Occupy Wall Street protests, which are quickly spreading across America and the rest of the world, are fundamentally different from other grassroots protests, like the Tea Party Movement. Usually, at least in the United States, protests are centered on one policy issue, but Occupy Wall Street does not have just one.
People are frustrated with a broad spectrum of issues, as found in the interactive list on their website (http://occupywallst.org/) that details issues from the obscenely monetized nature of American Presidential elections to inflated university tuition rates and student debt to general lack of government regulation of the market.
This protest is about the fundamental infrastructure behind policy generation, and it is not mutually exclusive from other issues such as desirable levels of government intervention. There are Democrats, Republicans, Independents alike taking to the streets out of the frustration generated by the American government working for corporations and not for the people.
In the United States, six corporations control all major media coverage and access in print, on TV, and online: General Electric, Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corps, Time Warner, and CBS. Pfizer, Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson, and a few others concentrate the pharmaceutical industry. Monsanto controls most of America’s food production. These companies do whatever it takes to maintain profits; it is what they were designed to do. With this goal, the corporations lobby the government for their own interests, disregarding the best interests of the American public.
The American people have not been blind to this, but as jobs are becoming increasingly hard to obtain and secure in an economy that is stagnating, frustration is on the rise.
Occupy Wall Street is fundamentally a protest against the loss of primary interest in citizen welfare. The American government should be focused on working for its people and not the corporations that finance their campaigns. The system is failing; government, business, civil society are ultimately caught up in a system that is not primarily concerned with the welfare of its core constituency – the citizens.
Alternatives International Journal spoke with some people participating in the protests in New York City. Of these, a commonality of frustration emerged, despite the divergence of issues they were protesting against. Many talked about how good they felt to be part of something communal, describing the self-organizing efforts of performers, people giving out clean clothes, and food.
A protester who wished to only be referred to as Joe, described Occupy Wall Street as a microcosm of what he thought America should be: community organization and localized redistribution systems. He commented on the police’s disrespect for for the movement, resembling contempt. He had tried to speak to some of the officers who ignored him and told him to go home.
A key indicator of the validity and necessity of Occupy Wall Street was the fact that many Veterans were part of the protest, and joined in their uniforms. Those currently active in the government service sector are not allowed to protest as they cannot be politically partisan, but the veterans are clear regarding the reasons for being part of the Occupy Movement. They believe the government is failing to serve its citizens, regardless of political inclination.
The future of Occupy Wall Street is still uncertain, but some key facts that increase the likelihood of its influence in not only the upcoming US elections, but also in the fundamental course of the American political system. The people, the 99%, are tired of having the top 1% of the population controlling all wealth and resources.
It is a fact that big businesses such as Citigroup are making cutbacks despite making profits. It is a fact that most of the people responsible for the catastrophic mortgaged-back security crisis are still working for the same banks and still receiving big bonuses. With the Occupy Wall Street movement growing at an accelerating rate, it seems that Occupy Wall Street is here to stay.