Occupy Wall Street a true off-grid movement, and its on fire

Slogan of the month

The Occupy Wall Street movement is beginning to win hearts and minds in the midst of the very area it is occupying.

Amongst the zombie facepaint and the neo-hippies massing at the off-grid settlement in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street are an increasing number of financial workers themselves. One elegantly dressed woman this week was carrying a sign that said “Wall Street workers for realistic fiscal reform – there are more of us than you think.”

And at sites all over America, OWS is attracting support from all walks of life — recently laid-off blue collar workers to students to highly-paid execs in non-financial industries who are just as angry as the rest of us about the way the banking industry has laid waste to the real economy.

The point that the mainstream US media has missed in its obsequious haste to criticize the occupation for not having any clear “demands” or a sophisticated analysis of the financiers, is that the space itself is very much its own demand, a demand for a new kind of society set up provocatively in the uncaring shadow of Wall Street, the symbolic heart of free-market capitalism.

“I’m here to learn about how to build a new community,” says Max, a carpenter from upstate New York. “We’ve essentially built a little town right in the middle of Wall Street where people are fed, clothed, housed, taken care of.”

Now the message has spread across the land and the next few weeks will be mesmerizing. A “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” summons all those who feel “wronged by the corporate forces of the world”. Corporations “place profit over people”, “run our governments”, take bail-outs “with impunity”, poison the food supply, block green energy, “perpetuate colonialism at home and abroad”, muzzle the media and use student loans to “hold students hostage”. The protests have already spread

Wall Street's own workers join the movement

to Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, and were this week heading towards the nation’s capital.

Hundreds of protesters on Thursday afternoon converged in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most influential lobbying group in Washington D.C., Under the huge banner hanging overhead that says “JOBS.” But their question, ironically, is “where are the jobs?”

With shouts of “Where are the jobs,” protesters displayed ten foot long signs that says “Corporate Greed,” and some of them pointed at curious Chamber employees who peek out of first floor windows, hollering “Shame on you!”

Back in New York, the atmosphere at Zuccotti Park is uniquely welcoming. As a typical October night draws in and the rain begins to beat down, the medical centre, offers warm coats and hot coffee, medicine and a hug: a far cry from the pitilessness of Main Street America.

“My whole generation has kind of been conditioned to believe that we don’t have a voice, we don’t have the ability to change anything,” says Max. “It’s cool to believe again.”

But believe in what?  Now the fire has been lit, the real work starts.  What are the demands of the movement exactly? How will the Occupiers ensure their voice is heard all the way up to the 2012 election day?

A centrepiece of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms signed into law last year was a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to guard against unfair fees and predatory lending. It was set up by Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor, who was also expected to be its first director.

At the urging of Wall Street lobbyists, Congress has blocked her appointment.

Clear policies and clear slogans are needed.  The first priority is to work out exactly who the enemy is and what we want from them. A total of 79 per cent of Americans agree with the Occupy Wall Street slogan: “The big banks got bailed out, while we got left behind,” according to a new poll.

This writer is certain that the large majority of senior executives in the financial sector should be arrested, questioned under caution, and in many cases imprisoned for fraud and other acts of malfeasance.

The huge bonuses they paid themselves over the past decade,  based on falsely declared profits, should be repaid to the institutions they looted.

That would solve the problem of recapitalizing the banks and insurers.

Not since crowds laid waste to central Seattle when the World Trade Organisation met there 12 years ago has capitalism faced such a direct rebuke on the streets of North America.

The slogan is:  PAY IT BACK. The moment is now.


5 Responses

  1. The people to be blamed are not even being talked about here. Sure, large corporations have their downfalls and big lobbies, but it’s corrupt politicians who put the bills and laws in place for the banks to follow that got us in this mess. Politicians like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are the real architects of the mortgage lending mess and foreclosure issues, as well as many other problems. There are many more politicians who are in that same boat.

  2. John:
    Protesters are getting wise to the undercover police and Government Agents acting as agents provocateur to incite violence and justify a police crackdown on the protesters. It’s not just in the US, but in Canada, the UK and elsewhere.
    The mainstream media is starting to come around and address the protests. Here’s a segment from Yahoo Finance that gives positive comments regarding the protesters.
    I’ve been involved in the protest movement for over 30 years. It’s been a long time coming.


  3. We need to get rid of the Federal Reserve!! The press needs to report the truth not what the government and Israel says they should report. America is first, second and third. Stop supporting other countries our money needs to stay here!!

  4. would like to address the comment about financial sector executives’ bonuses….even if all of those bonuses were repaid it would not be enough to recapitalize the major banks that are INSOLVENT. we need to start from scratch and build a new financial (and tax) system, one based on real money backed by precious metals, not fiat currency and private cartels…also, SEattle was not “laid waste”, it was the scene of a successful protest which was marred by agents provocatuers who did alot of damage which then damaged the reputation of the protest movement, something we do NOT want to happen if we want to succeed in bringing about real change. John

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