We hadn’t seen much coverage of the protestors on Wall street, at least not on the national news. Well, until they started to get arrested. That could be because they are polite, completely non-violent and don’t seem to have any leaders or major media message. They do have a name though “The 99%.”
They are definitely building numbers, new groups seem to join them every day. Last week it was Airline pilots, and Subway workers. This week will come more trade unions, the “Rebuild the dream movement” and several other national groups. The list of upcoming events is impressive. Makes me want to show up as well, just to get a sense of what’s going on. Something is happening here, and it’s starting to feel big, steam roller big.
Although they have been portrayed as being a “purposeless rabble” there is a singular purpose, expressing dissatisfaction with big corporations, the wealthiest individuals, their institutions and the erosion of opportunities and support of everyone else. They have a lot of sympathy, on both sides of the “two party system” and all across the political spectrum. We can see the proof as these demonstrations spread to other cities and towns. What started in New York, now is happening in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and about 40 other cities across the entire continent.
Taking a look at the various websites that are suddenly springing up, the 99% have sparked organizations in at least 44 states. There are groups coming together in 12 European countries as well. Maybe it was the recent explosion of the Arab Spring that leads me to believe that what we are watching is the same kind of phenomena, but happening here and in Europe. Were the Wisconsin protests just a precursor to something larger? Were the London “riots?” Maybe it’s that these are all just regular people, young and old who are expressing their dissatisfaction with their declining opportunities.
Bloomberg has his hands full, it’s tough to crack down on peaceful protesters. I’m sure he’s under a lot of pressure though from Wall Street and Washington. However, although there have been “700 arrests” the police and other agencies have yet to get a violent move from any of the protestors. Even when pepper sprayed, tackled or billy clubbed, the protestors just aren’t fighting back. They’re not going home either. They really don’t have to, they’re making their point just by being there and drawing attention to their cause. They don’t need weapons, they have votes.
And yet for the last three weeks there has been almost no media coverage, but now the 99% is getting attention there as well. Not all of it is good. On today’s ‘Fox news and friends’ the legal news analyst Peter Johnson said:
“Clearly, I would think these folks are deluded in a lot of ways and probably provide the best argument for national service for 18-year-olds that we have ever seen.”
Other FOX show commentators characterized the protestors as “the sludge of every left wing cause”, “Lunatics of the left wing” as well as comments like “ The protesters….are just looking to go down there and dirty up the streets.”
Spoken like the true tools of the mighty you are, boys and girls. Or maybe you’re just tools.
Is that really what’s going on here? Were those pilots in need of some time in National Service as well? Young men and women from all over the country sleeping out in the rain and cold, with numbers that grow every day, and an organization that’s spread to over 35 states, in a month? That sounds more like a “Tea party” phenomena to me, except without the big money backers and special training camps.
However, if we really want to know what’s going on, we shouldn’t bother waiting for the mainstream news, just go online and read it there. It’s in YouTube videos and websites, Twitter feeds and FaceBook pages. That’s where the information is and where the support is coming from. Just ask the NYPD lieutenant with the handy can of pepper-spray, he’s had his 15 seconds. I wonder if he feels supported?
With the kind of encouragement that’s flowing in for the Occupy Wall Street protests I seriously doubt that area will be clear anytime soon. The first week it was pizzas to be delivered to the protestors being ordered from all over the country, Europe as well. Now apparently supplies are coming in daily. The interesting thing is that these seem to be mostly individual contributions. However, some small businesses are hearing the call, and some larger corporations as well. So far there hasn’t been a shortage of food at all, in fact they are considering donating all the extra food coming in daily to a shelter.
So, who are these people? Just a bunch of kids with nothing else to do? If you go to the WeAreThe99percent web site you’ll see quite a few older people, veterans, single mothers, and beleaguered fathers holding up statements for pictures. The statements tell their stories. But, I think the identity statement on the top of the first of 34 pages of personal statements says it best:
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
It’s a very interesting and touching website, I have yet to find one of the statements on the 34 pages that I didn’t have sympathy for. I don’t think these people are lazy or quitters, so I think they will be around and it looks like they are bent on fighting back. It’s about time.
We’d better stay tuned.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011