The day of an early-morning raid on the Occupy Dallas campground in which 18 people were arrested, WFAA.com visited the site to talk with three members of the movement. A former electrician, college student and mixed martial arts instructor answered eight questions pertaining to the movement, the raid and what change they hope to make in the nation's political system. Colby Barnett, 25; Steven Arzu, 20 and Ameer Wahdan, 21, share their thoughts.
1.) For those who are unclear of what the Occupy Dallas movement is about, how would you summarize the group?
BARNETT: It’s a movement of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Basically, we are here to get corporate money out of the American political system. Right now, the politicians we are sending to Washington to represent us are not properly doing so because they are concerned about corporate money and campaign donations. The corporate influence needed to fund a campaign on national campaign has made it to where our voices are not being properly heard.
2.) What made you personally decide to join the movement?
BARNETT: For years, I’ve been looking at the system we have in place and I don't logically see a reason to have corporations shoveling money into representatives that we send to Washington that are supposed to be representing the people.
WAHDAN: No one really persuaded me. I didn’t even know about it prior to accidentally stumbling upon it. But, as soon as I got there, I talked to a couple of people and found out what it was all about and pretty much on the spot decided that was where my heart needed to be and that’s where I needed to be.
ARZU: While some individuals were, 'How much does this shirt cost?' we were like, 'What’s happening with the ups and downs of the dollar?' So, I’ll say what kind of brought us here really is just that intuitive creative mindset that led us to question what these problems are that are happening in our society and the thought that there is a change that needs to be made.
3.) Were you part of the camping? If so, what were some essential items needed?
BARNETT: A tent - essential. Sleeping bag, of course. It got cold; it got wet. Other than that, you can kind of make due. We had plenty of food donations and things like that.
WAHDAN: I wanted more water more than anything while I was out here.
ARZU: Water and a warm blanket.
ARZU: Yes, deodorant and a blanket.
4.) What did you think of the way officers raided the camp site early Thursday morning?
BARNETT: I thought it was a little ridiculous. It was complete excess. We had more mounted horses than we did protesters planning to be arrested ... We had SWAT bust out here, officers with riot shields and we had 15 people sitting down in a circle on some grass that were ready to be removed peacefully.
WAHDAN: I think it was completely uncalled for. I think the excess show of force showed that they came to battle it out Oakland style, expecting us to resist. I think they were completely surprised that we didn't resist at all.
ARZU: Specifically, with the Dallas Occupation, we’ve had the reputation of being the model of what a peaceful protest should look like. Though we’ve had our problems as far as perpetrators in our camp, that is a total separate issue as far as resisting the police ... You had officers on horseback and there were a number of officers with armored gear. But, when you look at all the equipment that was used to dismantle what is the model of a peaceful protest , it causes questions. One, what were the funds that were used in order to make this possible and what was the decision making behind the raid?
How much notice were you given before the raid?
WAHDAN: We had a hunch that they were thinking about raiding maybe three days beforehand. The actual day of of them raiding us, it was questionable, so we went around and asked various individuals from the police force and they told us and stated that they were not raiding and they were just hanging tight, just hanging out. Little did we know, we probably had 20 minutes, a half an hour to get our stuff out of there.
ARZU: Let’s say the warning, it didn’t come from city council or police. There was no written statement. It came from an organization that was with us saying, 'Hey, be watchful.' The police department said we had 24 hours notice, but yet the day before the media was swarming here and they were uninformed. I also want to say a letter was sent at 11:59 p.m., we were raided at what, 12 o’clock, where there was no media. It just puts things in perspective that this wasn’t something that they wanted to be made public.
5.) What would you say to those that say get a job?
BARNETT: I would say that we are here for you as well. That's not the point; we're not looking for handouts. We’re not looking to take anything away from anyone. All we want to do is get your voice heard. We don't care if you're a CEO or homeless, I want your voice properly represented in the political system right now, and that's not happening because your voice and your votes that you make to send a representative to Washington is being influenced by corporate money instead of the voice of the people.
6.) Are you going to vote and if so for whom?
BARNETT: I will vote, but I don't want to bring about any type of political affiliation to the movement because, like I said, we are here to represent all 99 percent of the people and not one party. Last time I was looking, 99 percent of the people were not Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist, communist, anarchist. I just want everyone's voice properly heard.
ARZU: One of the things that was stated is that we are an organization, or an assembly, that is built on trying to either change or reform our political process. We’re individuals that see errors in our political system. I feel like answering that question, as far as any one individual, it could sway our movement.
7.) What is your next plan of action?
BARNETT: Our next plan of action is to find a spot in the public domain and occupy that spot until corporate money is out of our political system.
ARZU: Based on the consensus - we did have an assembly before the direction in which we’re going is - we believe the process in which was used to get us evicted was not the proper form. The reason we are here is that we feel that there are improper things happening in our government. We want to uncover just those type of processes, whether it be the one behind the city of Dallas getting us evacuated.
8.) Is there a politician that you believe epitomizes the wrong that you believe is happening in our system?
BARNETT: I still think that goes back to all politicians that are on a national level that are getting corporate funding, and that is wrong in my opinion. The only reason a corporation would give money to a politician would be to influence that politician. At the end of the day, every corporation's end goal is to increase shareholder profits. They are not concerned about me, they are not concerned about you and they are not concerned about the sustainability of their practices. They are not concerned about the American people ... We don't need that in the political government. They are supposed to be there to represent all of us.
ARZU: Across the board, one of the things we’ve spoken about is how we feel that there is a mass amount of corruption and money that sways the decisions of a lot of politicians.