“Most importantly, very few protest movements enjoy perfect clarity about tactics or command widespread support when they begin; they’re designed to spark conversation, raise awareness, attract others to the cause, and build those structural planks as they grow and develop. Dismissing these incipient protests because they lack fully developed, sophisticated professionalization is akin to pronouncing a three-year-old child worthless because he can’t read Schopenhauer: those who are actually interested in helping it develop will work toward improving those deficiencies, not harp on them in order to belittle its worth.” What’s behind the scorn for Wall Street protests? by Glenn Greenwald for Salon
As of now, protesters have occupied Zucotti Park in downtown Manhattan’s financial district for about 14 days. Numbers of protesters have ranged in the hundreds and, despite being a relatively peaceful organization, have had more than 80 arrests, (including journalists covering the incident of filming police reaction) as well as several incidents of police brutality, most notoriously the alleged macing of several female protesters by NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, an incident which is now leading to an internal probe of Bologna’s actions.
Media coverage has ranged from obsolete to the condescending, and mixed reports have surfaced reporting that certain social media outlets are scrubbing Occupy Wall Street tags and that Yahoo had possibly blocked emails containing the slogan. Regardless, Occupy Wall Street is picking up steam on the realization that this actually is an issue and it probably isn’t going away. Whether that has come with the help of solidarity from the likes of Noam Chomsky, Dr. Cornell West, and Michael Moore, or the widespread coverage of police brutality, or the churning wheels of social media filling in where the news wasn’t, people are starting to pay attention. It’s a feat that seems as joyful as it does disappointing. Compared to the coverage that small rate Koran burnings or straw man Tea Party rallies receive, to see the overall silence of multiple networks promising objective news, is what one would call not surprising, yet ultimately disappointing.
When I visited Zucotti Park on Wednesday night, people were calm, collected, really just living in the small space that most seem to call “home” (as much of a home as it gets). Of course, home is hard to claim when uniformed cops surround your entire encampment, along with plainclothes cops rumored to be coming in and out to watch the activity. Nonetheless, life went on as planned: food was distributed, music was being played, organizers were making group announcements via “call back” system, where the surrounding crowd echoed the speaker, as megaphones are grounds for arrest. Announcements included joining in solidarity with local union protests like The New York Transit Workers Union and The Postal Workers Union, as well as general updates (all listed on the site’s Minutes Section) and resources for those in need of temporary therapy, quiet hours, and tips on how to talk with the media. One organizer asked the crowd to repeat the golden rule:
“I Will Not Speak For Everyone.”
“I Will Not Speak For Everyone!”
Of course, there have been voiced concerns regarding the inherent privilege factors of the movement, as there is with any and all movements: Why is this police brutality getting coverage? Why are people only now getting irate over issues that certain communities have been dealing with for years? Why is this movement made up mostly of white people? Of course, let’s not forget that the nature of protest itself in this country has become a said privilege, a concept that boggles the mind. Hell, it’s on the books, we have the right to gather for assembly! Yet so many cannot leave those jobs, the family, all the things they are struggling day in and day out to barely keep alive. When did the right to be a part of the democratic process become just another privilege? (Hint: it’s always been like that).
While no movement is ever perfect, one has to wonder when the rest of everyone in America will start to get on board now that the Occupy movements are spreading across the country, as well as internationally. The list grows by the day and if nothing, says very, very clearly: this is happening. Other doubts and questions remain, mainly, “What are your demands?” These questions are often met with a mixed bag of responses depending on whom you are talking to. Tax the wealthiest Americans. End corporate greed. Stop systems of oppression. Give Americans jobs. End debt. And so on and so on. This lack of a solid “goal” seems to be the media’s (as well as most of the said 99%’s) largest problem with the movement, almost as large as the one it has with taking seriously the actual movement, as evidenced by phrases like “young people with dyed hair.”
In asking honestly, what is it about this solid answer that has everyone so distracted? What about that answer is going to make putting it into action any easier or to take protesters at more than face value? Does it take away from the seriousness that all these issues present? Does it take away from the anxiety of walking on the financial tight rope that most of us do on a day-to-day basis? Does it take away the anger or frustration? In a way, it is a human response: What the hell are you doing? Yet, it is this lack of a “solid goal” that has given occupiers nothing more than a reputation of spoiled, whiny babies. How dare they complain about this! This is America, the best country on earth! Get a job!
Get a job. I think I heard that as one of the demands. Where are all those jobs that these people need to get? The ones that people drowned themselves into debt to find? What about healthcare? One only has to follow the site We Are The 99%, to understand that this is much more than lazy folks who just don’t want to get a job. This is about an entire system, or really, systems built on top of other systems, that have preyed on the weakest, damned those most in need, violated the most vulnerable, and rewarded those who frankly, had been rewarding themselves for years. We are in a great time of need, as well as one of great distrust. It is understandable to be where we are, to be skeptical of all movement forward, especially when there is so much work to be done.
So”¦ what next? The foreclosure and loss of homes will continue, as will bankruptcy, unemployment, and general economic and class downfall. Poverty rates will reach higher and higher points, a prediction that is all too real, as evidenced by newly released data from the Census Bureau. It’s enough to make even the most well-off slightly terrified at the highly probable prospect of becoming one of the 46 million people living in poverty. Or one of the 49 million uninsured. Or that our “great” nation now has the highest poverty rate in all developed nations. This is real, folks. It’s scary real. And it’s only going to get worse.
But if that doesn’t make you mad, the folks drinking champagne will.
One reply on “Occupy Wall Street: Where We At?”
As usual, excellent writing, excellent post. Your pieces are very effective at synthesizing a lot of political rhetoric and I really appreciate what you are doing with these kinds of posts.