Although the mainstream media has given it little attention, this past week there has been a public protest near Wall Street in Manhattan. Fueled largely by social media, “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators have descended on Wall Street to protest corporate greed. Who are the protesters? According to the Occupy Wall Street Web page: “Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” As the name implies, the group plans to “occupy” — i.e., remain in the vicinity of — Wall Street for some indefinite time.
As public protests go, this one seems to have all the usual elements. (One of my former students has been at the protest site, and I’ve followed reports of the protest online.) There’s been a heavy police presence. Police have arrested several protesters for blocking access to sidewalks, wearing masks, and other public disorder offenses. They’ve set up barricades and protest zones (which, in this case, demonstrators have largely refused to use). The protesters have communicated their overarching message by various means — including, in the case of a few women, going topless and proclaiming that they cannot afford shirts. Although it is not clear whether the police have actually attempted to block or interfere with wireless networks in the protest area, some on the scene have claimed that officers demanded that tarps and other items that facilitate social networking and digital transmissions be removed.
It was only a matter of time before disgruntled, unemployed and financially insecure twenty-somethings did something to protest the state of the economy. Their complaints are serious, and the protesters have thus far acted with restraint and demonstrated peacefully. The protesters are drawing comparisons between their protests and the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and other countries. Mayor Bloomberg drew the same comparison when he said of the protests: “You have a lot of kids graduating college can’t find jobs,” he said in response to a question about the poverty rate. “That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.” Read More