Occupy Everything: Beyond Wall Street

on 20 October, 2011

It’s not just confined to lower Manhattan anymore: Occupy Wall Street, the amorphous, decentralized, and hard-to-pin-down movement that’s causing a stir, has multiplied and gone on to infest cities around the country and the world since its conception on September 17th. So far, the protests have sparked rallies in 82 countries and 951 different cities. But the demands of those rallying are as disparate as the places in which the rallies are being held.

On September 29th, the original Occupy Wall Street crew released a “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” in which they cited their grievances—not their demands, but rather a rough outline of what they were upset about. The injustices listed were (sometimes) valid and generally centered around the claim that the “masses” are largely ignorant of how much the “system” favors Wall Street.

No sooner had the NYC protests got rolling that supporters in cities from Hawaii to North Carolina began protests of their own. They echo the cries of the OWS movement in support of economic justice and limitation of corporate influence over the electoral and political process.October 15th saw one of the biggest turnouts in the Occupy timeline thus far. The Spanish “Indignants” organized rallies in Madrid and Barcelona that featured half a million protesters… each. Occupy Rome experienced crowds of up to 200,000 people and violent protester-police clashes that resulted in 70 injuries.

In Portland, occupy-ers went about their occupying business peacefully with the full blessings of their mayor, police force, and the Portland Marathon. With campouts and ongoing events happening in Boston, Chicago, Albuquerque, etc. protesters are almost purposefully avoiding presenting themselves as a unified cause; their signs were as varied as “No More Body Bags – Vietnam Vet” and “Delete the Elite.”

Perhaps one of the most puzzling things about the protests is the variety of celebrities who have publicly announced their support of the movement. Among them are the author Lemony Snicket (who published a short piece entitled Thirteen Observations to occupywriters.com), the band Pink Martini, and Kanye West (who happened to stroll through the rally last week).

But once you get past the angst-y rhetoric, the jumble of socialist hipsters mixed in with those truly shortchanged middle-class citizens, the ridiculous camp-outs, the unnecessary pepper-spraying-cops, and the fact that no ten people seem to have the same purpose for being at any one protest… you can almost get a whiff of that thing called revolution. It sounds kinda cheesy and Wall Street is one hell of a Goliath, but the fact that something this disorganized has continued so long and had spread so far with no sign of slowing down is quite remarkable.

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