On September 17, a thousand protesters marched down Wall Street crying out against corporate influences in Washington and the growing disparity between social classes. Less than a month later, the movement snowballed across the globe and now occupies Chicago, San Diego, Toronto, London, and other major cities — Occupy Wall Street had become Occupy Together.
The movement first began back in July when Adbuster, an anti-consumerism Canadian magazine, urged its readers to demonstrate in Wall Street for “a presidential commission to separate money from politics.” After the first protesters took to the streets, all sorts of political factions and interest groups have since joined the group demanding affordable healthcare and an end to corporate welfare, corruption, and wars. On September 19, actress and comedian Rosesanne Barr became the first celebrity to openly support the protest followed by filmmaker Michael Moore, rapper Lupe Fiasco, actress Susan Sarandon, and many more. Unions such as the National Nurses United also marched alongside 5000 protesters into Foley Square on October 5.
Although the protest currently lacks a leader and a definitive goal, one thing’s for sure: they have no plans of packing up any time soon. At Zuccotti Park, also known by the movement as “Liberty Park,” protestors had filled the streets of the Financial District with cardboard homes, libraries, food communes, internet stations to update their blogs, and even a press release section. Now with over 15,000 members, the protest is still going strong and by October 15, they plan to control over 25 cities outside the United States.
To control the crowd, the NYPD has sent officers to ward off traffic, but stories of police brutality have surfaced over the media as videos of police pepper spraying protestors were uploaded online. Many arrests have been made throughout the past month with the largest incident occurring on October 1, when 700 demonstrators were arrested as they marched on Brooklyn Bridge.
In response to the protest, Federal Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke said at the Joint Economic Committee on October 4 that “people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening…. Certainly, 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is not a good situation.” House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, agrees with the movement’s message that “whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, change has to happen.”
President Obama was equally understanding when he commented that the demonstration “expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression…and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place.”
Others, however, have not been as sympathetic to the movement. Republican presidential contender Herman Cain called the protesters “jealous Americans who play the victim card and want to take somebody else’s Cadillac.” Cain also suggested that these rallies were organized “so that many people won’t focus on the failed policies of the Obama administration.”
Although the movement has been received with mixed results, I feel that the protests revealed what America needs most at this critical moment: unification. For the past few years, Americans could only watch on helplessly as factions tore apart the government and impeded the passing of crucial laws. Time and time again, the ongoing rivalry between the Democrats and Republicans has only left the unemployed hungry, homeless, and penniless; yet, even though the protests have no definitive leader, they are able to look past their differences and join forces. If more than 15,000 protesters can come together within a few weeks, why can’t the government come to an agreement after three years? As the number of protesters increases every day, the government will hopefully come to realize the urgency of the situation and react to the nation’s plight.