Nikki Cross is unemployed, in debt and dependent on the small earnings she gets from her Etsy shop. But she’s so frustrated with the current economic climate that she’s decided to donate proceeds to Occupy Wall Street.
As Occupy Wall Street protests pop up in cities across the United States and around the world, online community everywhere are getting involved, including sellers on Etsy, the online marketplace for crafts and other goods.
In fact, an “Occupy Wall Street” search on Etsy reveals almost 200 items tagged “Occupy Wall Street.” Most of the items for sale are standard Etsy fare: t-shirts, jewelry, buttons, and some inspired artwork. True, some tagged items have nothing to do with OWS and display a sellers opportunistic side.
But there are crafters, like Cross, who are using the site to donate to the cause in a way they could not otherwise afford.
Cross, 28, for instance, is offering up a translucent origami bouquet titled “American Autumn Love” for $50, because “when I see the videos of the protesters in New York, I see me.” (The Occupy Wall Street movement has been called the American Autumn, a reference to the Arab Spring. The hearts represent the charitable nature of movement.)
“They’re all young people like me; they are highly educated but can’t find a job in this economy” Cross said in a phone interview with the Daily Dot.
Cross, who has a Masters degree in city planning (her specialty is maps analyzing demographics), has been unemployed for over a year -- with “not even one interview.”
Newly married, Cross and her husband have $25,000 in student loan debt. She began taking her Etsy shop seriously about six months ago to generate some much needed income.
“The main reason why I want to support Occupy Wall Street through Etsy is because I can't afford to send direct cash. If people get (American Autumn Love), I will donate all the cash. I wouldn't make any profit whatsoever. It's the least I can do.”
Cross said she’s a regular participant in the Occupy Los Angeles protests, but doesn’t camp out.
“Our avenues of political change are just not working. People feel like they need to get out there and make a statement” Cross said.
Jan, a 51 year old West Texan who asked that her last name not be used, also is offering an item for donation: a tatted Guy Fawkes Mask that works as both a necklace and a pouch. “You can carry your bail money or your pocket constitution with you,” she said during a Skype interview.
Jan, who is in between jobs and “part of the 99%, I am as poor as you can be,” compared the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Bonus Army of 1932. (During the Great Depression, 40,000 plus WWI soldiers and their families camped out on the White House lawn demanding pay for their service)
Jan, who lives out in the “boonies” and far away from any Occupy movement, said this is her “way of helping.” Like Cross, Jan can’t afford to send any hard cash but will ship $100 worth of supplies -- her asking price for her one-of-a-kind tatted Guy Fawkes mask.
“I want to send them coffee, sugar, personal care items, stuff that I can afford from the grocery store.”
Jan was originally offering a 39% discount on her products, an allusion to tax rates for the rich under Bill Clinton, because “if I can eat 39%, then the wealthy can eat 39%.” (Tax rates under Bush dropped to 35%, a reduction set to expire this year meeting heavy resistance among Republicans in Congress)
Jan quickly decided to donate an item because “I didn't want to seem like a greedy asshole.”
“Don’t get me wrong, it's also a cynical ploy to get people to come to my shop” she added.
While only a handful of Etsy sellers are offering to send proceeds to Occupy Wall Street -- like Kenneth Rougeau who is donating 50% of his t-shirt sales, both Jan and Cross believe over time more people will follow suit.