Occupy This!

Marching along the Strip with hundreds of Las Vegans in protest of … something … Oct. 6, it occurred to me that this is the perfect place to occupy. For the most part, the marchers were locals smacked-down by an economy that feels rigged. And for the most part, the tourists didn’t seem to care. As the protest paraded north from the intersection of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard, a steady stream of south-bound tourists, in couples and groups, whispered, averted their gaze and said nothing.

“The 99 percenters? What’s that all about?,” I overheard one older woman say to the older man she was walking with. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Maybe it’s a gay thing.”

But Las Vegas is the perfect amplifier. When tourists finish emptying their pockets and return to Des Moines, Detroit and Dublin, they’ll flip on the TV and see people in New York still on the streets waving signs. Then it might click: something’s happening here.

And there may really be something happening here. Very soon, the occupiers are going to have to figure out what they want, or risk becoming caricatures. That’s the way it works: if the media can’t quickly figure out who you are, you’ll be assigned an identity and a role. It makes things easier to digest.

It took only a cursory look around the crowd to realize that many, perhaps most, of the people weren’t there for the spectacle. I met a cook named Jim who had a job but was out there for all his friends who didn’t, a 64-year-old man who’s been out of work for five years, and a 16-year-old student from the Las Vegas Academy who doesn’t like the way things are going and wanted his generation to be more vocal about it. It was cathartic, but they were calm. They took pains to make sure it didn’t turn into anarchy. They thanked the police manning the intersections. And they understood that even if the tourists weren’t joining the line in solidarity, this wouldn’t stay in Vegas.



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