The Significance, or Insignificance, of the “Occupy Wall Street” Protest Movement

Over the weekend, more than 700 people from the “Occupy Wall Street” protest movement were arrested on New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, police say.

They were part of a larger group crossing the bridge to Manhattan, where they have occupied an area in the financial district and, during the last two weeks, turned it into a revolutionary park.

The protesters say they are defending 99% of the U.S. population against the wealthiest 1%.

There was no reference to the arrests on the front page of The New York Times yesterday, Sunday, though Nicolas D. Kristoff dealt with the movement in his column in the paper’s Sunday Review. His subject was “The Bankers and the Revolutionaries.” He reported that mostly young people were involved, that originally it was treated like a joke, but that it was gaining traction. Similar occupations were bubbling up in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The reason why there were no reports of the arrests in the NYT’s news section could be that there was no violence, and that most of those arrested were soon released.

On September 19, just after the movement had started, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested the unrest that rocked the streets of Cairo and Madrid this year could spread to the U.S.

Professor Todd Gitlin of the Columbia University journalism school said at the same time that it was amazing to him Americans were so slow to rise collectively, not only against unemployment but against the quite identifiable forces that are responsible for it.

“I’m not predicting that such a thing will happen,” he said. “But it would not in the slightest surprise me if there were some burst of street expression, some street rage.”

But Peter Dreier, professor of politics and director of the urban and environmental policy program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said Americans do not have the “psychology of rioting.” He added that Americans who bear the brunt of the economic downturn are “demoralized” and discouraged from taking collective action.

“People are angry, and right now they’re taking their anger out on themselves – the quiet riots of suicide and depression,” he said.

One of the protesters in the Occupy Wall Street Movement had this to say:

“We are not anarchists. We are not hooligans. I am a 48-year-old man. The top 1% control 50% of the wealth in the USA.”

Another protester opened a pizzeria, Kristoff reports. “In tribute to the ingenuity of capitalism, he added a new item to the menu, the OccuPie Special.”

Perhaps Americans have invented a new form of social protest.

Source (in part): BBC

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2 responses to “The Significance, or Insignificance, of the “Occupy Wall Street” Protest Movement

  1. Here’s a possible precursor, although it was centred in a trade union rather than, purportedly, 99% of the American population:

    “And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.” General Executive Board Report and Proceedings [of The] Biennial Convention, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, 1914.

  2. Closer to here & now, just days before Ms. Barlow zephyred Parliament Hill, the Council of Canadians launched [the ex-Senate page] Brigette DePape’s report ‘Thinking Outside the Ballot Box: How People Power Can Stop the Harper Agenda and Create Fundamental Change‘. The youthfully engaged 24-page report, which emphasizes the need for non-violent civil disobedience, can be read at http://canadians.org/democracy/documents/OTBB-0911.pdf .