Occupying Wall Street: Stephanie McMillan’s experience with the movement

by Stephanie McMillan, author of The Beginning of the American Fall, from Seven Stories Press.

The first major protest movement in decades—a response to austerity measures, rising food prices and unemployment—sparked into life in North Africa and Europe, circled the globe, and finally came to the United States in the fall of 2011.

With the economy in deep crisis, the population was seething. It finally erupted with the launch of Stop the Machine and Occupy Wall Street.

I participated in protests in several locations, not only as a journalist or cartoonist, but also as an organizer. The book that resulted is an account of the first few months of the movement.

It goes beyond dry observation to provide a genuine insider’s perspective.  The text and drawings combine interviews, dialogue, description, political struggle and personal observation, to present a well-rounded picture of a unique historical moment.

I’ve been an organizer since I was in high school, in the 1980s. People often become politically active in their late teens and early 20s—an age when many question the assumptions on which society is based, and begin to search for a meaningful direction for their lives, for their right place in the world.

The Beginning of the American Fall” situates my participation in the Occupy movement—my attraction to it as well as my reservations about it—within the context of a lifetime of work. I understand the questions students are asking, I have also asked them. Their experiences, skepticism, and passions  will determine what questions they ask in the future and what rights they feel  need protecting. Organized dissent is one of many possible choices that students face as they contemplate their futures. I hope my experience helps bring clarity  to that process.


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