Rabble with tents at Occupy Ogden take on the power structure

Nov 17 2011 - 7:40am

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A tent in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden displays two signs written by the Occupy Ogden protesters camped there. 
CHARLES TRENTELMAN
Standard-Examiner
A tent in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden displays two signs written by the Occupy Ogden protesters camped there. 
CHARLES TRENTELMAN
Standard-Examiner

Just because you are right doesn't mean you will win, so I am not optimistic about the ultimate success of the "Occupy Ogden" encampment.

But they're there. They're trying. And, yes, they are right.

I stopped by yesterday morning. It was nippy. The tents lined up in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden still had a skin of frost.

Occupiers were bundled in sweatshirts and coats. A few were huddled across the street, where the sun was hitting the sidewalk. On the camp's lone table, cans of soup held down fliers denouncing the nation's financial inequality.

Andrea Azoff, an Ogden resident, dropped off hot oatmeal for the protesters' breakfast. "I went down and supported Salt Lake, and they said, 'We're starting an Occupy Ogden,' and I got chills down my back," she said, so she's helping this one now.

Who are these people?

I know people from Ogden stop by to take part in the daily (2:45 p.m.) protests, but most I talked to in the early morning were homeless or transient-type folk.

For example, Nathan Clark, 18, said he's from "Southern California." Anywhere in particular? Not really. "I'm a gypsy soul, can't stay in one place too long."

Most of the tents came to Ogden after Occupy Salt Lake City was shut down over the weekend.

Chris Youngs, 28, a homeless laborer in Salt Lake City who is trying to save money for heavy-equipment school, is the security coordinator. He said Occupy Salt Lake's mistake was setting up in Pioneer Park, a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes and general undesirables.

"The guy dying in the tent, that was just the icing on the cake," Chris said. "There was fighting and drugs. There was a girl got raped down there."

It is easy to dismiss these people as rabble, but people who are reduced to living as rabble, and then protest, are always dismissed. Doesn't mean they're wrong. The very tidy British troops at Lexington and Concord considered the Minutemen to be "rude rabble," and you know how that worked out.

The truth is, our economic system has created a permanent underclass.

Most Ogden homeless have jobs that don't pay enough to cover rent and food. Most people getting free food at food banks have jobs or get Social Security or both. One in 10 Utahns eats on a food stamp budget of $4 a day.

Even when the economic system seems to be helping, the blessing is mixed. You read about the 691 call-center jobs Home Depot says it is bringing to Ogden. Home Depot is not creating those 691 jobs out of whole cloth.

Home Depot just laid off 85 people at its Hazelwood, Mo., call center. It will let another 200 Hazelwood workers go next year, along with 400 in Baton Rouge, La.

Lose 685, gain 691. Utah workers cheer, but Louisiana and Missouri workers are understandably miffed.

That's how it works. Corporations cut costs, real people have their lives disrupted. Some lives never recover.

The financial system that Occupy protests is so huge, the unfairness so entrenched, that a bunch of cold people in frosty tents look pretty small. You can criticize that rabble as it shivers in front of this church in Ogden, but don't criticize too loudly.

Unless your house is paid for, your savings account has six months' living expenses, your credit cards are all paid off and you're sure you will not have a medical emergency anytime soon, that very easily could be you.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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