Angered by the economic problems strangling America and creeping influence of corporate power in everyday life, protesters with a long list of concerns ranging from corporate greed and political corruption to the environment took to Manhattan’s financial district to “occupy Wall Street” and have their voice heard.
There was no official leader of the protest and no unified message, but the one thing people had in common was frustration over how much influence corporate America has on politics and, as a result, people’s lives.
The protest was peaceful and rather quiet, with speakers using a low-volume bullhorn forcing crowd members to repeat what was said so everyone could hear and police surrounding the area near the iconic “charging bull” with unnecessary barricades and paddy wagons.
A group of high school seniors from Manhattan came to the rally to show support for a combination of ideas, but mainly centered on the concept that ours is an overly materialistic society where too much power is concentrated in the hand of the few and corporate influence runs rampant in politics.
“We’re protesting the idea that money is everything,” said Chloe Hayatt.
“The voice of America should be the 99 percent, not the wealthy 1 percent,” said Nora Allison-Weiser.
The girls all strongly believed that elections are bought and politicians are little more than corporate puppets.
“And we’re protesting the idea that corporations should be able to control all of America, from wars to who gets to be president,” said Anna O’Connell.
Rosemarie Miner, a college student who is starting an organization called “A.P.P.L.E.S.,” which stands for “action promoting progressive long-term enrichment socially,” was helping to hold up a large banner that said, “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
When asked what that means, Miner said, “The whole movement.”
Miner pointed out the number of people who chose to come to Wall Street as well as around the country to protest for change. And although there was no single message or desire, the source of frustration had much to do with corporate greed and misused power – but also a new way of living and perceiving on part of the individual.
“There needs to be more education and awareness,” Miner said. “Our societal infrastructure is just badly structured – and it needs to change.”
Miner also believed that people should be more personally invested in the small things that could inspire change.
“We need more community outreach, better business ethics, and better student education,” she said, referring not so much to more books and computers in classrooms, but to a more philosophical approach to education where children are taught to share and learn about how they impact their surroundings.
Although the crowd mostly consisted of young people in their teens or twenties, all age demographics were represented, including Sydney Hawkes and Mary Adams, both in their 40’s, who came from Rochester, New York and were two of several people who planned on sleeping in the park as part of the “occupy Wall Street” theme.
“It’s a form of resistance,” Hawkes said about sleeping in the park.
Hawkes has not been very political during his lifetime. “I’m more into science,” he said. However, the computer professional by trade has been badly affected by the economy.
“I haven’t been able to find a job for over a year and a half,” he said. “And it just saddens me that we live in a country that has enough for everyone, but not everyone has it – so we have to come here and do this.”
Adams, who is currently running for a spot on the school board in Rochester, believes that many of the current problems we face are the result of the overall structure, rather than particular problems that can be dealt with directly.
“I’m here because the problems that we’re experiencing in our current system stem from a system of exploitation that is affecting all of us,” she said.
But Adams also has a concrete plan to fix some of the economic problems plaguing America: make Wall Street pay a fee.
“Implement transaction fees on Wall Street trading so we can fund schools and alleviate some of the crises local governments are in,” she said.
The environment was also of great concern to many protesters. Emily Good, an activist from Rochester who caught media attention earlier this year when she was unlawfully arrested for videotaping police from her own front yard, who accompanied Adams and Hawkes to the rally, was angered about President Obama relaxing environmental standards which has allowed further “fracking,” also known as industrial gas drilling, which many believe causes dangerous intoxicants to poison the air local water supplies.
“The Constitution should have rights for Mother Earth,” she said.
“And we should remove Constitutional rights for corporations,” Good said, referring to the recent increase in constitutional rights afforded to corporations by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nearby, a protester held up a sign that read: “End corporate personhood.”
The hodgepodge of messages and desires of the protesters could easily be perceived as confusing, and one man wearing a joker mask came to mock the protesters with a sign that read: “Capitalism failed everyone – except my parents who gave me money so I could be upset.”
“These people are here for an assortment of reasons,” the masked man, who would not give his name, said. “And none of them are coherent. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
But Gabe Buonassissi, a protester from New Jersey whose main issue was corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, believed the assortment of ideas and issues was what made the rally important.
“The message could be clearer,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s the point. Everyone has something they care about, and it’s nice to see that so many people care enough to come out and have their voice heard.”