some of the doctors have occupied an abandoned hospital, while elsewhere round-the-clock care is available in a surplus medical tent reminiscent of an old M.A.S.H. Set. Most of the care being offered is relatively rudimentary. There have been reports of nurses stitching wounds and doctors providing over-the-counter medication, but most of the care seems to be basic first aid and preventive treatment.

A major goal seems to have been to limit the spread of contagious disease in the cramped conditions common in the protest camps. To that end, a number of doctors from Columbia Health Center and Doctors for a National Health program recently arrived to offer free flu shots. As winter approaches, another major focus of the medical team has been educating the protesters about warning signs that indicate the beginning stages of hypothermia.

According to Pauly Kostora, a licensed practical nurse from New Mexico, protesters will also be able to find free mental health treatment.

The healthcare system in place among the protesters is limited, and the professionals volunteering their time rely considerably on actual hospitals. No doctors have come forward to acknowledge providing prescriptions, and when protesters arrive with serious injuries, nurses are instructed to call emergency services.

The volunteers are either sympathetic to the movement or have joined its ranks outright. The doctors and nurses report anger over the state of healthcare in the United States, and view the assistance they’re offering to the protesters as a contribution to the fight for universal health care. The doctors and nurses appear to be working day jobs, and finding time to offer aid to the protesters during their off-hours.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

Here in Rhode Island, the littlest state in the nation, we don’t get to say we’re number one very often. But here’s our chance: right now it appears that we’re number one in the country for screwing the public sector worker out of long-term financial security. From the Associated Press:

Despite jeers and the threat of a lawsuit from public workers, Rhode Island lawmakers on Thursday night approved one of the most far-reaching overhauls to a public pension system in the nation.

The proposal is intended to save billions of dollars in future years by backing away from promised benefits to state and municipal workers in the state-run pension plan. Lawmakers called Thursday’s vote one of the most wrenching they’ve had to cast, though the fight may not be over if unions follow through with promised lawsuits.

When I look around the street I live on, which is a modest street in its home values, I see a lot of my neighbors who are going to be impacted by this. The cumulative loss of the additional cost-of-living increase might well cost some of these individuals their homes someday. These are teachers, administrative workers, and security workers for the state, just to name a few.

Treasurer Raimondo’s response for why EngageRI, the organization that supports her agenda, does not need to disclose its financial backers is because pension reform “benefits everyone.” This is just a bald-faced lie. A large percentage of our state’s workers just lost a big piece of long-term income security. They are now going to have to clamp down on spending and save more to fund their own retirements. These are people who will not be able to give to nonprofits or support that local band fundraiser or go out to eat but once in a blue moon to save the extra money.

If we want to benefit everyone, we need to take from those who have too much. The “too much” line in my mind gets drawn when we are talking millions and billions in income and assets. When enough people finally realize what is going on and the top 5% start to pay their share again, we might have enough money to rebuild our country. But by then, we may be too far gone.

The Whole World is Watching

This video is posted on the Occupy Providence Facebook page, that can be reached here.

Much of the recent protests is like a trip back in time to the spirit of the 60’s when direct action and organized protest changed the national debate. But 40 years on there is one huge difference.

Information is liberated, distributed and free. Every time Occupy Providence gathers there are cell phones and cameras recording and streaming in real time. You can go to the Occupy Providence page and see direct, unmediated video.

In the 1970’s we used to chant, ‘The Whole World is Watching’. Today that is true exponentially.

Occupy City Hall

Read This--You Will be Tested

Times like this, I wish I was a reporter and not just a humble blogger who was working near downtown and decided to walk over and check out the Occupation of City Hall.

City Councilman Luis Aponte introduced a resolution in support of allowing the Occupiers to stay in Burnside Park indefinitely and exercise their right to free speech. Word went out on the intertubes that Occupy would hold the General Assembly in City Hall and attend the City Council meeting, in support of this Democratic process.

I had been in City Hall a few times. My point of reference was the 2003 Providence City Council session where the city passed a resolution against the Iraq War. I expected a large crowd and a peaceful session.

When I got to Burnside Park I was surprised to find just a couple of dozen people huddled under umbrellas, holding a planning session by the fountain. There were rotating speakers representing the different working groups that hash out details and bring proposals to the whole Occupation. There were calls for volunteers for Safety and Support to stay by the tents during the City Hall action, to speak with the police and the press. To stand by the door to City Hall and make sure it was kept open.

Ashley and Annie Rose explained the hand signals, the process, and the philosophy. ‘This is not a leaderless movement, this is a movement of leaders.’ And, ‘this is not planning for the movement, this is the movement.’

The amazing thing is– it was working. The mood was peaceful, civil, determined. But kind of loud. ‘We Are Unstoppable–Another World is Possible.’ Marching past the bus commuters in Kennedy Plaza. The people waiting in Kennedy Plaza see it all– the demonstrations, the RIPTA cuts.

We marched up to the doors and walked in.

From a chilly rain to a comfortable and grand public center. Providence City Hall is a treasure, built in 1878, gilt, marble, tile and paintings. Chandeliers, brass and a curving staircase. And no one stopping us.

A policewoman came up and talked to some occupiers, she didn’t look worried. Men in suits walked through the crowd of demonstrators and conversed or opted for the elevators, but they were doing their job and so were we.

City Hall is distractingly beautiful. There were a few children, who were enjoying this like a field trip to the museum. I ran into Dave, who was taking in the gallery show– an exhibition of WRNI’s ‘This I Believe’ contributors photos and statements. WRNI is brought to you by Rhode Islanders who organized to make it happen, and one of the photos I recognized as Barbara Schweitzer, a poet and friend. Which is to say, in Rhode Island you know people– that’s our strength.

The General Assembly was held on the stairs. People had been trickling in, the second floor filled up. A speaker reviewed the drill. Councilman Aponte had introduced a resolution for the Occupation to stay. We were there to observe and show support.

One of us was in a wheelchair, and I saw him still on the first floor. I went down to see if he needed any help to get into the hearing room, if there was any problem with the elevators. He was fine, but I overheard him talking with the policewoman, who had spent most of her time at the desk by the door. The man had apparently not been here before.

‘…this place is with a church?’ he asked.

‘No’, the policewoman said, ‘I think that’s the whole idea, it’s separation of Church and State.’

I can understand the man’s confusion. We don’t build civic temples like Providence City Hall anymore.

I went back up the stairs and heard a young woman ask ‘Are we allowed to go inside a City Council meeting?’
‘Yes,’ a man answered, ‘and more of us should. It’s not only a right, it’s an obligation.’

Occupy Providence marched loudly up the stairs to the third floor and filled the room, including some in the balcony. Not quite the crowd that filled the room in 2003, but a presence.

The session opened with an invocation, and the chaplain asked for blessings on the council members and on Occupy Providence. We pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Councilman Aponte asked that the Occupiers be allowed to continue their exercise of free speech. ‘The Pledge of Allegiance ends with the words, ‘and justice for all.’ ‘let’s allow them to occupy Burnside Park. Though it may be inconvenient, let’s err on the side of more freedom and not less.’

After Councilman Aponte spoke, five more members stood up in support. Several of them mentioned the nonviolent nature of the protest, the consideration and cooperation of the Occupiers. The justice of their cause. ‘You are treating the park like it is your park, thank you, I appreciate your message.’ More than one said that Burnside Park is cleaner and safer since the Occupiers moved in than it ever was.

Those of us who spend some time in Downtown know that this is true.

Councilman Aponte’s resolution will go to committee. The Occupation was still there when I left, cheering a motion to support RIPTA. The City Council seldom has so much attention to their sessions.

Lobbyists and the wealthy have their paths of influence. If the rest of us are willing to put ourselves into City Hall on a cold rainy night after a hard day’s work, it has an effect. What if the cost per vote becomes priceless? This is what Democracy looks like.

I think the Occupiers are demonstrating a new model of power. Nonviolence is a fine word, but a negative. An absence of harm, but what fills the gap? Does our language have words to describe it?

When I walked into Burnside Park and joined the group I could have been anyone, and I could have volunteered for anything. There was no security check on me. How can this work? How can it work when the park is the long time hangout of people who have nowhere else to go, some so troubled that they are not accepted anywhere? How can this movement operate this way when history tells us there will be provocateurs and predators of all kinds?

I think the answer is that a new way of relating is being worked out. Perhaps this could only happen in a time of crisis. Danger and opportunity.

Americans famously come together in crisis. This may be the dynamic of the bucket brigade. When the house is burning you don’t argue– you grab a bucket and put the fire out.

Our country is in crisis, caught between fear and hope. This may be the birth of a 21st Century way of being. It is a sure thing that endlessly expanding consumption is not sustainable, and circling the wagons spins into a space so small that most of us will be outside the safe zone.

It was cool to see children and adults discovering the beautiful building downtown that they had never seen from inside. And it’s ours. Our own government, of the people, by the people and for the people. This is what Democracy looks like.

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL: First report here. Richard Dujardin reports ‘at least five’ of the eleven members supported Occupy Providence. I counted six. It’s on the record, anyway. The resolution was sent to committee, so keep those calls and letters coming.

Our House

This is what Democracy looks like–

From the Occupy Providence Facebook page

Thursday, November 17 · 6:00am – 8:00am
6pm General Assembly :: 7pm City Council Meeting
25 Dorrance St., Providence

On Thursday, join Occupy Providence to show that City Hall belongs to the 99%. We will meet in the lobby at 6pm for a brief General Assembly before entering the City Council meeting at 7pm to show our support for a pro-Occupy Resolution, as well as for an Ordinance that will lift the curfew on Burnside Park and expand free speech rights for all. We will then return to Burnside Park together to celebrate more than one month of Occupy Providence!

I was present at the City Council meeting in 2003 when the City of Providence passed a resolution opposing the pending Iraq War. I saw the faces of the council members, and the impression it made on them when the council room filled to the rafters…

Lead by newly elected Green Party city council member David Segal

Providence Journal-“Activists lobbied members with calls, letters”


Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Adding their voices to a chorus of doubts across the
nation, City Council members last night declared themselves opposed to a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The council adopted a resolution calling for a diplomatic strategy to
deal with “the Iraq situation” and a reliance on world courts and
international justice to promote international and national security.

The declaration was met with cacaphonous applause, cheering and
foot-stomping by a crowd of 150 or more antiwar activists who filled the council chamber in City Hall.

A great array of placards and signs were held aloft by the activists,
some of whom sat on the floor in the main aisle or wore costumes.

“Providence City Council: No War for Oil,” one sign said. “Let Iraq
Live,” read another. And one sign proclaimed, “Bush’s Bottom Line is
Overhead Iraq.”

One man carried what looked like a cardboard missile and one woman was
costumed as if a rocket had gone through her head, with each end showing.
She wore a bib that was dotted with peace symbols.

The vote for the resolution was 10 to 1, with 4 abstentions. In favor
were Councilmen David A. Segal, Miguel Luna, John J. Lombardi, Josephine DiRuzzo, Luis A. Aponte, Kevin Jackson, Rita M. Williams, Balbina A.Young, Peter S. Mancini and Joseph DeLuca.

Councilman Patrick K. Butler voted no and members John J. Igliozzi, Carol A. Romano, Ronald W. Allen and Terrence M. Hassett were recorded as not voting.

A campaign in favor of the resolution, organized in part by the American Friends Service Committee, had bombarded members with telephone calls, letters and e-mail, to some effect.

DeLuca, for example, made it plain that he was voting to uphold the
convictions of his constituency rather than his own beliefs in supporting the resolution. He called Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein “a horrible threat to the world.”

The council also received a petition bearing the signatures of 226 people — all but about 25 gave Providence addresses — asking for an anti-war resolution.

Hassett said he abstained because it is too soon to say what the correct course of action will be until the next report from the United Nations inspectors is submitted. Igliozzi said the resolution is premature.

Segal sought to bring the question home when he said that the issue is
not war versus no war, but the expending of national resources on war
that are badly needed in Providence and other places.

He quoted a figure produced by a group called the National Priorities
Project asserting that a war and post-war occupation of Iraq would
conservatively cost the nation $100 billion and would divert $28 million in federal aid from Providence.

Luna cited a Vietnam-era quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Poverty, urban problems and social progress generally are ignored when the guns of war become a national obsession.”

So far, 69 state legislatures and city and county councils, including
Providence, have adopted resolutions opposing war with Iraq, or a
majority of their memberships have signed letters to that effect,
according to a coalition called Cities for Peace.

[from The Providence Journal, . Visit them at ProJo.com and support our one statewide newspaper and treasure of Rhode Island history.]

Recently Facebook lit up with agitation about the proposed resident permit parking fee, but I went to the hearing and less than a dozen people showed up, all of them apparently supporting permit parking.

The comments section in the Providence Journal is full of hostile remarks about the Occupiers, mainly of the ‘dirty hippie’ vintage. I’ve visited and talked with them at Burnside Park and it’s a very diverse group, united– as far as I can see– to say ‘NO’ to the escalating economic injustice built into our current way of life. I trust the Occupiers to exercise their rights to participate in the City Council meeting with dignity and effectiveness, because I saw this happen in 2003.

MORE: Thanks to Kiersten for finding the great vintage postcard of our City Hall. I notice a bicycle parked on the sidewalk. The night the City Council passed the anti-war resolution there were about 100 bicycles chained in front of the City Hall steps. Some of the people who have been biking, planting, rehabbing and meeting all these years are coming together in Burnside Park and all around town. We’re in it for the long haul.

Class Warfare

The poor lost.

I have five minutes before I have to get to work. Thinking about how the NYT gave Katie Roiphe space to conflate Herman Cain’s sexual harassment trouble with harmless flirtation– and why can’t those office drones take a compliment?

I’ve also seen interviews with some of Cain’s past executives and business associates, and he seems to have been seen favorably by his peers.

But missing from the story are the invisible people– the low-wage workers who made the pizzas at Godfathers. Cain opposed the minimum wage and put a lot of them out of their jobs in cost-cutting. This may be good business, but politics is different. You can’t fire Alabama and give Utah a raise.

Will anyone bother to ask the workers what things were like when Herman Cain was boss?


Roger Williams Park Museum

There is a show a the Roger Williams Park Museum called ‘Curiosities’. Specimens from the natural history collection are arranged in installations by local artists– rabbit in a cabinet, owls behind lenses, walls of transparent bricks sheltering birds.

The museum itself is a work of public art on a scale that we don’t aspire to anymore, but can still enjoy for free– long may it wave.