On September 17, an estimated 5,000 people took to Manhattan’s financial district in peaceful protest. They waved signs and banners in support of a movement called #OCCUPYWALLSTREET.
Stimulated by assemblies in Spain and the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising, the peaceful movement has been organized in large part by Canadian anticonsumerist magazine Adbusters. Most major media outlets have avoided giving the protests any substantial coverage, although CNN did note a figure of “hundreds of demonstrators” when Julianne Pepitone covered the occupation on opening day.
Unsurprisingly, most of the corporate media is happy to report on Tea Party gatherings while expediently flouting or, at the most, nonchalantly brushing the surface of what has inspired so many “over-educated, under-employed and angry” people to take to the streets en masse. Michael Moore has been among the rare conventional voices to cover the occupation, going on Keith Olbermann’s Current TV program.
The movement has by and large been orchestrated through the use of social media. It lacks central leadership and carries a vow to “end the monied corruption of our democracy.”
The occupation is now a week in and promises to grow. Adbusters expects mounting numbers each Saturday, with various groups like Code Pink and Anonymous joining in. There are those who claim to be in it for the long haul, with no clear time set as to withdrawing from the occupation. Some at lower Manhattan’s Zuccoti Park brought sleeping bags and tents, aiming to remain for the calculable future.
“The message we’re trying to get out is that the political system is not even trying to propose solutions to our problems. They have thrown in the towel. Who is here? Young people and students with college debts. They want to talk to the people who took away their future,” David Graeber, 50, a social anthropologist from Goldsmiths College in London told The Guardian.
When one considers that 45 percent of young Americans aged 16 to 29 are without a job, it’s not too hard to see the anger and frustration swelling in the streets. Big money interests have been uncompromisingly defended by forces on the left and right of the American political spectrum and the brave ones with the gumption to occupy the streets have been swept under the rug far too long.
In 2010, the official poverty rate according to the United States Census Bureau was 15.1 percent. That’s up from 14.3 percent in 2009, marking the third consecutive annual increase in the category. The Census Bureau also reported that 46.2 million Americans now live below the official poverty line, the highest total in 52 years. 2.6 million Americans dropped below the official poverty line over the last year alone.
Among American children aged six or younger, an estimated one in four live in poverty. Add to that the problem that low-income families now have less access to social and economic safety nets than ever before (while Wall Street has access to more safety nets than ever before) and you’ve got an appalling cocktail for disaster for generations to come.
As reported in a National Bureau of Economic Research study, we can expect the poverty rate to double without the existence of programs like Social Security, SNAP (food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit. With cuts on these programs coming fast and furious, those who require the most assistance, the elderly, disabled and impoverished, are left by the wayside.
It doesn’t help that a significant portion of society considers the least of these to be lazy or leeches on the system. This careless brushstroke keeps the populace divided when it comes to issues of poverty, pitilessly disseminating the myth that America is still the land of opportunity for anyone and everyone who just works hard enough. Yet the myths persist, creating a culture that blames the impoverished for their condition.
As #OCCUPYWALLSTREET carries on, many who are not able to get to New York’s financial hotspot are wondering how they can help. Adbusters has a blog entry on the subject that includes ideas like picketing banks and signing a petition to break up Goldman Sachs.
This is not a left or right issue. It’s not about partisanship, reaching across the aisles or any other such gibberish. It’s about people taking their fight to the streets non-violently and with heart, mustering up the audacity necessary to tell their persecutors that enough is enough. #OCCUPYWALLSTREET is true democracy in action.