I will try my best to explain the OWS movement on as many sides as I can based on what I have seen, read and heard. The very core of the OWS movement is that these protesters are saying “We have had enough with corporate greed”. They are expressing their discontent for the state of the economy which they feel is the result of corporations and banks getting away with illegal actions without being investigated or audited while making the everyday man, the 99% as they call it, suffers and pays for the crimes these banks and corporations. That is the central core. There are other issues that are also breeding discontent and which are also offshoot issues from this. Things such as lack of insurance coverage, poor public education, unemployment, student debt, censorship and home foreclosures are also issues that are being addressed. However, since most at OWS agree that the banks are ultimately responsible for these social problems, they are being lumped together under this banner of “Occupy Wall Street”. Many media outlets are criticizing the movements lack of demands and goals and as such it may appear to be disorganized. However, OWS is a model microcosm which is an exercise in True Democracy, meaning that everyone in the encampment is viewed as an equal with their voice being just as important and valid as the person next to you. The OWS movement is trying to tell the world “Yes, we know we are disorganized. We do not yet have our list of answer, demands or goals yet because we are here occupying this area to come together and decide collectively what changes we want to see happen and come up with solutions on how to obtain those changes.” It is an organic movement aimed at pinpointing the heart of the issues and finding a way to change the problems. So no, there are no demands or goals yet because they are currently working on defining them together. They do this through the General Assembly. Every night at 7pm, the occupants of the OWS movement gather together for what they call a General Assembly. It is here where various issues are raised and voted on as a group. They determine everything as a group, from where they want to allocate the donation funds, what new committees are needed, to what demands they want to make. They have no leadership because they feel that leaders can be corrupted, targeted and influenced and by staying collectively autonomous for the time being, everyone is a leader and spokesperson for the movement. At this point it is essentially philosophical anarchy.
Outsiders criticism is varied. Some critics of the movement are chastising the OWS movement as communism and thus un-patriotic. And granted, there ARE communists in OWS. Some do feel it is a better system and stand by that. Most argument against communism is that it will not work because the government in charge exerts too much of a totalitarian grip on every outlet of life and it would become impossible to keep the government in check because they would be dolling out everything while taking the most for themselves, keeping everyone but the leaders poor. This is what occurred in the Soviet Union. Personally, I feel that while communism is an idealistic philosophy, it simply doesn’t work in practice as we have seen time and time again because the leaders become corrupt (if they weren’t already) by greed and take all for themselves while giving the people and equal share of nothing. So the concerns that this will turn into a push for communism is a valid concern from critics.
The media is, again, portraying the movement as disorganized and leaderless. Personally, I do not trust the media. I feel the media is a corporate tool to control the masses by feeding them lies and false portrayals. The media shows you what its financial backers want you to see. Thus I do not trust them. I suspect they all have their own motivations and agendas for portraying things the way they do. It’s really important to remember who owns these networks, afterall. So I feel that many of them are really minimizing the issue by trying to portray the occupants of the OWS movement as petulant children who are a disorganized mess that should just go home and get a job. But what they fail to show is that there really are a wide variety of people at OWS. Yes, you have the hippie stoners who are just treating this like another Woodstock, you have the spikey haired anarchists who just want to see the world descend into chaos, yes, you have the teenagers who have just watched V for Vendetta one too many times, but you also have corporate workers who see the corruption first hand and want to take a stand against their bosses, you have the students who are drowning in debt and are at a loss on how they are going to survive, you have homeless vets who came back from the war to find that the government who sent them to war turned their backs on them when they returned, you have professors and philosophers trying to point out the injustice in the system. Yes, it’s disorganized because there are so many voices. But the key thing the voices have in common is that they are angry for a system that has failed them and are now doing something to take a stand to attempt to fix it.
As for the police, I talked to several about it as well as my father who is a conservative retire NYC police officer. For the most part, the police cannot comment about the situation – they are there to do their job which is to uphold the law. So they really aren’t at liberty to speak about it. One cop I spoke with was, while polite to me, dismissive of the movement saying that maybe if they had a clear idea and statement it would be something, but as it was it was just a festival and at the end of the day, his feet hurt. It’s sad that all that’s being shown is the police brutality, because, in general, that’s not what is going on. Talking to the occupants, the majority of them mentioned that the police have been great and many of them support the movement themselves. My father supports the movement too actually. And as he said, and what I concluded myself, is that cops, at the end of the day, have to do their job. They are there to protect the protesters as much as the other civilians. They need to maintain law and order. That is their job. And for the most part they are polite and professional. Yes, there have been issues, but that is by a small few. You will always have bad cops. Cops are people. You have good people and bad people. There are good cops and bad cops. In instances such as the first pepper spray issue, the cop was wrong (or at least my father and I both agree on that). He stepped out of line. The march that happened on the Brooklyn Bridge is a tricky thing because I have heard that they the cops only muttered an unintelligible warning to the protesters which they were unable to hear and/or discern which warned them that if they went any further, they would be arrested and then lead them onto the bridge and arrested them. Some say, the protesters knew what they were doing and knew the risks while others say they didn’t hear the warnings and the police lead them into a trap. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Now on Wednesday night, I was there. The main march that occurred with the Unions and students joining the occupants had a permit. It was a HUGE boost to the movement. There were about 20,000 people there. The protesters organized an impromptu “march on wall street”, in an attempt to march along wall street itself (the encampment of the occupants is not on Wall Street itself, but rather a local park in the Wall Street area). Due to not having a permit, it was an illegal march. The protesters knew this. They made a choice to march and knew the risks involved. The police had to do their jobs and quell the surge of people. The barricaded the encampment and when protesters attempt to storm the barricades, they were arrested. Pepper spray was used, but in this case it was expected and understandable. However, the main issue was that they began to take out batons and started to beat people. And here is where it crossed the line, because some of the cops started to beat protesters when they were already down on the ground and begging them to stop. So yeah, things got heated. However, the protesters are committed to peaceful protest and remaining nonviolent. Unfortunately, there have been numerous rumors going around that Bloomberg is sending in people from his office to start trouble and either act aggressively or else rile people up to try to goad protesters into violence or else start violent action themselves so as to give the movement negative press and give Bloomberg a reason to shut the protest down. Because if the protest turns violent, they will shut it down and quick. So it is a major concern down there and the true occupants committed to the cause are aware of the risks and committed to remaining peaceful. That said, there will always be rabble rousers who just want a conflict. But any who do are not true supporters of the cause. The heart of OWS is that it is a nonviolent and peaceful protest. Anyone going against that is not a true member of the movement.
I started to follow it last week. At first, I was confused. I was like “WTF is going on? What are these protests about?” because nothing told me what it was. I went to the sites to try to find out. All the information I got seemed to be a jumbled mess. It was leaderless and disorganized. Pffft, this will never work, I thought. But it stayed. It grew. I looked at it again. I started to read info about it, watch the videos and ask questions. It really opened my eyes to the truths I have been trying to escape from. I have honestly been so depressed by what I have seen in the world lately. About thinking of my own future. So I avoid watching the news and reading the paper. So when I started to listen and see what was going on down there, I realized I wasn’t alone. I realized we are all hurting. I realized that this is a problem and it needs to change. I realized I don’t deserve to pay for the crimes of these banks. And I realized that if I want to see a change, that I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore and be a passive spectator. My leaders have failed me and my countrymen. I cannot trust them. If I want change then I need to become informed and take active measures to secure my future and the future of this country. I feel it is time for the people of this country to take back our rights and demand justice. I feel the system is broken and I want it fixed. I don’t have the answers, but I support this movement because FINALLY someone is saying something. Finally we are coming together to stand in solidarity to point out the injustices and beg the rest of the world to wake up and see what is being done to us. I hope that this movement will be the spark we need to take back the country. I really do. But hope is not enough for me. I have sat on the sidelines long enough. So I do what I can to fight back. I try to get the word out about the movement. I go down and visit. I donate resources. I refuse to rely on the banks (I have no credit cards). I’ve started to buy local grown food and American products to keep mom and pop farms alive and jobs here in my country. I can’t camp out there, no, but I do what I can from my own home to support them and occasionally, I go there to stand at their sides and thank them for taking the stand. For being brave enough and strong enough to stand by their beliefs and take the initial stand. For opening my eyes and many others. That is why I support the Occupy Wall Street movement.