Protestors in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, New York. Photocredit: david_shankbone http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/6193972512/sizes/m/in/photostream/
In New York, the Occupy Wall Street movement (which began on the 17th September this year) has spread throughout the country. What started as a peaceful protest to campaign against capitalism has now taken root in other cities such as Chicago, Boston and Delaware. They claim to have been inspired by Egypt’s Tahir Square protests. Even Anonymous, the “hacktivists”, have emerged from their computer caves to take to the streets. They were joined by Susan Sarandon (naturally). Anonymous have been bombarding social networks such as Twitter with messages of support for the protestors, and also quelling any sparks of violence; other protestors have been using the Vibe app, which allows people to broadcast messages anonymously.
According to The Daily Telegraph, a group in London inspired by Occupy Wall Street now wants to occupy the London Stock Exchange, “despite the site failing to list any aims or objectives for the event, or exactly what is being protested.”
“Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants,” said a punchy message on the group’s website.
The protestors, who lack a centralised leadership system on the grounds that people get annoyed if someone’s in charge, say they won’t leave until their demands are met – but what exactly are their demands? It took them a while to get them together, but now they’ve related them: They want an end to capital punishment (they’ve leapt on the Troy Davis case); an end to baseless police intimidation (this because four of their number were arrested); an end to wealth inequality; an end to corporate censorship; an end to the “gilded age”; they also want ends to health profiteering, American imperialism, and war. Read the whole list here.
“We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” is one of Occupy Wall Street’s rather bold slogans.
In New York, where at the weekend there were allegedly between 3,000 and 5,000 protestors, the police have been accused of heavy tactics in dealing with the protestors – arresting 80 of them, and apparently spraying three females with pepper spray. The police officer has been named as Anthony Bologna, and he now faces investigation for another alleged incident.
“Much has been written about the “Twitter revolution” dimension of the Arab Spring; now it looks as though, in this emerging alliance between street protest and online activism, the Arab Spring is turning to American Fall,” said Ayesha Kazmi on The Guardian.
Yes! Protestors are doing the right thing. Noam Chomsky came out in support of the protestors, claiming that Wall Street’s “gangsterism” had caused huge damage to America and the world. He calls the protests “courageous and honorable”, and thinks that they will bring to attention the impunity with which financial institutions act.
“Indeed, people in the United States and across the globe are feeling increasingly impotent in the face of the growing power and wealth of Wall Street, dimming the rest of our prospects for a prosperous future. In the face of such injustice, I don’t wonder why people protest. I wonder why more people don’t join them,” said Sally Kohn on CNN.
Indeed! Protestors should be helped. Glenn Greenwald on Salon agreed, saying that condemning these protests for being unformed is like “pronouncing a three-year-old child worthless because he can’t read Schopenhauer.” They will find their voices and build their opinions, and those who want to help them ought to get on with it rather than harping on about their deficiencies.
What? Protestors are being treated leniently. On the contrary: John Cook on Gawker defended Bologna’s actions. Being sprayed with pepper is not like being punched in the face. Sure, Bologna is “a dick”. But so are most policemen. It’s kind of their job. Let’s be happy that these dickish policemen are spraying mace rather than hitting people with batons.
No way: Protestors are a bunch of idiots. What a load of piffle the protestors are talking, said the NY Daily News opinion. They are a load of spoiled brats. They should be thanking America’s capitalist founders, who “saw fit to protect the privileges of the dumb and obnoxious along with everyone else.” The NYPD’s being “too tolerant”, if anything, going with the flow and allowing these protests to happen, even though they’re happening “without a permit”. Free speech carries responsibilities – as these “juveniles may one day learn.”