For about two weeks, a seemingly spontaneous protest movement has evolved in the financial district of New York, dubbing itself the “Occupy Wall Street Movement.” Supposedly leaderless, there seems to be a core of ideologically committed individuals utilizing social media to empower a protest movement aimed squarely at the financial oligarchy that dominates the American political establishment, and particularly its economic and fiscal policymaking. The organizers of this self-described “leaderless” movement openly state that their methods are inspired by the protest movement of the Arab Spring.
On Saturday, October 1 more than 700 protesters were arrested by the New York Police Department. Previously, the NYPD had been accused by not only the protesters but media observers of engaging in brutality and unwarranted violence against peaceful protesters. It is not likely that the mass arrests will attenuate these protests; the opposite actually seems to be the case.
Why is the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” protesting in Manhattan’s financial district? The website of the movement states:
“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.”
While it is too early to determine the future course of this movement, and whether or not it is a flash in the pan or a self-sustaining phenomenon that could lead to a full-scale national, revolutionary mass protest movement, I think the following observation is in order. The arrest of 700 plus protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in the brief period of an afternoon is not an everyday occurrence in the United States. The fact that so many middle class and especially younger people are out on the streets openly railing against America’s financial oligarchy is at the very least a concrete manifestation that in the economic depression that has swept the land, the emerging generation of Americans has lost faith in the country’s politicians, feels alienated from the political culture and is increasingly hostile to those it perceives as the wire-pullers of the nation’s economic and political life and dispossessors of the future for the vast majority of Americans. Though the movement describes itself as leaderless, should a leadership emerge this movement has the potential to grow and morph into a revolutionary form of resistance to the ruling circles of contemporary America. If that happens, based on the police response to date, will those who dominate decision-making in America unleash repression to suppress this movement? Time will tell, but as America’s economic situation grows worse and President Barack Obama’s mantra of hope and change becomes increasingly dysfunctional and irrelevant, the potential for massive social unrest in the United States grows and may eventually reach a point of critical mass, leading to unforeseen but potentially radical consequences.