On September 17, 2011 the seeds of a grassroots organization were planted in the financial mecca of the Western world. Two weeks later, while visiting her aunt near Detroit, Janet Wilson founder of Occupy The Roads, received news of some 700 peaceful protesters being corralled and arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. Spurred with foment, she loaded her rental car and headed for the Big Apple. Fast-forward 18 months and 25,000 miles, through a barrage of struggle and constant perseverance to find Janet and OTR occupying the “Pueblo House.”
What started as a spontaneous occupation of Zuccotti Park transformed into a national movement; an awakening of a class consciousness; the 99% and the vastly underestimated disparity of wealth in this nation. Having been apart of Occupy from the onset, Janet started her own branch and hit the road in an effort to affect community-based change around the country. Representing peaceful opposition to corporate manipulation of the economy and politicians open abandonment for public interest, Occupy amounts to a really existing form of democracy, in action; grown from the ground up. In a concerted effort to “clear away the rubbish of errors, in which the subject of government has been thrown,” day to day activities of discussion, working groups, and general assemblies have created for consensual, non-hierarchical, participatory self-governing organizations. These activities along with major protests, civil disobedience, and arrests also opened a national discussion on a different way of life. A radical revision of the individual identity, focusing attention toward the maximization of values important for life; empathy and passion, creativity and community, etc. Threatening a “prevailing system of order”, this is the most radical message Occupy carries as the movement continues to evolve and grow in the United States.
Traversing the expanse of this nation, Janet and her pending 501c3 non-profit, joined Occupy encampments in 145 cities around the country. Promoting an initiative for social and economic justice, OTR and the larger Occupy movement have taken on an accountability and commitment to democracy that government officials too often seem to ignore. Carrying the images of peaceful protesters, sit-ins, and violent police retaliation, Janet Wilson’s passion for education, sustainability, justice, and equality have empowered numerous communities around the nation. Striving for a truly representative democracy where not the few control the many, but rather, the many are represented by the few. Where the government is not feared by the people, but instead used as an instrument of the people.
With Washington constantly in deadlock and little ever seeming to get accomplished, OTR brings activism into plain sight. Over the month of March, Janet was in Parkersburg, West Virginia negotiating the donation of a three story building which will serve as the organizations headquarters. Twelve thousand square feet of space for education, imagination, creativity, discussion, dialogue, development, progression, etc…. Utilizing the unlimited potential of people power and creative innovation, OTR is planning to implement such projects here in town. With possibilities ranging from community gardens to bicycle co-ops, neighborhood classes to bartering stations, from young to old the initiatives are aimed at empowering community toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
Despite over 7,000 arrests, government infiltration of encampments, and targeted assassinations of Occupy organizers, the movement continues to grow not only in the U.S. but around the world. Here in Pueblo, the arrival of Occupy The Roads coincided with a lecture, held at the university, on Civil and Human Rights in a Democracy. Angela Davis, known with the likes of Malcolm X, Dr. King, Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panthers, spoke words of truth and justice to an enthralled audience. A woman once on the FBI 10 Most Wanted list received cheers and applause like it were a rally for humanity. Regardless of age, ethnicity, or creed, the basic human desire for liberty, equality, and security cannot be neglected and through activist organizations like Occupy The Roads these fundamental rights can be preserved.