Don’t be surprised as you walk around Port Jefferson this weekend during the yearly Charles Dickens Festival if you are accosted by someone claiming to have been thrown in a debtor’s prison, or a chimney sweep just trying to make himself heard among the throng with signs and messages about the unfairness of an oppressive system.
It’s not just another street performance by one of the many actors dressed up to entertain the crowds. The Occupy Port Jefferson protesters and North Country Peace Group are planning to bring the 19th century author’s main theme to life: the widening gap between the very poor and the very rich.
According to a statement released by the organizers they are “demonstrating its relevance to American society today, where we are seeing the greatest disparity in both income and wealth that we have since the 1930s.”
They plan to be out on Main Street between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
Last year, the protesters took to the streets on Saturday during the festival dressed up as impoverished street folk behind bars for crimes like stealing bread to feed a hungry family or incurring too much debt.
Their message was "don't let this become a tale of two cities" as one protester was telling people as they walked by.
Some protesters will also be distributing literature about Rolling Jubilee, a project to buy medical debt the same way collection companies do – on the debt market, at a fraction of its original worth – and then canceling it to free debtors from piled-up medical bills.
The organizers said they stage the event because in his time, “Charles Dickens championed many of the same causes that the Occupy movement has embraced.”
“While celebrating the work of Charles Dickens, the festivities consistently overlook the fact that Dickens was an advocate for the poor and decried the terrible inequality of his time,” the organizers wrote in a statement. “We come because there is nothing festive about poverty, economic injustice, foreclosures and crippling debt.”
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