Public anger is showing its might in Spain, Egypt, India and now the US. Since the past fortnight, thousands of protestors have occupied a private park in New York to fight a corrupt political, banking and corporate system. Around 700 protestors were arrested by the New York Police last Saturday
"Occupy Wall Street" is the name of the peoples' campaign and unlike the Anna movement, which has a specific focus on a strong anti-corruption bill, the movement in the US is a loosely-structured protest to generally oppose the corrupt political system and the loot by corporates and banks in America. Also, unlike India, where the civil activism is patronised largely by the middle class, observers say that the US agitation is mainly being fought by the unemployed and poorer sections of society.
The protests, which have begun in the financial capital of New York last fortnight, have thousands living it out in a private park. The crowd which has put up tents there is only increasing in number, by the day. The Occupy Wall Street movement is aimed at bringing economical justice to the 99% against just 1% (who are the financial beneficiaries of a liberal tax regime), has spread to other cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Last Saturday, 700 protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge of New York while they were undertaking a peaceful protest march. Earlier, pepper sprays were used on the protesters to throttle the movement. Curiously, leading financial outfit JP Morgan Chase has donated an unprecedented amount of $4.6 million to the New York Police—which observers say is as good as tipping the police to protect it from this sudden surge of outrage against its fraternity. The New York Police website states: "JP Morgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD's main data-center." No one's buying this straightforward intention.
Allegations are being made against the mainstream media for not highlighting this movement. An article in the NationofChange website (www.nationofchange.org), an online newspaper for 'positive and progressive journalism' states that social networking sites have also been pressurised to black out this movement. It states: "Among those part of and concerned with the Occupy Wall Street movement, it's very common to hear complaints about the lack of mainstream media coverage. There's even a sign at the occupation's media centre that says, "Welcome to the media blackout." To a large extent, the blackout is real. The New York Times and other local papers didn't give the movement headlines until almost a week in, with the exception of a cover story in Metro that first Wednesday. And while several local TV stations were at Liberty Plaza during the first week, their reports weren't being picked up by national affiliates. Only recently has this begun to change.
Online, there have been accusations of outright censorship. Yahoo has admitted to "not intentional" blocking of emails with links to www.occupywallst.org, blaming their spam filter. (This excuse is not widely believed, but plausible—I've seen the site trigger non-Yahoo spam filters as well). Twitter has similarly blocked #occupywallstreet from being listed as a trending topic. (This may be because it keeps being throttled by anonymous bots—or, more conspiratorially, because a considerable stake in the company is owned by JP Morgan Chase, which also just donated $4.5 million to the NYPD, as indicated above).
The movement is steered through the website www.occupywallst.org, which in its opening remark states: "A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future. The spirit of this fresh tactic, a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain, is captured in this quote: "The anti-globalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, who led the pack and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people." (This is a quote from a Spanish activist who led the movement there).
However, unlike India, wherein thousands of people came on streets of cities, towns and villages, a call by the organisers that "on 17th September, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months…''—the response was a few dozens which has grown to a few hundred by now.
Chris Hedge, a senior journalist who is part of this campaign writes, "There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country, or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.''
Check this video link:
Will it gain momentum or whither away? Let's wait and watch.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected]).