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The “Occupy” movement will go down in history as a movement of the people, for the people, by the people.

Most likely all of us have heard something about these “Occupy” movements which are sweeping the nation. It has taken over social media with up to the minute updates constantly morphing with nationwide momentum. Many contribute its origins to social movements in the Middle East, commonly known as the Arab Spring. The “Occupy” movement is the latest trend and has dominated national and international news for the past few months. 

But how much do we really know about what’s going on and more importantly, why is it happening?

I took to the streets to find out, visiting the catalyst of it all, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) headquarters, Zuccotti Park in the heart of New York’s financial district.

Who are these “occupiers” and why did they take to the streets?

Originally, the media painted these “occupiers” as long haired-pot smoking-fanatic-drum banging-veganism promoting-modern day hippies. But upon closer examination, you will come to find “occupiers” from every walk of life: teachers, lawyers, journalists, students, architects, social workers, or artists – all activists for change at heart. Various religious faiths have been represented at the protest including Muslims, Jews, and Christians. The Associated Press reported that the “occupy” movement has "a diversity of age, gender and race".

The majority of them will tell you that for one reason or the other, they are sick of the “system”. They have struggled trying to get by with a job or two yet still unable to make ends meet.

Alice Yang, senior college student stated “I started college thinking, after I graduate within a year or so I will be able to get a good paying job, start paying back my loans, and live a better life. But now it’s doubtful I’ll even get a job or be able to pay back my loans in ten years.”

Artist, Clive Zimmerman stated, “I’m out here to send a message to Washington that we will no longer tolerate being pawns in a great scheme where the elite benefit and the politician’s sit back and let their pockets fill up at our expense.”

A tagline slogan “We are the 99%” refers to the growing difference in wealth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population, according to the web. It refers to the vast concentration of wealth among the top 1% of income earners compared to the other 99 percent, and indicates that most people are paying the price for the mistakes of a tiny minority, according to Reuters. 

What exactly are they “occupying”?

The “Occupy” movement started on September 17, 2011 on Wall Street in New York City. “Occupiers” have camped out in Zuccotti Park consecutively since then. Shortly after, similar “occupy” movements have sprouted across the U.S. and overseas.

By October 9, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States, according to New York Times and the Washington Post.

Reuters reported: On October 15, tens of thousands of demonstrators staged rallies in 900 cities around the world, including Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, São Paulo, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, and many other cities.

In Frankfurt, the European Central Bank was “occupied”. In Zurich, “occupiers” blocked all major financial centers. In Oakland California, “occupiers” shut down the Port of Oakland. And in New York, the “occupy” movement spread from the parks, to the subways, to even Time Square.

But the question remains: What do they want?

Some say it is against social and economic inequality, rising unemployment, corporate greed, while others are strictly “occupying” to challenge “the undue influence of corporations—particularly that of the financial services sector—on government.”

The unnamed leaders of Occupy Wall Street insisted on keeping this definition unclear for quite some time. Journalists internationally criticized OWS as being a platform for angry citizens to bring any and very grievance they had to the streets. In the early stages you would see a sign reading “Universal Healthcare” and the next stating “Legalize Marijuana” and the next to say “Free Palestine”.

Things of course needed to change. OWS strategizers, devised a few platform issues. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “protesters want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, bank reform, and a reduction of the influence of corporations on politics.” However, no concrete proposal has been submitted.

Many are giving credit to the off shoot student led Occupy movements on university campuses across the nation for being more organized with clear objectives and a list of demands. OccupyCal which began around October 21 demanded an end to continued tuition increases. OccupyDavis, infamously known for the pepper spraying police brutality which resulted in hospitalizing students, clearly stated the removal of the Chancellor as well as control on the endless fee and tuition increases.

What is it costing?

The “Occupy” movement undoubtedly has had a severe impact on city and state budgets. But let’s just take a look at New York for example. 

We heard “occupiers” state they wanted to “derail the US financial markets” and “turn the economy upside down” as shown in various news reports.

Has it worked? The “Occupy” movement is one of the most costly social uprisings the US has ever seen.

CNN.com reported in late October the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street registered for tax exempt status as a 501(c)(3) Occupy Wall Street accepts tax-deductible donations, primarily through the movement's website.

According to finance group member Pete Dutro, OWS had accumulated over $600,000 and had $450,000 remaining as of November 21, 2011.

While, OWS has been making steady financial gains, the city of New York has been spending a fortune to keep the city running.

A movement which has left the city of New York with $5 million, yes MILLION, in overtime for police and law enforcement as of October 27, and has severely dented the states budget sending serious messages to the city’s corporate elite.  

There has also been an increase in police brutality cases. Mass arrests, beating protestors, dragging members of sit-in’s, and of course pepper spaying. The most notable, being the situation on the University of California, Davis campus where students were peacefully protesting when police were ordered to remove them upon refusal pepper sprayed the students so excessively that the students were then hospitalized. Such gross violations of abuse of power and police brutality should never go unreprimanded. It may be the case that the police have always been excessive, it’s just now with all the media present that attention is brought to such brutality. 

Support and Opposition to the “Occupy” Movement

It may come as a shock, but not everyone is for these “Occupy” movements. A November 3 poll done by Quinnipiac University found that just 30 percent of American voters have a favorable view of the protests, while 39 percent do not. Aas opposed to an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released October 12th found that 37 percent of respondents "tend to support" the occupy movement, while 18 percent "tend to oppose" it.

While speaking with a biotech consultant, 26 years old, native New Yorker who wished to remain unnamed stated, “its true the economy sucks, but if you don’t have a job – look for one! Don’t waste your time on the streets hoping for some hand outs. Be productive.” She later said, “it may be insensitive of me, but most people in debt right now are in that situation because they choose to live outside of their means. You don’t need to have a brand new BWM and a 3 bedroom condo over looking the ocean and wear designer clothes and have an iPhone 4s if it means that you will be making payments you can’t afford your whole life.”

During an October 6 news conference, President Obama said, "I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place."

Politicians largely remain ambiguous about their stance on the issue. A few, such as House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, has outwardly shown her support for the “Occupy” movements.

Hollywood, too, has shown its support for the movement. Filmmaker Michael Moore, rapper Lupe Fiasco, actor and activist Mark Ruffalo and actress Susan Sarandon have either visited Zuccotti Park or vocalized their support nationally. Other celebrities lending their support include John Carlos, Anti-Flag, Radiohead, Talib Kweli, and Kanye West.

So now what?

Although the “occupy” movement may have set the deadline for early December, the movement has just begun. The momentum OWS has given to the numerous global movements for justice is monumental. Almost daily a new “occupy” movement is born. The masses are rising to end corruption, redistribute the concentration of wealth and social restructuring.

As Americans, we rarely think our country has flaws – we are the land of hope and opportunity opening our arms to the poor and suffering around the world. Clearly, that is not the case: our nation has been turning a blind eye to the accumulating social ills plaguing our communities. We are now awake and will not rest until we have accomplished the goals set forth for a high standard of equality and justice.

It’s amazing when you stop and think about the global impact this movement has had. The world has risen up resulting millions have taking to the streets in a unified cry against political, social and economic oppression. Collectively, the masses are rebelling against an international crisis of the modern era. Globalization as allowed for governments and multi-national corporations to unite for their own personal gains while manipulating the general population for so long that the majority started to believe it to be the norm.

From continent to continent, few nations have been spared. Is it a sign of the end of times? Will governments around the world come toppling down as seen resulting from the Arab Spring? Will a new progressive social order be created? Who will come out of this social warfare a hero? And who will be the losers? We will have to wait and see. One this is for certain, it’s remarkable to think how a few protesters on Wall Street has now forever changed the world we live in.  





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