Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Thanks to twitter, I found out there was going to be a protest outside the Nigerian Consulate starting Tuesday at noon.

(In case you're not familiar with what's going on there-- I sure wasn't, a week ago-- the government voted to cut the fuel subsidy starting January 1st. That meant that overnight, fuel prices went up 119%. Imagine if fuel prices doubled overnight here. The cost to fill your car, heat and light your home doubled instantly.) This, not surprisingly, caused "mass unrest"... and people started sleeping outside to protest.

If Nigerian people are Occupying, then so am I.

So yesterday morning I made a big batch of chocolate chip banana bread and took markers, twine, and tiny tents to 2nd Ave and 44th Street.

I got there late (the bread took longer to cool than I thought it would), but when I did arrive there were more than 30 ex-pats singing and holding up big homemade signs. A lot of the conversation around me was in... um... Nigerian? (being an ignorant American is sometimes awkward) so I tried to participate in one of the chants but mainly I stood in support. (Though being ProtestMom did come in handy, as I lent both my pens and my notebook to people exchanging contact details, and both markers to people who wanted to make signs.)

It's always interesting at a rally to see who focuses inward and who focuses outward. Since I was more supporter than protestor, I focused outward. Having a short white girl smiling at the passersby might have helped-- I like to think so.

Most people walked past without much comment, but I did talk with Jo, a retiree who has a group of Haitian girls she's trying to get an education for. The amount of money she needs is too little for Clinton's charity or any of the other big ones. She was aware that the Nigerian government was corrupt and hoped that the protesting did some good.

I also spoke briefly with a photographer with blond braids who seemed to be much more knowledgeable about the political situation in Nigeria than me and had a passionate conversation with several of the older men. She got her picture taken with them and they all laughed together. Maybe I can be like her when I grow up. (Turns out, according to her business card, she's actually Professor Susanna J Dodjson BSc (Hons) PHD and she has a website, so she's even more knowledgeable than I assumed.)

Someone gave me a sign to hold, "Fix Our Refineries" and later a gentleman explained to me that if the nationally owned and run refineries were running at full capacity, they wouldn't need to cut the subsidy. To a camera, the same man (he wore a bright purple fuzzy scarf and a smart suit with bow tie, easy to pick out in the crowd) said that there had not been 24 hours when the whole country had electricity. Suddenly the posts about people's generators running (or not) made more sense. When you're personally dependent on fuel for your generators, petrol prices are not just about getting somewhere, they're about lighting and cooling and heating and all the trappings of modernity the modern person needs.

I handed around the banana bread, but I think folks had already eaten and mostly said "Thank you" without taking any. I had to leave around 1:30 to pick up ProtestKid from school, and by then the crowd had doubled and was blocking the entire sidewalk. At least one member of the press was taking pictures, and there were a handful of amateur photographers and cameras documenting the scene.

Later, an OWS eyewitness said the crowd got to be a hundred strong. While I was there two trucks honked in support, one using their air horn and grinning.

The other OWSer stayed long after I did, and he hoped that we could re-use the signs today during the OWS solidarity march (4 pm) and rally (5 pm). I hope someone else brings the markers; the kids need me to be more Mom than Protest today.

On the train back I bumped into someone, and they admired my OWS button and then he said he had an evironmental radio show and that the OWS Sustainability working group were going to be his guests on a future show.

...And of course it's all linked, because he just did a show on solar power, and we wouldn't need fuel subsidies or fracking or all sorts of deeply disturbing power sources if we could harness the sun before we destroy the earth...

Anyway, yea solidarity and yea making connections and finding other people on the same journey.

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