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Occupy Rockland Co-opted By Conspiracy Theorists

by Cliff Weathers

Despite being a movement with no real leadership, the message of #Occupy has been defined: The nation is divided along economic lines. The middle class is disappearing and poverty is spreading like a plague, all while the richest Americans multiply their wealth exponentially. Yet, as we are amid a 5-year economic malaise, it is the poor and the middle class that are being asked to make further sacrifices, not the richest Americans.

Yet, that simple populist message was not the predominant one at the recent #Occupy rallies in Nyack. At yesterday’s rally, I was immediately greeted by 9/11 Truthers and had to endure speeches about exposing clandestine “chemtrails” and how Middle East enemy combatants and terrorists are actually our brothers in peace. Enough!

I’d like to think that nobody can question my dedication to the #OccupyWallStreet movement. My blog, Left of the Hudson, and its accompanying Internet radio show, backed the movement early on, and we’ve written and published scores of articles in support of the protesters in Zuccotti Park; Boston; Oakland, Calif.; Detroit, and elsewhere. We stand in solidarity with #Occupy.

I am not going to start an argument about the validity of people’s pet viewpoints or theories (that’s for another time), but this is definitely not what the #Occupy movement is about. Talk to any hard-core occupier at Zuccotti Park and they’ll tell you that this is not a field where old political battles are to be fought. It is not a convocation where every grudge, every gripe, and every wild-eyed hypothesis is weighed. Mostly, #Occupy is definitely not The X-Files, please put away your tinfoil hats! Despite what the media may say, #Occupy has a clear target. As James Carville put it, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

I’ve spent many long days at Zuccotti Park, held signs, engaged bystanders, attended some General Assemblies, and talked in length to protesters there about why they’re there. And while there are some fringe elements, such as Truthers, Ron Paul acolytes, anarchists, and Communists among #Occupy’s ranks, their influence is minimal and is drown out by the overwhelming majority that remain on message. When a critical mass is reached, the real message of the movement stands apart, cutting through the fog of nebulous and often dubious grievances.

To throw a bone to the Tea Party, despite the birthers, dominionists, war mongers, and racists that you will find in their ranks, their message–while sophomoric and uninformed–has become clear. Like the #Occupy movement, that message is purely economic. The conservative social viewpoints espoused by some are just the dregs in the tea.

This is not happening in Nyack. Yesterday’s event was clearly co-opted by every outer-limit cause you can think of. It was difficult to wade through the chaff and find pearls of wisdom.

That is to say that not all the speakers at Nyack’s event were off message. Several, especially Mayor Richard Kavesh, stayed on message and talked to the audience of about economic justice and gave a just argument to retain the “millionaires tax” in New York. Kavesh and a few others saved this event from becoming a larger embarrassment than it was.

Unfortunately, anybody can have a rally and apply the #OWS hashtag. And that is clearly the case with yesterday’s event in Nyack, where I witnessed a twisted quilt work of disparate messaging, much of which had nothing to do with the #Occupy movement.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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