We are certainly living in very interesting times…
I can’t speak for everyone who participates in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am just one individual who happens to be a member of the alternative media. I was a journalist when I joined the demonstrations. My decision was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman. She is a truly dedicated journalist who joined the revolution in Yemen. Although our nation is not in the throes of a civil war, her example has been an inspiration to me.
These are my observations based on my experiences within the movement.
Setting The Stage
Occupy Wall Street is a dramatic, miraculous and sometimes tragic story of people seeking new ways to change society. The story of the occupation in Seattle has been a tale of both tragedy and victory starring such unlikely heroes as an 84 year old woman and a pregnant teenager. The villains have been the Seattle Police Department and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
Offstage we thought we saw Mayor Mike McGinn hiding behind the curtains…
During Act One of the drama we witnessed scenes of police using pepper spray on non-violent demonstrators and bicycle cops confiscating people’s tents at Westlake Park.
At the beginning of the second act, college president Paul Kilpatrick cried, “Eviction!” and the Washington State Patrol thought it would be a good idea to use tasers on the demonstrators and then to ban people from the protests at the state capitol.
Fortunately, a federal judge stepped in at the last minute to stop these unconstitutional violations of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.
In Act Three a heavily armed SWAT team occupied the stage for a while as they conducted a paramilitary raid on a few dozen peaceful activists at an abandoned warehouse. At the story’s dénouement, the Occupy Seattle encampment was struggling under the imminent threat of an eviction by law enforcement agencies.
As the tension mounted, the audience grew silent, breathlessly awaiting the conclusion – hoping for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
But just before the curtain was about to drop, the occupiers were seen marching across the stage! They were still chanting and shouting about injustice. They were still using “the people’s mic” and pointing their fingers at government officials and the corporate pirates.
And now they are loudly proclaiming that they will be shutting down all of the ports on the west coast of the USA! What an entirely unexpected and exciting finale! Brilliantly written! An astounding success! Bravo! William Shakespeare would have loved this drama!
As you can see, the protests are not going to end anytime soon. They certainly haven’t ended in Seattle, and they won’t stop in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta or Washington, DC. Despite facing fierce opposition from police and city officials, people are beginning to realize that this is the only way their voices are going to be heard - taking their protests directly to the CEO’s and government officials who make the decisions which affect their daily lives.
The political and economic systems are so corrupt and controlled by big money at this point that they no longer offer any real recourse for addressing the grievances of the 99%. But many of the protesters believe that there’s still a chance they may actually be able to put enough political pressure on their elected representatives to force politicians to do the right thing and choose to reform themselves.
Whether this is possible or not is still an unanswered question. It remains to be seen if the current populist uprising has enough broad support from voters among the nation to topple a few of the politicians who now control our government and the economy during the next election. A massive revolt at the ballot box might throw out at least a few of the scoundrels who have sold us out. But will the Occupy Wall Street activists involve themselves in the political system? This question is on a lot of people’s minds these days because the 2012 presidential election campaigns have already begun…
Occupy Seattle folks occupied their city council chambers by attending the meetings, and eventually they were able to secure a lavish endorsement from the council members. At the state capitol protesters staged a sit-in outside of Governor Christine Gregoire’s office. County councils and other local government organizations may not be immune to this kind of grassroots activism. People are becoming much more engaged in the governing process. They are learning how politicians are controlled by powerful interests, and they are speaking truth to power.
The “American Spring”
It’s possible that this movement could actually transform American society.
The political energy behind the movement will keep it alive through the winter and into what many hope will be the awakening of a sleeping giant during the “American Spring”. The Occupy Wall Street movement has now become a mass cultural phenomenon. It enjoys the support of millions of people around the world, and the participants are very aware that they represent a global movement for justice. They know that things are changing and they desperately want to participate in this world-wide shift in the balance of power.
I challenge the idea that the occupiers have no demands. In fact their one demand is quite simple – they want to change the entire world!
But even if you consider what they are saying about the United States, it’s clear that they want political, electoral and economic reforms.
1) Getting the money out of politics,
2) Forcing the corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share,
3) Legislating campaign finance reforms,
4) Guaranteeing democratic verifiable free elections.
I am often asked by news reporters, "When do you think the protests will end?"
After some consideration, here is my answer:
The protests will end when the US reforms its economic and banking system. They will end when corporate CEO’s are no longer able to drive their own companies into bankruptcy through predatory practices. The demonstrations will end when corporations no longer have more rights than an individual, when the government stops bailing out huge corporations and letting the wealthy pay no taxes while people in poverty are being cut off from social services. The demonstrations will end when we have an election system that is truly democratic and isn’t controlled by big money - then we might see an end to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
But in the meantime, we can all look forward to more rallies, more marches, and more solidarity actions between the nation’s labor unions, healthcare workers, educators, students, and the occupy groups. Our local and federal governments have failed to address the global economic crisis. People are looking to the Occupy Wall Street movement to hold our leaders accountable for their decisions to force the middle class and the poor to bear the burden of the current economic depression.
The goal is to create a society that is much more open, transparent, and completely democratic. That mission could be a never ending quest, which is exactly why the Occupy Wall Street movement must continue to stand up for the little guy. Most people love to support the underdog because they represent the aspirations of all oppressed people.
That is exactly what this movement represents and participants should not shirk from that responsibility. People in this country desperately need something to hope for. If this desire for a better future includes the occupiers, then it follows that they have a duty to represent the folks who are having their power taken away.
There will be an American Spring!