When Occupy Wall Street began in September of last year, protesters were looking to start a peaceful, “Gandhi-like” movement to bring attention to a desired economic system reform. And garner attention they did, but through bending legality in setting up tents and barricades, leading to thousands of arrests. The movement is still active in many parts of the country, even around the world, but has it actually achieved anything? Can it achieve anything?
“I am the 99%” is a phrase that’s been popularized by the Occupy movement, referring to the fact that “the richest 1% of people… [is] writing the rules of an unfair global economy”. The goal of protesters, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, is to be heard by lawmakers that are influenced by banks and corporations. Many protesters, unemployed or deep in financial debt, find the cause so alluring they are willing to live in tents and protest for weeks on end.
It is unclear to pundits what exactly it is that Occupiers are fighting for and how changes could be made to the economy. A House Homeland Security spokesman attacked Occupy, asking questions like, “They’re mad that other people are making money? They’re mad that there are no jobs in this country? Or not enough jobs?”
Former Representative Artur Davis, also opposed to the movement, stated that, “OWS is in its current state is visible, noisy, and not terribly relevant.” He then went on to say that the first policy change Occupy has been pushing for, forgiving the unemployed and the low-income of student loans, is already law.
With no leader to organize and no real list of demands, it is hard for this group to gain momentum. In fact, a camp in Washington D.C.’s McPherson Square was raided by police last week. However, it can be argued the continued media coverage of Occupy is keeping it above water and forcing the nation’s dialogue to change. In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address last month, he didn’t mention Occupy by name, but protesters felt he finally understood the heart of the movement:
Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom. No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.
It seems like the original tactics of Occupy are failing, but with fresh ideas and leadership there is potential for change to begin- but slowly. One must also consider, though, the upcoming presidential elections and the impact it will have on Occupy. This video shows Republican Candidate Mitt Romney telling hecklers, “America’s right, and you’re wrong.”
One Occupier last October said, “Part of direct action and civil disobedience is we have to make things a little sexy and badass to get people’s attention.” She was hoping to disrupt banks in lower Manhattan to gain press coverage. In the months since, the best method of getting media attention hasn’t been with stunts, but with peaceful protests of solidarity.
If this movement wants to stick around any longer, it will have to regroup and refocus its energies; real accomplishments will only begin once lawmakers can take it seriously.