Today marks the official one month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests. The idea was first proposed by a Canadian advocacy group that publishes the anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters initially to peacefully protest the growing income disparity and the lack of legal repercussions to the irresponsible financial actions that has contributed to the global financial crisis. What began as a suggestion to their e-mail list took off like a match in a puddle of gasoline. Again, social media has played a large part in galvanizing the movement. The group Anonymous also encouraged their members to participate.
Participants in the protests credit the movement in Tahrir Square in Egypt at the start of the Arab Spring as the catalyst but it also resembles the protests in Madison, Wisconsin and even the WTO protests in Seattle in the late 1990s. Others have described the movement as a left-leaning version of the Tea Party movement from last year; a movement consisting largely of disaffected Republicans, but many point out that the Tea Party was anti-government while the #OWS is directing their ire at Wall Street. Many #OWS participants also claim that this movement is party neutral.
Critics of the movement have been mostly conservative Republicans who say that the movement doesn’t really have a leader, a defined message or list of demands. Response to this has been that leader led movements are so 17th century and that the Internet is the new means of participative democracy. Blogger Glenn Greenwald for Salon.com responded:
“Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power—in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions—is destroying financial security for everyone else?”
While in the New York Times editorial page last week:
“It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself.”
#OWS has grown to include cities in an estimated 82 countries around the world. Not all of the events have been uneventful. In Italy; one of the European countries fraught with mounting debt, several instigators started clashes reminiscent of the WTO Seattle riots. There have been several arrests; mostly peaceful civil disobedience acts, in several of the cities. In NewYork, police have on a couple of occasions resorted to using pepper spray to disperse crowds in public areas.
One of the key components to the success of the New York movement has been the use of Zuccotti Park; which is privately owned and not subject to police authority to remove protesters as they could in a public park. Mayor Bloomberg has been fairly accommodating in supporting the movement’s right to protest as have the managers of the park property. Their main concern has been sanitation and the impact that so many people have on the property. The protesters have responded by cleaning the park on a regular basis.
The future of the movement is uncertain. Many have declared that they plan to remain in the park throughout the winter. Questions have arisen about what would be an acceptable outcome in order to warrant ending the protests. Those solutions aren’t likely to present themselves any time soon. In fact, much of the source of the angst of the participants has stemmed from the lack of action since the financial meltdown almost three years ago. Whether the movement is sustainable or not remains to be seen but those who vow to keep it going note that it has already been demonstrated that nothing in the current business and government atmosphere will change without it.
- Why “Occupy Wall Street” will hurt liberals (cbsnews.com)
- Can ‘Occupy’ protests last without leaders? (sfgate.com)
- Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party: Compare and Contrast (slate.com)
- Are Wall Street Protesters Capable Of Starting A Run On A Too Big To Fail Bank? (businessinsider.com)
- Occupy Wall Street live: one month on (guardian.co.uk)