Occupy Wall Street—Anything but TENTative

Yesterday, an estimated 4,000 Occupy Oakland demonstrators peacefully marched on the Port of Oakland and shut down maritime operations in a growing economic protest movement. Whatever your opinion of the Occupy Wall Street movement is, few can deny that it is a movement that has found its’ voice among young people around the globe.

One of the founders of the movement in the United States is New York University graduate student Phil Amone. He was among the 700 protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1 after weeks of protesting in Manhattan’s Financial District. The organization maintains it is a leaderless peoples movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 but the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas inspired its’ formation.


The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote, “This is a people’s army. The generals have to heed where the public is going — and today so many Egyptians voted with their feet to go into Tahrir Square….” As the group of mostly young people set up camp in cities from Atlanta to San Diego, they are a reminder to many of us that human rights movements and civil disobedience can still be effective tools for change.

The visually most compelling images from this movement are reminiscent of more familiar anti-war and civil rights movements in this country. Hundreds and thousands of young people across the country have combined their collective voices in powerful symmetry to oppose economic inequality, greed and the grim difference between the wealthy and the poor. There does not seem to be a political agenda or an effort to support any political party but the global movement was definitely spawned from efforts to make political changes.

Maybe the movement in the United States is nothing more than a swelling response by a vocally frustrated group of Americans, who were unwilling to remain silent. There may be room for debate in measuring the effectiveness of the protests but the drop in the $5 debit fee that banks were proposing and even the most recent federal foreclosure appeal program may be a result of this worldwide movement. For bank customers and homeowners who lost their homes and have a chance to appeal—this is about more than occupying streets and living in tents. It is about the economic woes that plague far too many Americans and their families. Occupy Wall Street is strikingly familiar to other movements that changed this country forever.

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