I don’t think this was planned, certainly not by the #occupywallstreet folks, but a big civilian protest on Wall Street mimicking social-media-fueled protests in Egypt and Iran and other Arabic countries (the “Arab Spring“) and the Obama administration are both working to make the richest 1% of the country contribute more to society this weekend.
Of course, the Fat Cats aren’t fond of either effort.
Republican leaders are calling Obama’s proposal to tax millionaires and billionaires at least the same as common citizens are taxed “class warfare” — way to protect multi-million-dollar estates built on the backs of underpaid workers, Paul Ryan!
For sure, rich Republicans owned by richer businessmen will do all they can to fight Obama’s proposal, which would help bring the U.S. out of debt, create jobs, and balance societal wealth and power. But hopefully it can get pushed through.
And I don’t think the Occupy Wall Street crowd is going to get silenced anytime soon either. It includes hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people worldwide. And it is fueled by an inequality and corruption problem that has become more and more obvious to more people. You have to love this repeatedly retweeted statement by Anonymous (anonops) from yesterday:
This is the beauty of social media and social media activism. The leader is the cause. Or, one could argue, the leader is social media, which has made it so much easier for like-minded people to communicate, plan, and act. One person builds off of another, and other one builds off of them, and the momentum grows (if the cause taps a nerve in the collective consciousness). This issue clearly has tapped that nerve.
#occupywallstreet Hits Physical Reality
Thousands have now gathered in person in NYC, building off of this social media snowball, to get more eyes on the issue.
Meanwhile, Obama, whose highly successful presidential campaign used social media better than any other, is also frustrated with the inequality in the country (or at least in the tax code), or is just listening and responding to the growing discontent in the country.
He will have to do more than try to close tax loopholes for the rich, though, to satisfy this growing civilian movement. The goal of the Occupy Wall Street crowd is reportedly “to get President Barack Obama to establish a commission to end ‘the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.'”
Protesters are planning to occupy Wall Street for months if this demand is not quickly met (and how could it be, given the goals of the too-powerful Tea Party at the moment).
NYC Mayor Bloomberg seems rather supportive, though I’m sure he’ll try to push the activists out of the Wall Street area.
“People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it,” Mayor Bloomberg said Sept. 15 at a press conference. “As long as they do it where other people’s rights are respected, this is the place where people can speak their minds, and that’s what makes New York, New York.”
More from Bloomberg News:
As the demonstration began this afternoon, as many as 1,000 people congregated in the Chase Manhattan Plaza area and, after speakers with a bullhorn rallied the crowd, broke into groups to discuss the event’s goals. Some participants circulated trays of sliced white and wheat bread while others passed out jars of creamy Skippy peanut butter, and distributed apples, bananas and oranges from shopping carts.
Red Flags, Masks
Protesters waved red flags and toted cardboard signs with statements such as “represent the 99%.” Others donned white, mustachioed masks of the anti-authoritarian protagonist from the graphic novel and film “V for Vendetta.” A few people played instruments, including guitars, ukuleles and maracas. Chants and applause periodically erupted around the plaza.
Police encircled the plaza and partitioned Wall Street’s pedestrian walkway.
From the NYTimes:
Organizers said the rally was meant to be diverse, and not all of the participants were on the left. Followers of the right-wing figure Lyndon LaRouche formed a choir near Bowling Green and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Nearby, anarchists carried sleeping bags and tents.
At one point in the early afternoon, dozens of protesters marched around the famous bronze bull on lower Broadway. Among them was Dave Woessner, 31, a student at Harvard Divinity School.
“When you idealize financial markets as salvific you embrace the idea that profit is all that matters,” he said.
A few minutes later about 15 people briefly sat down on a sidewalk on Broadway, leaning against a metal barricade that blocked access to Wall Street. For a moment things grew tense as officers converged and a police chief shoved a newspaper photographer from behind.
After a police lieutenant used a megaphone to tell those sitting on the sidewalk that they were subject to arrest the protesters got up and marched south.
Mr. Browne said no permits had been sought for the demonstration but plans for it “were well known publicly.”
Mr. Browne said two people in bandanna masks were taken into custody for trying to enter a building at Broadway and Liberty Street that houses Bank of America offices. A third person fled.
As a chilly darkness descended, a few hundred people realized one of the day’s objectives by setting foot onto Wall Street after a quick march through winding streets, trailed by police scooters.
At William Street, they were blocked from proceeding toward the stock exchange, and the march ended in front of a Greek Revival building housing Cipriani Wall Street. Patrons on a second-floor balcony peered down.
As some of the patrons laughed and raised drinks, the protesters responded by pointing at them and chanting “pay your share.”
Protests are Global
Occupy Wall Street is actually just one part of the story, though a leading part of it. Coordinate protests were planned around the world. Here’s a list from Wikipedia:
- #TOMALABOLSA in Madrid, Spain
- #TOMALABOLSA in Valencia, Spain
- #OCCUPYFDSF in San Francisco, USA
- #usdorLosA in Los Angeles, USA
- #TakeTheSquareWI in Madison, USA
- #OCCUPYBAYSTREET in Toronto, Canada
- #OCCUPYBANKOFENGLAND in London, UK
- #ANTIBANKS in Lisbon, Portugal
- #ANTIBANKS in Athens, Greece
- #OCCUPYMARTINPLACE in Sydney, Australia
- #OCCUPYBÖRSENSTRASSE in Stuttgart, Germany
- #OCCUPYMARUNOUCHI in Tokyo, Japan
- #OCCUPAZIONEPIAZZAAFFARI in Milan, Italy
- #ANTIBANKS in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- #ANTIBANKS in Algiers, Algeria
- #ANTIBANKS in Tel Aviv, Israel
No small deal, eh?
Financial Inequality and Economic Crisis Fueling the Protests
More from the NYTimes on what is stimulating this citizen outcry:
Talking to a reporter, [Queens resident Bill Steyert, 68, stated], “You need a scorecard to keep track of all the things that corporations have done that are bad for this country.”
Nearby, Micah Chamberlain, 23, a line cook from Columbus, Ohio, held up a sign reading “End the Oligarchy” and said he had hitchhiked to New York. “There are millions of people in this county without jobs,” he said. “And 1 percent of the people have 99 percent of the money.”
That was not well-known a not long ago, but it is being communicated to more and more people, and this protest should help get the word out.
For more, I recommend this good CNN piece: Twitter #occupywallstreet movement aims to mimic Iran.