After Thousands March on Wall Street Saturday, Protesters Dig in for Long Haul
Last week, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg presciently cautioned: “You have a lot of kids graduating college who can’t find jobs. That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kind of riots here.”
Saturday, some 5,000 angry but peaceful demonstrators took to the streets of Lower Manhattan in a Arab Spring-like “Day of Rage”, marching toward Wall Street before being thwarted by legions of police who denied them access to what they (and we) consider to be one of the great crime scenes of our time. Hoping to turn Lower Manhattan into an “American Tahrir Square” (Ground Zero of this year’s successful Egyptian revolt against the longtime rule of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak), demonstrators were undaunted by early setbacks that included dwindling numbers of protesters and blocked access to Wall Street.
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement, launched in July by the online magazine Adbusters, calls itself “a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions.” They seem to be in this for the long haul: their website says they plan to remain encamped in Lower Manhattan for “a few months.” They’ve set up beds and kitchens; ABC news reports that blankets, food and space heaters are available.
Proclaiming themselves to be the “99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” the Wall Street and corporate titans who have wrested control of our democracy from We the People, Occupy Wall Street has been inspired by recent uprisings around the world:
“Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America,” Occupy Wall Street’s website explains. “We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants.”
The demonstrators are urging President Barack Obama to end the “influence money has over our representatives in Washington.” But with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling (in last year’s stunning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) that corporations are people and money is ‘free speech,’ many observers– present company included– feared the final nail in the coffin of our democracy had been hammered home and that the United States was now more of a corporatocracy than a representative democracy.
The protesters are currently encamped in Zuccotti Park, which they’ve renamed Liberty Plaza. Although they do not have a protest permit and have rejected a government-established demonstration area on Broad Street, the New York Police Department has announced it will not remove them– for now. The city government’s attempt to corral protesters in a designated area is sadly reminiscent of Bush-era “Free Speech Zones”– correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time I checked the whole United States was a “Free Speech Zone.”
So far, only seven people have been arrested during the protest. According to Bloomberg, four demonstrators were apprehended for wearing masks in violation of a law that prohibits more than one person from doing so. Another protester was arrested for jumping a police barrier; two more were arrested for trying to enter a Bank of America building.
Bloomberg reports that the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), part of the US Department of Homeland Security, has issued a bulletin warning of additional protests in the financial districts of Madrid, Milan, London and Paris.
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