For the past 20 days, a crowd of more than 1,000 students, union members and other activists have been camped out in the streets of New York in a protest named Occupy Wall Street. The movement started on Sept. 17 and was organized mainly by social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
Occupy Wall Street originally started out with just a few college students camping out in Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan, denouncing the poor state of the economy. With union members and celebrities like Michael Moore joining the group, the protest has gained nationwide attention.
The protesters call themselves “the 99 percent,” in contrast to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. This diverse group has multiple reasons for the protest, ranging from taxes to debt; however, there seems to be one common enemy: Wall Street. The protesters are speaking out against what they perceive as the corrupt 1 percent of Americans who make the majority of the financial decisions in the country.
Wednesday, the crowd from Zuccotti Park marched in Foley Square, near City Hall, to join yet more protestors. The city’s blocks were filled with passionate protestors yelling, “all day, all week, occupy Wall Street!”
Recently there have been numerous arrests and pepper spray victims, including one police officer caught on tape bragging that his baton is “going to get a workout tonight.” This outburst only seemed to fuel the group in their quest to protest social inequalities and corruption.
Last Friday, the movement sought to cement its goals and released a declaration of principles. However, the long statement was short on specific demands. Part of the statement reads, "We come to you at a time when corporations – which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality – run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known."
As another credit to social technology, the movement has documented its efforts by launching a crowd-sourced project on Tumblr called “We Are the 99 Percent.” The project seeks to voice the economic problems and worries of individuals. In an effort to garner mainstream media’s attention, the group even began to publish a newspaper called the Occupy Wall Street Journal.
The movement has gained traction in other parts of the United States as well. Dozens gathered in Boston; Hartford, Conn.; Seattle; Savannah, Ga., and other cities. Demonstrations are expected in Washington, D.C., and Tampa, Fla., on Thursday.
Many liberals accept the protest with welcome arms. In the midst of voter frustration and disenchantment with President Obama, the protests have the potential to stir enough passion to drive the liberal-leaning voters to the polls.
Vice President Joe Biden said the movement was similar to the political right’s tea party movement two years ago. He said they were both driven by middle-class frustration with government bailouts of corporate America.
“What is the core of that protest, and why is it increasing in terms of the people its attracting? The core is that the bargain has been breached with the American people. The core is that the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level," Biden said at forum sponsored by the Atlantic magazine and the Aspen Institute at the Newseum in Washington, according to the L.A. Times.
President Obama also responded to the movement when asked in a press conference on Thursday:
"I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place.”