I N T E R N A T I O N A L
Havana. October 6, 2011
Chronicle of indignation
on Wall Street
EVERYONE wants this to be the United States' Tahrir Square, a Puerta del Sol, an Athens, or a Santiago de Chile, and everyone – authorities, mass media, leftists – suppose that something could or should explode in this country given the crises, the greed of big business, extreme inequity and unemployment. Perhaps that is why something strange happened on the way to the occupation of Wall Street.
Via Internet social networks, independent activists called for 20, 000 people to occupy Wall Street on September 17 and denounce the economic inequity, greed and political corruption brought on by the rich. They announced their objective of creating a Tahrir Square in the New York City financial district, indicating that they were inspired by the Arab movements, as well as the "indignados" in Spain and students in Chile, among others.
On September 17, some four or five hundred appeared and, as of last week, had not achieved their goal of occupying Wall Street, although some progressive media reported and repeated that thousands had arrived and surrounded Wall Street.
This is not entirely inaccurate. Those who had occupied Wall Street September 17 were the police. They closed off the entire area around the Stock Exchange and even tourists were denied access throughout the day, although protesters were allowed to enter briefly "to express themselves."
This image of Wall Street, empty and guarded by the police, with the famous statue of a bull on Broadway, the symbol of Wall Street's virility, cordoned off with metal barricades and police officers was almost surreal: the state protecting capital.
At the end of this first day of protest, the demonstrators, in their majority white and university educated, decided to remain in a small square three blocks from Wall Street, which they christened Freedom Plaza, and some 200 activists have been here all week. The following Saturday more than 80 were arrested as they marched through the Union Square area, with the police using excessive force which, as always, created media attention for the protesters who would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
They say that they will not leave until… well, this continues to be discussed in daily "general assemblies" during which those gathered affirm that they are practicing democracy in the streets, given the country's corrupt political system which ignores the interests of 99% of the people.
"These Wall Street people are playing with our future," a participant commented. Others give dozens of variations on the theme, how Wall Street has made off with democracy and left in its place unemployment, debt and disaster for the great majority.
Many have what they consider a "good education" but are facing an increasingly bleak future and are, for now, unemployed. New figures from the Census Office reveal that young adults have the lowest employment rate since World War II (only 55.3% have jobs). Some analysts speak of a "lost generation."
Many express their disenchantment with the political system. One said, "I worked for Obama's election for months, but I wouldn't do it again." Very similar, in this way, to his counterparts in the Puerta del Sol or Cairo.
There are no contingents representing organizations. There is little contact with other social layers, such as the labor unions, civic organizations, immigrants or students. Many are surprised that there are not more people demonstrating, since on Internet social networks millions have expressed their support and said they would participate. The first call, by the Canadian magazine Adbusters, was made in June and, last month, the community of 'hacktivists' Anonymous joined in. No one can explain why all of this cyber-participation over the past few months has not manifested itself in a broader physical presence in the streets. Perhaps more interesting than the size or nature of the protest, is the reaction it has provoked.
This small demonstration has managed to achieve surprising coverage in the media, almost all of it positive. Figures such as
Michael Moore, comedian Roseanne Barr and the satirical Stephen Colbert have visited and/or supported the effort.
On the other hand, this protest effort has successfully shown just how worried the authorities are about a possible explosion of popular anger against finance capital. In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the richest man in the city, when asked his opinion of the demonstrations during a radio talk show, said that "you have lots of kids graduating from college who can't find jobs. That's what happened in Cairo, happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here."
Many of the corporate media, as well the progressive, sent reporters and covered the events with unusual generosity – in the past there have been demonstrations of tens of thousands of people which were ignored by the country's principal mass media. It was as if the press, along with the activists, wanted something big to happen, that a version of Tahrir Square would emerge here.
"The smart rich know they can only build the gate so high … history proves that people, when they’ve had enough, aren’t going to take it anymore," Michael Moore said of the protest on a recent television program. He called on communities across the United States to organize their own versions of "occupy Wall Street," and insisted “There's a lot of rebellion bubbling beneath the surface in this country… and it's going to increase. These people have stolen our future."
The main question remains: How is it that nothing has yet happened here similar to what is being seen in the Arab countries, in
Madrid, Barcelona and Santiago de Chile? Even more surprising in the midst of the worst crisis since the Great Depression, with the political elite deplored by the vast majority of citizens.
For now, the occupation of Wall Street has not been achieved. Some say that the action is a first effort which could become something much bigger.
And many are waiting, both the powerful and those who can make the powerful tremble. (Taken from La Jornada)