The Occupy Wall Street movement started without much fanfare. Early on, protesters were more or less mocked as a giant joke. Who were these yahoos sitting out in Zuccotti Park thinking they were going to change the way this worked?
Nearly two months later, the questions are much less mocking. The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread worldwide. Demonstrations are taking place not just in New York but in Rome, Hong Kong, and Mexico City. Protesters share a dislike for global fat cats and major financial conglomerates, and from a batch of ne’er do wells we now have both the famous and infamous banding together against greedy bankers and incompetent governments. Clearly the movement as a whole isn’t going away, but the outcomes of the protests remain anyone’s guess.
Getting Some Attention
One goal the Occupy Wall Street crowd has accomplished is getting some attention. While the attention has not always been positive, the group is now on the radar. Their slogan, “We are the 99%,” resonates with many Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. Interviews with protesters who are members of the long-term unemployed, students crippled by loan debt, and workers who lost their homes to predatory mortgages all raise support for the group.
On the other hand, the Occupy Wall Street group’s desire to avoid traditional protest group leadership structures and goals makes it easy for headline lovers to grab the spotlight. Polarizing public figures such as Michael Moore and New York union bosses have used the chatter around the Occupy Wall Street to amplify their own personal agendas. The result is a lot of airtime, but it’s not clear if fifteen minutes of fame for the movement is going to be enough to make a permanent mark in the way that America or any other nation interacts with the financial community.
Making A Political Difference
Since it is now impossible to ignore the Occupy Wall Street crowd, their existence has transferred into the political space. Candidates from Republican and Democratic parties have blamed each other for creating the wealth gap between rich and poor that so troubles the protesters, while the Wall Street Journal reports that the protesters themselves aren’t from any one political background. They aren’t thinking along party lines anymore – they’re concerned about issues and results, which is troublesome in an election year.
Politicians feel that they have to make comments about the Occupy Wall Street situation, but the group is at risk of becoming another unruly poster child such as Joe the Plumber. The group doesn’t fit neatly into any one background, and individual protesters expressing their unfiltered negative views of government policies on network TV is risky for candidates. As a result, all of them will try to appear “friendly” to the movement without getting too close. The group may drive greater political caution in making economic recovery statements or supportive statements for banks, but they aren’t a strong enough bloc of voters to shift major policy proposals.
Where Do They Go Next?
From the parks of New York and a disorganized movement, the Occupy Wall Street movement has a lot of space to expand. The first step has already been taken in spreading to other cities around the country and around the world. Early steps are also being taken to “occupy” rural sections of the country, with The Rural Site reporting marches in Southern Missouri and parts of Iowa. Though smaller, these marches tend to have more focused targets and larger publicity platforms in their markets.
The movement itself is also narrowing. November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day in England, is being co-opted as a day to close accounts with big banks to withdraw support for the existing system. Sporadic acts of vandalism against financial institutions and individuals are also breaking out. The movement has to decide if drilling down on specific financial institutions and players is going to be the next natural evolution, or if a greater change will be effected by staying loosely organized and “against” multiple targets.
Will the group ultimately succeed at reshaping the world’s financial landscape? Time will tell. In the meantime, they are certainly reshaping the conversations and letting financial leaders know that they are being watched by the millions of have-nots in the world who have decided to become a not-so-silent majority.
©2011 Off the Grid News