Since September 17th people have been having a live in protest on Wall Street in New York City. The protests are attempting to bring attention to the inequities between Wall Street, CEOs and the rest of the US and world. There has been a media blackout since it started until recently. The Daily Show has covered it twice (Here and Here). There were two reasons for this. First the media didn’t know how to deal with the protests. They act differently, the people protesting aren’t grandmothers yelling about the government, instead it’s a bunch of hippie like people that are protesting corporations. Another problem was that there was no cohesive voice coming out from the movement. However yesterday there was an actual list of “demands” released. Basically these demands explain the need for changes at all levels of government and how corporations behave towards both workers and the environment.
The protests are in their third week now. They have been growing every week. Initially, there were only a few hundred protesters now it’s been reported that up to 20,000 people have started to protest in NYC. The occupy movement has spread from only being in NYC to Boston, LA, DC, and several other cities as well. While the Daily Show is right that these protests are very similar to the Tea Party protests the problems they hope to address the end goals and the means are very different. Both groups also had a lot of uninformed people, for example you had the old lady saying keep the government out of my healthcare when she had medicare (government healthcare), and here you have people just saying they want Wall Street to take less money. These protests have gone beyond just the hippies, unions in NYC have also joined the protesters as well as more “responsible” people from other walks of life.
I think these protests could eventually make a difference. I don’t think it will happen in time for the next presidential election. The changes that they are demanding are structural changes that require socio-economic changes. They require complete changes in our ethics and our goals in lives. These are not changes that happen over night. There are some changes that we can do that will have immediate impacts though, and these aren’t popular among policy makers. We need to get money out of politics, we need to limit how politicians can make money off the laws they pass and we need to use public funds for elections (as well as have elections on the weekend or a holiday). Removing the money by creating public funds will eliminate the leverage that lobbyists can use on politicians. Preventing politicians from making money off the laws through stock purchases will prevent tit-for-tat behavior with lobbyists as well. Making it easy as possible to vote will increase the immediate participation in the government.
The reaction to OWS in NYC has been horrifying. The cops have been brutal towards the protesters and really show that the indignation our leaders displayed during violent responses to protest are just words. If US politicians cared about freedom and democracy they would support the protesters. Protesting is part of being American. It’s part of our constitution because it drives conversation and it drives democracy. Protesting is a form of participation. If we aren’t able to participate we don’t have a democracy. Arresting 700 people for going to the protest isn’t acceptable. Pepper spraying women that were corralled is not acceptable, it’s not how a democracy deals with protests. The right way to deal with these protests is to invite them into the conversation and really take a look at what they have to say. We aren’t doing that in the US. The 99% don’t have the same voice as the 1%. As can be seen from Fox News, that 1% is trying to divide the 99%.