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Dear 1%, Please leave something for our childrenI applaud parents who involve children in community activism from an early age.  I implore those who don’t to take a lesson from the parents that I talked to for this blog entry and those that are around us everyday with their children attached to their hips at rallies, political conventions, and fundraisers.  But, when it comes to protests, how do we know when enough is enough or even too much?

What is important? (listen closely)

(Sorry for the sound, this was “gorilla journalism” – on my iPhone.  Oh, and the first interview I have done.  But, you get the point.)

The Occupy Wall Street protests came to a crucial point in Oakland this past week.  City officials issued a letter advising the citizens to move out of the public place or face arrest.  Asserting their Constitutionally afforded right to Freedom of Assembly, they did not leave.  As promised, police moved in on October 25th to evict protesters from their Occupy Wall Street location at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, CA.  They moved in with force and tore down the tent city.  The next morning, as I headed to work only 4 blocks away from the “frontline”, I heard the outrage of protesters over their violent eviction with the use of tear gas and flash bang grenades.  At the end of it all (that morning) approximately 85 people were arrested, according to reports on KQED Forum.

 My first thought, after a guest speaker talked about the failure of the police to take into consideration that the camps included “women and children”, was whether this could really be used as a logical point of contention.  Parents chose to bring their children into an environment where warning had been given to disperse.  I can’t believe that anyone would not foresee that any legal and available means could be used, by the police, to carry out the order to evict or clear out the area.  And, in that case, did the parents who brought their children to the “frontline” fully understand the ramifications of such a decision.  Why didn’t the women and children leave?

Raise Politically Aware Children.

Boy-with-Protest-sign

Young Occupy Wall Street protestor with his sign.

I clearly support and encourage parents to get involved and to involve their children.  However, the involvement must be within reason.  Do we put our children in harm’s way; if we do, and that decision results in the children being hurt, who is at fault?  When involving your children conflicts with protecting your children, what do you do?

On Saturday, Oct. 29th, I went to Frank Ogawa Plaza because I wanted to speak with parents who were there with their children.  The parents, with whom I spoke, were all aware of the full breath of their decisions to involve their children.  And across the board, all of the parents felt that the benefit of involvement far outweighed the possibility of harm.  However, they all planned their visits to the protest location according to what they thought was the safest for their child.

Eva, along with her husband and two children (16mth old and 6yr old), had been involved with the protest all week.  Her family was at the protest the evening that the raid happened.  They left a few minutes after the 5 minute warning was given prior to the use of chemical agents.  And although their decision to leave was made easy by the fact that their daughter was tired and ready to go, Eva said that she was “not prepared to have [her] children be tear-gased without them having the ability to actually consent to it in a way where they understood.”

Another mom, Maria, there with her husband and beautiful daughter, who is 5 and a half and has a wiggly tooth (really, that’s what she said), came to the protest with their daughter because they “hear the helicopters every night…and they wanted to show her exactly what was going on.”   Maria and her husband brought their daughter to the protest during the day because “safety is an issue.”

Some parents have chosen to leave their children at home for the same reasons that others only come during those times of the day that are perceived to be the safest.  Nakesha, in the following video, makes a point that I hadn’t even considered to be a reason to avoid bringing the children.  She says that she wants “bring her children up in a world where police can be seen as safe people”, which is not the message she feels is being sent by tear gas.

Parents are charged with the shaping and molding of beautiful minds and spirits.  We want to protect our children from what is out there at the same time preparing them for the same.  As Tontra, from the video, said, “there are situations where there is no right answer.”

Special thanks to Nakesha, Eva, Tontra, and Maria for bearing with me and showing me how to use my iPhone.  I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts.

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