Stand up for your rights, but have a plan. So what’s the agenda for Occupy Wall Street, again?

Words: Jason Gardner

By now I’m assuming that many of you have heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement/protest currently happening in New York City. Before I jump into what it is, the agenda, and what may ultimately happen, let me divulge a little history on protests.

Historically speaking protests like this happen when there is a recession or some form of depressed economy. For example the ’70s was the most recent time in our collective American history that we can remember protests generating significant media attention. The protests of the ’70s began during a time when America had a depressed economy, lack of oil, high inflation and was, ironically, exiting a war. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to 2011, an era where we have already seen at least two “dictators” ousted from power due to a collective force by the citizens of those respective countries, a five-day riot in London and now Occupy Wall Street (or #OccupyWallStreet as seen on Twitter). However similar, from the means of getting the message out there on social networks to the reverent angst against “the man”, the first two differ greatly from the latter.

The Egyptian uprising that started in Tahrir Square and the uprising in Libya have one crucial aspect in common. They both had goals. Too frequently the media painted the gathering in Tahrir Square as a spur of the moment, disorganized, coup to overthrow Hosani Mubarak from his presidential seat in Egypt. When the truth of the matter is that the movement to Tahrir Square started was secondary to the twenty-six-page anonymous leaflet that circulated via email, and which laid out the blueprint for the massive action.

Meanwhile, the uprising that sparked in Libya began as a peaceful protest that was, allegedly, met with violence by Gaddafi forces. These protests spread across
the country into neighboring cities and provinces, led by anti-Gaddafi forces based in Benghazi, with the main goal of removing Gaddafi from power.

Herein lies the crux of a movement: both uprisings, in Egypt and in Libya, and regardless of their validity, had clear goals. They wanted to overthrow the “dictators” who had served in office for decades and were, according to accounts, were allegedly more driven to using their political power over, as opposed to serving, their citizens.

Let’s look at London. The riots of 2011, which lasted five days and caused substantial property damage, began as a result of the killing of an unarmed man by law enforcement officials. The riots began in Tottenham, home to one of the largest Black populations in London. The area has clearly been marred by a long history of racial tension, which contribute to a strong anti-police stance among local residents. So it comes as no surprise that the riots started there. However looking back, it is clear that no recognizable goal or benefit (yet) resulted from those riots, aside from global media attention. Was damaged property, the loss of life and the imprisonment of protesters the agenda? (I hope not.)

Now after extensive research on Occupy Wall Street, like with London, I was unable to see any clear goal or agenda for this protest. Some sites say the protesters want more jobs and an end to corporate greed. The official
site for the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly says this:

“On September 17, 2011, people from all across the United States of America and the world came to protest the blatant injustices of our times perpetuated by the economic and political elites. On the 17th we as individuals rose up against political disenfranchisement and social and economic injustice.”

It goes on further to state:

“Today, we proudly remain in Liberty Square constituting ourselves as autonomous political beings engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and building solidarity based on mutual respect, acceptance, and love.”

So what’s the goal? Not kicking this protest, London’s or any other for that matter. I respect those that can speak up for a cause. But clearly stating your intent and the ways you wish to go about achieving those aims are just as important as finding the chutzpah to demand to be heard.

Sure, initially the media did not pay much attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests. The spark in interest actually came as a result of the completely unprovoked attacks by the NYPD. They unjustifiably pepper sprayed a crowd of protesters who had done nothing to provoke such action, and arrested and assaulted others. Some of these actions, which were caught on video and uploaded to YouTube, started the media frenzy.

Other Occupy Wall Street inspired protests have popped up around the country since. A group of citizens that make up Occupy Chicago attempted to protest, but were quickly dispersed as only a few individuals showed up. Occupy Boston has had more success, drawing around 200 people to their first demonstration. Other protests are being planned in Washington and Los Angeles. Celebrities such as Cornel West, Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore have visited with those on the frontlines, and both West and Moore have held speeches at the protesters’ General Assembly in NY. While the media attention generated by the YouTube videos, and celebrity appearances can help this protest expand and have a solid impact, I’m still left wondering where is the blueprint? Where is the agenda? Where is my leaflet so I can clearly understand who and how we’re taking “the man” down? Where is the coordinated and organized movement?

The “who” is clear to be corporate elitists. The best way to get the corporate elites to pay attention is not just by protesting in the streets, but by also affecting their pockets. They all speak one language and that is money. If you want to affect change, change where your money is deposited or who’s product you buy. Consider these factors when you’re going into the next voting both to cast your ballot for a candidate to represent your local community, your county or your state.

Standing up for your rights is commendable. And all great movements start with a few people. But before this movement turns into complete anarchy, can we get on the same page with our list of demands?

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