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Occupy L.A.: Protest Veteran Shifts From Fighting Wars To Fighting Greed

Lauren Foliart |
October 8, 2011 | 9:35 p.m. PDT


Rick Matthews.
Rick Matthews.

Rick Matthews thinks the world is in total crisis.

A veteran activist at the age of 65, he has seen a lot, but he finds the world’s problems much more “intense” today, and fears we might be at the point of self-destruction.

“We’re in this incredible climate crisis, we’re in financial crisis, political, social; all these crises are coming together to form one larger crisis,” Matthews said. “What stands in the way of our survival is relentless seeking of profit at the expense of people’s lives.”

On-site everyday, Matthews holds a sign for the national organization Veterans for Peace.  His protesting years begun with the Vietnam War, continued into the era of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he now finds himself demonstrating against the foes of Wall Street.

Matthews, a former high school teacher, retired in 2008 and still sees his monetary income affected by the recession.  What he finds it comforting that people are starting to blame the correct origin of economic tribulation.

“What I thought was really right was the 99 percent movement Occupy Wall Street was going to the real source of our problems rather than Washington,” Matthews said.

In Los Angeles, city hall is allowing demonstrators to peacefully congregate and camp on Temple Street, creating a space where an overarching message of communal living can be displayed. 

“These people are organizing and creating community in a way I’d like to see democracy work,” Matthews said.  “People volunteering—there’s no selling here, there’s no buying here, there’s no profit being made.  People are living without Wall Street.”

Matthews discussed the “aggression” of the opposing one percent towards demonstrations of democracy and peace.  He sees them threated most by the idea of people living sustainably with each other and the earth.  

He explores the topic with calm composure and even takes pity on their malice because as Matthews sees it, Wall Street and Washington are “psychopathic,” and “criminally insane.”

“It’s up to rest of the world, the 99 percent, to gently stop them with our arms around them and say ‘that’s enough,’” he said.  “As far as I’m concerned, they can’t stop themselves.”

Matthews fantasizes about 10 million surrounding Washington, Wall Street, every federal building and every police station, telling them all, “It’s over now.”

“I hope this community gets larger and spreads across the country and those who don’t want democracy—of, for, and by the people—cannot stop it from happening, said Matthews.  “It will grow in spite of them, in spite of all their efforts.”

Reach contributor Lauren Foliart here.

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