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Occupy Wall Street - Much More Than A Drum Circle

Occupy Wall Street started in New York, but is spreading across the country. Occupy Wall Street started in New York, but is spreading across the country. lev radin / Shutterstock.com

If you follow current events, chances are you have seen some coverage of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest in New York City that began last month. But, depending on the source, one could easily assume that this massive ongoing demonstration is nothing more than an excuse for some liberal hoodlums to cause trouble and incite anarchy. Major news outlets like CNN, while covering the movement extensively, have been quick to discount the intelligence and motivation of the protestors, and Fox News has been downright insulting with their limited coverage of what they consider to be a small, isolated event. But these “kids” are much more organized and determined than most corporate media outlets want to admit, and they certainly don't seem to be slowing down.

Though not affiliated with any political party, the protestors are united in most of their goals and ideals. Their main complaint centers around the fact that most of America’s wealth is controlled by the richest one-percent of citizens. That one-percent also pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes and have more influence over the government because of lobbyists and what many perceive to be corporate-government cronyism.

In addition to their desire to overhaul the tax code to make it fairer and eliminate loopholes, the protestors overwhelmingly support a universal healthcare system, good education opportunities for all citizens, and equal and fair pay for work. They feel that all Americans deserve a decent home and the ability to compete fairly for jobs in the global market and not have to worry about losing their position to outsourcing. Nor do they want to see any more CEOs receive massive bonuses while their company is floundering or receiving government bailouts.

The OWS protestors argue that we cannot be bailing out banks and other corporations because they are "too big to fail."

The majority of the protestors are young people, so the mainstream corporate media and many politicians have been quick to dismiss the event as a disorganized joke. Many interviews have consisted of a reporter asking condescending questions to the least-informed person they can find, or dreadlocked youths dancing around and chanting. Many demonstrators have laptops or smart-phones, which all of the reporters are quick to point out "come from corporations," as though there were some easy, non-corporate way to use the internet, the movement's main means of communication.

These scenes are carefully chosen by corporate media outlets to be unappealing to the majority of viewers who, if they were truly able to see what the Occupy Wall Street protest is about, would likely be supportive. But by portraying the protestors as "dirty, ignorant, drug addicts" (as FoxNews has), the media outlets that have a corporate agenda have been able to alienate most viewers from a protest that is for, and about, all of us.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has called Occupy Wall Street "dangerous class warfare," and infamously argued that "corporations are people, too" and deserve rights as such. Businessman Herman Cain has been even more insulting, directing his ire not only at protestors, but at all poor or unemployed Americans. The wealthy former CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain has been quoted by CNN as saying, "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself. It's not a person's fault because they succeeded. It is a person's fault if they failed." And while he does admit that the big banks were partially to blame for the economic collapse of 2008, he argues, "We're in 2011, okay?" Both of these men want to be our President.

Even with all the bias against Occupy Wall Street, the movement has been gaining momentum. In the last week the number of protestors has swelled, thanks in no small part to the plethora of labor unions that have joined the fight, ranging from the nationally recognized AFL-CIO (the union of unions) to groups of teachers, nurses, writers, auto-workers, and members of the service and communications industries. Satellite demonstrations have sprouted up in most major cities across the country, many with union presence.

In addition to union support, the OWS protest has attracted the attention of celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Roseanne Barr, Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo and of course filmmaker Michael Moore, as well as musicians like Radiohead and Lupe Fiasco, who donated tents and sound equipment to aid in the event.

The protestors, who refer to themselves and those they support as "We, the 99 Percent" (indicating all people who are not in the wealthiest 1 percent,) are risking their own well-being for a cause that we should all be noticing. Very few people will argue that our current economic system is fair, whether you feel (like many of the protestors do) that our capitalist system is out-of-date and responsible for our economic woes, or that only small systematic changes are needed. If we are to hold individuals solely responsible for their own circumstances as Herman Cain would like, then the OWS protestors argue that we cannot be bailing out banks and other corporations because they are "too big to fail."

The people behind Occupy Wall Street have faced angry police with pepper spray and batons, collecting bruises and criminal charges, all in an effort to give some economic security to an anxious nation.

"It's really simple. These young people on Wall Street are giving voice to many of the problems that working people in America have been confronting over the last several years," said Larry Hanley, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, a group with 20,000 members in the New York area. "While we battle it out day after day, month after month, the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street sit by –untouched - and lecture us on the level of our sacrifice."

Until those millionaires and billionaires have felt the shame and fear of not knowing where their next month's rent is coming from, they will never understand why the Occupy Wall Street movement is so important.

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Occupy Wall Street started in New York, but is spreading across the country.
Last modified on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 12:52

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