[Marxism] Protesting Wall St.'s riches
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 28 07:31:30 MDT 2011
Featherstone: Protesting Wall St.'s riches
September 27, 2011 by LIZA FEATHERSTONE
Liza Featherstone, a writer who lives in Brooklyn, joined an
Occupy Wall Street march last week with her family [husband Doug
Henwood and their son Ivan], and plans to participate in a rally
protesting police treatment of the occupiers on Friday evening.
Wall Street is under "occupation." A menacing word, perhaps, but
in this case it means that hundreds of peaceful protesters -- from
adolescents to self-identified "grannies" -- from all over the
nation have been living in Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17. When not
marching down Wall Street, they talk with one other and with the
countless people walking through one of the busiest neighborhoods
in the world, about why they are there.
There's been much confusion on this point in the media. As the
occupation began, New York Magazine complained that "what the
protesters are asking for [was] far from clear." Gothamist laid on
the snark: "Protestors Want to 'Occupy' Wall Street, Not Quite
Sure Why." A Fox News pundit was indignant that the protesters
said they were inspired by the Arab Spring protest: "Let's
remember," he fumed, "people were killed in Egypt, Yemen and Syria
for something." These editorialists seemed anxious to deny that
this protest could possibly be about "something."
But is it really any mystery why people would be protesting
against Wall Street? Bystanders at one march last week --
sympathizers, tourists, office workers taking a break -- looked
pleased to see fellow citizens finally objecting to the
kleptocracy that's been ruining so many lives.
Everyone knows why the occupiers are there. The financial markets
helped drive the housing bubble, the collapse of which led to the
Great Recession. Income inequality is at or near record levels. If
the occupiers have a slogan, it's "We are the 99 percent" --
referring to the fact that the richest 1 percent of Americans has
been gorging itself at the expense of nearly everyone else.
Most Americans endure staggering unemployment, foreclosed-on
homes, worsening work conditions and languishing public services
-- while our politicians coddle the biggest winners of our
recklessly unregulated casino of a financial sector.
Like those who gathered in Tahrir Square, those occupying Wall
Street are disgusted with the elite and its ownership of the
political and economic system -- and they want a better future.
To be sure, the protesters themselves haven't always helped to
clarify matters. While some have expressed their demands
eloquently, others have made a mishmash of their public
communications, with rantings about the Federal Reserve and
writings that reflect often-conflicting belief systems, ranging
from the populist to the socialist to the libertarian. At Zuccotti
Park, a manifesto-in-progress is taped to the wall, and anyone may
take a pen and add comments. Next to a list of woolly ideals,
someone has scribbled an apt if misspelled critique: "Vauge."
But the long lists -- whether of fuzzy abstractions or eclectic
specifics -- are beside the point. With so many out of work, and
tax policies that treat rich people as if they were rare birds in
need of environmental protection, the only surprise is that it's
taken so long for the citizenry to take to these particular streets.
One young woman said last week that she had traveled from St.
Louis. After spending four days watching a live feed of the event
on the Internet, she said, "I just had to be here." Those who
can't travel to New York are not merely tweeting (though they do a
lot of that): Protesters in Chicago and Denver have set up their
own occupations, while others are planned in many other cities.
Well-wishers from around the globe have ordered so much pizza for
the Wall Street occupiers that they've had plenty of extra food to
donate to the city's growing homeless population. Despite some
rough police tactics -- one video shows an officer using pepper
spray on peaceful female demonstrators -- the protesters plan to
stay, and expect their movement to grow.
And grow it may. As one young man exhorted bystanders last week,
"Are you a billionaire? No? Then you should join us."
"Vauge"? Perhaps, but it's a good start.
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