A small movement that began in New York City on Saturday, Sept. 17, is now a nationwide phenomenon, drawing attention from both student groups as well as labor unions.
According to the website occupywallst.org, The Occupy Wall Street movement includes people of all different backgrounds, genders, races and political affiliations who are in the 99% majority that “refuse to tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” These protestors are using the “revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve ends” and are “encouraging the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”
The protestors are targeting many separate issues ranging from “bringing down Wall Street” to “fighting global warming.” These demonstrations are now happening in many major U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston.
The movement gained support through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook when protestors posted pictures of signs being used in the demonstrations. Examples of these signs read, “It’s easier to buy a gun than my education,” and “I lost my job, and found an occupation.”
As protests continue, many government officials, as well as other U.S. citizens, are unclear as to what exactly the protestors would like to accomplish. The message and demands of the protestors have been deemed disorganized and directionless, leaving many to question what the goal of the movement actually is. While the official Occupy Wall Street website states that the purpose of the movement is to “restore democracy to America” and “facilitate open, participatory and horizontal organizing between members of the public,” the group’s aims are vague and differ with individual protestors.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain made his opinions known on Sunday when he called the protesters “jealous” Americans who “play the victim card” and want to “take somebody else’s” Cadillac.
Cain, who has risen in popularity among the conservative population, remarked that, “to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying you’re anti-capitalism.”
Cain is not the only one upset about these protests. According to CBS News, the New York Police Department has spent $1.9 million in overtime pay alone to patrol Zuccotti Park, where hundreds of protestors have staged their sit-in. The protestors have no plans of moving anytime soon, even with cold weather fast approaching.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not speak highly of the protestors on Sunday, when he accused the movement of trying to take jobs away from people working in the city. However, he made a statement Monday saying that the protestors can stay as long as they wish. “The bottom line is, people want to express themselves, and as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to,” Bloomberg said.
While Bloomberg is allowing the protestors to stay and conduct their movement, his opinions on the matter haven’t changed, and he has made that clear. “If the jobs they’re trying to get rid of in the city—the people that work in finance, which is a big part of our economy—go away, we’re not going to have any money to pay our municipal employees or clean the parks or anything else.”
The protests at Zuccotti Park require 24-hour monitoring by the NYPD and come just after Bloomberg ordered budget cuts citywide. According to the Associated Press, last week Bloomberg ordered all agencies to cut budgets by $2 billion during the next 18 months. These budget cuts may very well suspend a new class of police officers who are supposed to enter the academy in January.
The Occupy Wall Street protestors are standing firm in their right to participate in these demonstrations. One protester told CBS News, “Wealthy individuals who own giant corporations have bought off our Congress and bought off our government, and, you know, the people no longer have a voice anymore.”
This voice and ability to affect change seem to be what the protestors are fighting for, and the movement could last until demands are met and positive change is made.