In the last few days the ‘Occupy Movements’ have been gaining steam and garnered much more domestic and international attention. The protest movement started by a hand full of Anarchists in New York have now become a truly global phenomenon. This is the origin of the movement according to Wikipedia:
“In mid-2011, the Canadian-based Adbusters Foundation, best known for its advertisement-free anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters, proposed a peaceful occupation of Wall Street to protest corporate influence on democracy, address a growing disparity in wealth, and the absence of legal repercussions behind the recent global financial crisis. According to Adbusters’ senior editor Micah White, Adbusters suggested the idea on their email list in mid-July and “it was spontaneously taken up by all the people of the world.” At their website they wrote: “Beginning from one simple demand—a presidential commission to separate money from politics—we start setting the agenda for a new America.” They promoted the protest with a poster featuring a dancer atop Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull.
Activists from the internet group Anonymous encouraged its followers to take part in the protests, calling protesters to “flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street.” Other groups began to join in the organization of the protest, including the internet group, Hacktivists Anonymous, the U.S. Day of Rage, and the NYC General Assembly, the governing body of the Occupy Wall Street group.”
The movement began as a response to a growing economic inequality in the United States and much of the world. This inequality has been growing over the last 40 years where working class and middle class people have seen a reduction in living standards and real wages due to a policy of earnings not matching increases in inflation. Not only this, but there has been a tremendous increase in pay inequity between the managerial employees regular employees. In the 1950s a CEO of a company could expect to receive 22 times what a regular employ makes. Now they receive 521 times. This trend has become much worse since 2000 when most banking deregulations took place under US President George W. Bush. The Global Economic Collapse of capitalism in 2008 has increased unemployment and economic stability tremendously.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007, incomes of the top 1% of Americans have grown by an average of 275%, versus just 40% for the 60 percent of Americans who are in the middle of the income scale. Since 1979, average pre-tax income for the bottom 90% of households decreased by $900, and that of the top 1% increased by over $700,000, as federal taxation became less progressive. In 2009, the average income of the top 1% was $960,000 with a minimum income of $343,927. The top 1% of the American population controls about 40% of total wealth in the country and the top 10% controls 73%. Over the last 30 years, the top 1% bore a smaller percentage of the tax burden, down to 37% in the year 2009, and the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes saw their income increase by 392% and their tax rate go down 37%.
Various celebrities have joined in support of the movement. Liberal educator and author Cornel West addressed the frustrations that some critics have expressed at the protest’s lack of a clear and unified message, saying, “It’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening.”
Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek gave a speech on Wall Street in which he expressed support for the protests saying, “They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare.”
On September 19, Roseanne Barr, the first celebrity to endorse the protest, spoke to protesters calling for a combination of capitalism and socialism and a system not based on “bloated talk radio hosts and that goddamn Ayn Rand book.”
The Occupy Movements have gone beyond the issue of economics into other areas of concern for the public as well. In Occupy Boston many protesters have taken to calling on the US government to end is support for the apartheid regime in Israel. Occupy Boston protestor Dennis Trainor says “there is a growing awareness amongst the American population that Israel cannot continue its apartheid-like policies.” He also noted the double standard when it comes to its support for Israel and the Arab Spring. He also believes that these protests were inspired by them.
Later a spontaneous protest broke out when it became known that the Canadian and Irish aid flotilla headed for Gaza was stopped by Israeli Defence Forces. Protesters broke off from Dewey Square and headed towards the Israeli consulate, entered the lobby and began a sit-in. The protesters were heard chanting “let their voices be heard”. After police were called the protesters decided that they had made their point and agreed to leave.
In California the Occupy Oakland general assembly called for a General Strike after police injured an Iraq War veteran critically as they were kicking out protesters. Personally I find much of the attention and sympathy given to the military veterans who have been injured at these protests is misplaced. There’s very little or no concern at all when a hundred or a thousand civilian protesters are injured by police action. Its clear from the media that the life and well-being of a single veteran is worth more than a thousand civilians. Not to mention his presence at an event to promote freedom while having taken part in the Iraq War, the greatest war crime of the 21st Century.
Protesters took to the fifth largest container port in America and began blocking it from conducting operations. Tractor-trailers were blocked off for most of the day making it impossible for them to leave or enter the premises. In the evening around 8 p.m. it was announced that the next shift for the port was cancelled due to their actions. The protesters declared victory and left along Maritime Street and returned to the occupied plaza.
There was trouble with police when a group of more dedicated protesters took over an unoccupied building on 16th Street sometime between 10 and 11 pm. The building used to house Traveler’s Aid Society of Alameda County, an organization that helped at-risk people and families that had been shut down due to budget cuts. The plan was to use the building as community centre for the movement. Unfortunately the plant was never executed because riot police prevented it from happening.
This General Strike shows a clear indication of an escalation in the Occupy Movements. Its beginning to seem that the Occupy Movements are becoming more radical as time progresses and the media becomes more and more hateful toward them. The ruling class well knows what this movement is and what a threat it is to them. In the October 22nd edition of The Economist, the journal of elite opinion, they expressed their growing concern for the power of this movement. The magazine acknowledges the wide spread anger towards its readership and acknowledges the legitimacy of it. The need now for more radical action is clear, the ruling class of capitalists know what fate awaits those who oppress the people.