What now, Occupy Wall Street? The future of a movement in question.

Police in New York City prevented Occupy Wall Street protesters from entering the New York Stock exchange Thursday, arresting more than 200 people. This is the latest in a series of crackdowns against Occupy protesters in cities across the nation, driving them out of their camps, including the famous Zuccotti Park encampment. Protesters have been evicted by police in Atlanta, Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore. There were 80 arrests in Los Angeles in response to protesters attempting to pitch tents in front of a Bank of America building. The Oakland protesters had regrouped at UC Berkeley, only to be dispersed by police again. Protesters in San Francisco fear they, too, may be evicted soon.

The incident in New York led to seven police being injured, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Occupy protesters claim to have been victimized by police brutality. There is a report of an 84-year-old woman from Seattle being sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

Yesterday’s protests and violence were a part of a nationwide “Call to Action” in honor of the movement’s two-month anniversary. Not all protests were violent: a march on Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. passed without incident. Protesters in Chicago attempted to block rush hour traffic, but complied with police when ordered to disperse. The Occupy Kansas City protest has been peaceful since the beginning. However, protesters in Portland shut down a Wells Fargo branch for an hour before police dispersed them, and there are reports of criminals using the Occupy protests as cover.

In spite of these setbacks, the protests continue to attract support from unlikely places. Amalgamated Bank, a financial institution owned by a labor union, has supported the protesters and given them shelter in their offices during police crackdowns. The Occupy Wall Street movement’s $326,000 collected in donations so far are kept in an Amalgamated account. Furthermore, actress Anne Hathaway was spotted among Occupy protesters in Manhattan.

Here in San Luis Obispo, California, “Occupy SLO” protesters have been camped out in front of the county courthouse for weeks. I spoke to some of the protesters to get a sense of what they believe, what they face, and where the movement is headed in the face of crackdowns:

The Occupy Wall Street movement traces its origins to Canadian anti-capitalist activist group Adbusters, who posted an article on July 13, 2011 calling on people to occupy, well, Wall Street, beginning on September 17. Their goal was to replicate the Tahrir Square protests that contributed to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt earlier this year. They sought to reduce or eliminate the influence of large corporations on American politics. The idea of the protest attracted some buzz online, and somewhere along the way the slogan “We Are the 99%” was adopted. The movement was endorsed by online “hacktivist” group Anonymous, famous (or, rather, infamous) for hacking attacks against major corporations’ websites.

The first protests were small and largely forgettable affairs, until a major police crackdown on September 24 (day eight) at Union Square. Videos taken of the incident showed police officers beating and pepper spraying random people for what appeared to be no reason. (Warning: This video may be disturbing to some viewers) These videos went viral, and thousands across America began to protest in New York and across the nation out of sympathy.

The movement has not been without criticism. Conservative critics have launched their own campaign calling themselves “The 53%”, a reference to the number of Americans who pay federal income taxes. They reject the notion that government and finance are completely to blame, and claim decisions of individuals play their part, too. Frank Decker, a 53-percenter, talked about his own struggles with poverty and said, “I didn’t go through all that struggle while raising three children so that I could support lazy-[expletive] people who want nothing but government handouts.”

A poll conducted by United Technologies and the National Journal states that 59% of Americans support the protests and 31% oppose it. What do you think?

Information from Reuters, Know Your Meme, and the other sources listed above.

2 Responses to What now, Occupy Wall Street? The future of a movement in question.

  1. AuntLeesie says:

    You were so much nicer (in your interviews) than what was running through my brain watching them. “Not the sharpest knives in the drawer.” I especially was stunned by the one interviewee who said, “We’re not giving a list of demands, because then they’d just give us what we want so we’ll be quiet.” LOL!

    Like it or not, sit ins (or camp outs) and marches have been fairly well ineffective for decades. If an organized group wants to protest, effective protest takes a lot more actual effort. When high school students were going to hold a sit in at the beginning of the Iraq war, I commented, “It’d be far more effective to organize students across the country to write and mail postal letters to the Pentagon demanding Rumsfeld’s resignation. All those postal mail letters would create a logistical nightmare for the Pentagon.” Of course, no such thing happened. It’s easier to skip class and sit somewhere on campus.

    If the Occupy folks want changes in government, why aren’t they launching letter writing campaigns and innundating politicians at all levels with postal mail? Or, if they want to march or “camp out”, why not in Washington D.C.? How does camping in SLO do anything at all? Just my 2 cents… or $1.50 with inflation. 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Dark Knight Impresses « Cat Flag

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