Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Wall Street Protest

Hundreds of protesters are occupying the Wall Street for the last few days while the global economy enters a dangerous new phase. The protesters are voicing against corporate greed. Police guarded the Bull, the symbol of Wall Street, said caption of a photograph accompanying a news report. Occupy Wall Street, an online group, called upon people to “flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.”
“The global economy has entered a dangerous new phase,” said Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist. “Markets have clearly become more skeptical about the ability of many countries to stabilize their public debt. Fear of the unknown is high.” As a result, the IMF “has sharply downgraded its economic outlook for the United States and Europe through the end of next year. The IMF expects the US economy to grow just 1.5 percent this year and 1.8 percent in 2012. That’s down from its June forecast of 2.5 percent in 2011 and 2.7 percent next year.” The IMF says, the US economy “faces longer-lasting problems that go beyond high gas prices and disruptions caused by the Japan crisis”. (AP, “IMF: World economy enters ‘dangerous new phase’”, Sept. 20, 2011)
In this uncertain moment of the world economy,
“over two thousand protesters converged on Wall Street [on September 17, 2011]. By the end of the second day, those occupying Liberty Park, formerly known as Zuccotti Park on Broadway and Liberty St., had settled in, partially helped by pizza, hot chocolate and blankets paid for and delivered by their supporters in New York City and across the US. The [protest] began after months of planning and encouragement by Adbusters [an internationally distributed ad-free bi-monthly magazine] …They were soon joined by the hacktivist organization Anonymous in calling for a general people’s assembly.” (Manny Jalonschi, “The Wall Street Occupation: A Sleep-In Protest in the Shadow of Power”, The Independent, Sept. 19, 2011)
“[T]he protesters identified their key goals as liberating America from the death-grip of finance and creating a sustainable, just future for every member of the country. Even with a heavy police presence … protesters remained unmoved in their demands for a fairer political system…. While the group’s original goal had been to occupy the sidewalk in front of the building, the area was cordoned off and surrounded by … police cars and … police officers.” Later, a general assembly of the protesters began “discussions into three general areas — problems, solutions and strategies.” The participants’ “discussion focused on the corruption and collusion between Wall Street and Washington,” and many of them noted that general apathy was a problem of education. As general solutions to the problems identified transparency and education was mentioned. “News flooded in throughout the weekend of sister-rallies across the United States, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The international presence was heavy at the rally itself. Not only had protesters driven in from across the country, but activists we spoke to also arrived from as far as Mexico and Tunisia.” (ibid.)
The next day “became a day of support for the occupation. Thousands of New Yorkers stopped in to either see or support the growing city of sleeping bags, signs and popular assemblies. The highlight of the day was when over $2,000 in pizza was ordered in less than an hour by supporters from around the world for the protesters …” (ibid.)
On September 19, “reports of police interference were growing, as officers began arresting people who were using chalk to write goals and slogans on the concrete they occupied. But even with a heavy police presence … protesters remained unmoved in their demands for a fairer political system. (ibid.)
Organizers on the ground say, “we’re digging in for a long-term occupation”.(Micah White, senior editor at Adbusters, and Kalle Lasn, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Adbusters, “The Call to Occupy Wall Street Resonates Around the World”, The Guardian, Sept. 19, 2011)
“#OCCUPYWALLSTREET was inspired by the people's assemblies of Spain and floated as a concept by a double-page poster in the 97th issue of Adbusters magazine, but it was spearheaded, orchestrated and accomplished by independent activists. … The idea caught on immediately on social networks and unaffiliated activists … built an open-source organising site. A few days later, a general assembly was held in New York City … These activists became the core organisers of the occupation. The mystique of Anonymous pushed the meme into the mainstream media. Their video communiqué endorsing the action garnered 100,000 views ... The indignados of Spain sent word that they would be holding a solidarity event in Madrid’s financial district, [and] activists in Milan, Valencia, London, Lisbon, Athens, San Francisco, Madison, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Israel and beyond vowed to do the same.” (ibid.)
“People everywhere”, White and Lasn wrote, “are waking up to the realisation that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which speculative financial transactions add up, each day, to $1.3tn (50 times more than the sum of all the commercial transactions). Meanwhile, according to a United Nations report, ‘in the 35 countries for which data exist, nearly 40% of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year’.” (ibid.)
Andrew Jones reported: “Video has emerged of some of the arrests, with police throwing some protestors to the ground before putting them in handcuffs and even dragging one individual across the street for 20 seconds. As reported to Democracy Now, Jason Amadi, one of the arrested protestors, said: “I was chalking on the sidewalk when I was surrounded by officers, they told me to put my hands behind my back and they handcuffed me and took me to the police station.” Police arrested six Occupy Wall Street protestors, on Sept. 19.
An ABC News report said: “The protest comes after comments New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made last week that some may argue seem to have forecast the event. ‘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,’ Bloomberg said.” (“Wall St. Protesters Say They’re Settled In”)
Citing the website of Adbusters, a Bloomberg report on September 17 said: the goal of the protest is to … end “the influence money has over our representatives in Washington”.
The report said: Rich Adamonis, a spokesman for the NYSE, Duncan King of Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York’s Ron Gruendl declined to comment on the demonstration. (“Protesters Converge on Lower Manhattan, Plan ‘Occupation’, Sept. 17, 2011)
One of the organizers said: “The main focus is the toxic and corrupting effect of unlimited money on the political situation, which would be called a Corporate-ocracy, not Democracy.” “We need to get government back into the hands of the 99 percent, not the one percent. Right now, the law is currently written for the one percent, and we are seeing an incredible amount of wealth being extracted. The aim is getting back to more of a participatory Democracy.” The Occupy Wall Street encourages “the use of nonviolence”. (CBSNewYork, “Groups Plan To ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ But Their Goal Is Not Yet Set”, Sept. 6, 2011)
Preparatory events and arrangements for the protest were made weeks ago that included non violent civil disobedience training, preparing a list of potential hosts to provide protesters place to rest, the Food Committee, Tactical Committee Meeting, art and culture meetings, an event for NY Students Rising and an Open General Assembly. In association with a number of activists around the world a live “TV” channel called Global Revolution was set up. A hotline for arrests was established with help of the National Lawyers Guild. The organizers asked donations for food. They suggested contacting the New York Police expressing solidarity with the protesters and urging the police to exercise restraint, to tell the police that the world is watching, and thank the police for all their hard work. An Occupy Wall Street Orientation Guide was prepared and distributed. Arrangements for foods, shower, etc. for the protesters were made. People were requested to bring a little bit of food themselves, enough that can be shared with at least three people. The request added, “Not only will it help us hold out for longer, it will go a long way in helping you get to know each other a little better as well.” New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts provided fliers for the demonstration.

The protesters’ communiqués present a part of protest-activities.
The third communiqué from the 99 percent said on September 20: “Today, we occupied Wall Street from the heart of the Financial District.” The demonstrators began a march through the Wall Street area, rolling through the blocks around the New York Stock Exchange. Two more marches occurred during the day around the Wall Street district, each drawing more supporters to them.
It said: Hundreds occupying One Liberty Plaza, since September 17 afternoon, held a candlelight vigil to honor the fallen victims of Wall Street, and filled the plaza with song, dance, and spontaneous acts of liberation. “We are building the world that we want to see, based on human need and sustainability, not corporate greed.”
The second communiqué said: On September 18, about 400 of the demonstrators woke up in the Financial District amidst heavy police presence. They resumed their General Assembly and made their demands heard. At noon a large group marched chanting “this is what democracy looks like.” During the march many onlookers joined while many more expressed solidarity. By the time they returned to One Liberty Plaza over 100 sympathizers had joined them. As the day progressed their numbers continued to grow, and in the afternoon they were more than a thousand strong. Later, they were “threatened with arrest using a bullhorn; so they spoke together in one voice, louder than any amplifier.”
The first communiqué told: “We are occupying Wall Street.” A group marched on the head of Wall Street and formed a spontaneous blockade, prompting the police to threaten arrest. Speakers included the Reverend Billy Talen of the Church of Stop Shopping, and actress Rosanne Barr spoke on the steps of the American Indian Smithsonian Museum to the crowd. Protesters marched chanting “Wall Street is our street” and “power to the people, not to the banks.” They held a general assembly, based upon a “consensus-driven decision-making process.” All decisions, they claimed, were made “through a consensus process by the group, for the group.” They said: “[F]reedom has been largely taken from the people, and slowly made to trickle down, whenever we get angry. Money, it has been said, has taken over politics. In truth, we say, money has always been part of the capitalist political system. A system based on the existence of have and have nots, where inequality is inherent to the system, will inevitably lead to a situation where the haves find a way to rule, whether by the sword or by the dollar.”
The Wall Street protest reflects indignation of a section of common people, which has cropped up over a long time and in a broader socioeconomic reality. Richard D Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said in an article in The Guardian that Republicans have denounced President Obama’s “millionaire tax” proposal as “class war”. “[T]he reality is that the class war’s winners [emphasis in the original] have been corporations and the rich. Its losers – the rest of us…”, said Richard Wolff. “[A]s Buffett intimated and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg more explicitly warned last week, a renewal of class consciousness in the US. Then, Washington might learn what class war really is. (“The Truth about ‘Class War’ in America”, Sept. 20, 2011)
The protest has once again exposed the main stream media’s (MSM) biasness, which ultimately weakens MSM’s effectiveness. Filmmaker Michael Moore said the MSM ignores Wall Street protest. Moore appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show Sept. 19 to discuss the media’s coverage towards the protests from the left. He said: ‘People are down on Wall Street right now holding a sit in and a camp in down there, virtually no news about this protest. This goes on with liberals and the left all the time, and it gets ignored.’” (“Michael Moore: The media ignores Wall Street occupation”, Posted on 09.20.11 by Andrew Jones) The Wall Street protest reveals some political realities in one of the most advanced bourgeois democracies.