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Straight from the Heart

October 14, 2011

Straight from the Heart

Messages from Occupy Wall Street

by Darren Ell

A young woman at Liberty Square holds a sign featuring a quote by US rapper 2Pac Shakur. Photo: Darren Ell

NEW YORK CITY—While in New York on October 8 and 9 to photograph the ongoing Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest, I was struck by the clarity and simplicity of the messages being delivered by those attending. While protesters had many ways of expressing themselves, I was affected most by the direct, simple, and visceral messages coming from young and old, employed and unemployed, activists and non-activists. The posters—handmade and written in pen or felt marker on the simplest of surfaces—told the story of an angry, heartbroken and disillusioned population. It made me think of the signs I saw Haitians holding in Port-au-Prince following the 2004 coup d’etat: simple messages scrawled on cardboard demanding human rights and an end to injustice.

While the United States is certainly not Haiti, the disgust that people are feeling with the current economic system and those who run it for their own benefit is palpable. Among the protesters were those who understood the complex workings of the corporate capitalist system that is ruining the lives of millions of people. Also among them were people with a less sophisticated understanding of the issues, but nonetheless a very clear lived experience of the damage being done.

Although Liberty Square measures only one square block in the massive city of New York, I wondered like many of those present if this growing protest would have the long-term effect of satisfying some of the demands of those holding the signs.

On the eve of OWS coming to Canada, I am hopeful.

A simple cardboard sign reveals how the tragedies of war and poverty have affected US citizens.
A young man at Liberty Square brings the issue of health care to the protest.
A bristol board sign tells the story of disillusionment and anger in the US.
A young boy holds a handmade sign in Liberty Square.
A man stands in Liberty Square with a simple hand-written paper expressing his concern for the future.
A unionized worker in Liberty Square holds a message, written on a pizza box, which expresses his anger.
A protester in Liberty Square carries a sign expressing the dehumanizing effects of the current economic system.

Darren Ell is a freelance photographer in Montreal and a member of the Canada Haiti Action Network. His work can be viewed at www.darrenell.com.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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