By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the rapidly-expanding movement known as ‘Occupy Wall Street’. Protestors have been camping out in Zuccotti Park (re-dubbed ‘Liberty Plaza’) in Lower Manhattan, New York City, since September 17th.
The protest was sparked by an (ironically) Canadian anti-consumerist magazine called Adbusters, which has staged and promoted many other activist events including ‘Digital Detox Week‘, where participants were encouraged to spend seven days unplugged from all technology, and ‘Buy Nothing Day‘, which took place on Black Friday.
Although the movement started small, Occupy Wall Street has quickly gained momentum and has become a nationwide phenomena; similar protests have sprung up in other major cities including Sante Fe, New Mexico, Portland, Oregon and Washington DC. Although the protestors have been peaceful, NYPD has been present round-the-clock, instilling fear with (some might say needless) arrests, kettling, and the use of pepper spray (the total number of arrests was up to 700 on October 1st, and has since increased exponentially).
Here’s a clip of a seemingly unprovoked use of pepper spray on the part of the NYPD:
You’ll notice I haven’t yet mentioned what the protest is about. Yes, the demonstration originally sprang up as a protest against corporate greed, Wall Street corruption, and the overwhelming income discrepancies between what participants refer to as the top ‘1%’ versus the main ‘99%’. But while economic grievances were the starting point, Occupy Wall Street has become a platform for an increasingly dissatisfied public to air all their frustrations and resentments against the government in one, unified congregation.
When I attended Liberty Plaza last Friday, it was swarmed with people and signs covering every political issue; poverty, foreclosure, government corruption, the war in Afghanistan, environmentalism, job scarcity, human rights, and others.
The atmosphere does hold a sense of danger; not enough to cause panic, but enough to tantalize a swarm of youth itching for action. The media has been pointedly slow to take notice of their efforts, which is inevitably frustrating to a crowd that feels much-deserved change has been a long time coming, and are fervently hoping that this will be the turning point. Of concern to many observers is Occupy Wall Street’s disorganization and the youth amongst its protestors. These adolescents are increasingly anxious to have their message heard, and their ardor combined with the efforts of unfriendly police officers makes for a potentially volatile mix.
As has been addressed by many commentators, the protest lacks clear direction and overall leadership. But the main focus doesn’t seem to be on fulfilling particular demands. Instead, Occupy Wall Street has become a rallying point, a place to finally release an outpouring of long-burgeoning dissatisfaction and desperation amongst the down-trodden ‘99%’ of the American population.
The protest has been criticized for what I like to phrase as ‘a lot of passion, not enough articulation’, but maybe a little bit of unbridled passion is exactly what the present situation calls for. In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Of course, if real change is to take place, the protest is going to have to evolve into something more structured. But Occupy Wall Street is the spring board, a powerful vocalization of the resentment that has been welling up amongst the American people, and, for the moment, it might be exactly what we need.
Here are a few photos I took from my day at Liberty Plaza:
You can click for a few more: