Occupy Wall Street: Flash in the Pan or Beginning of a Movement?

By Goodale, Gloria | The Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

Occupy Wall Street: Flash in the Pan or Beginning of a Movement?


Goodale, Gloria, The Christian Science Monitor


A growth spurt sent the Occupy Wall Street movement sprawling across the US and into other countries. It's showing greater organization and widening appeal. Will it hold together?

After a weekend growth spurt, the New York financial district sit- in "Occupy Wall Street" has blossomed into not only a national movement, but also a global one.

More than 100 cities have clocked in under the "Occupy" moniker, with more names appearing on the movement's unofficial cyber bulletin board, occupytogether.org, every few digital minutes.

Large and small towns as well as regions and states are onboard, from Mobile, Ala., to Merced, Calif., to Adelaide (Australia), Cork (Ireland), and Cologne (Germany). The swiftly expanding, loosely organized, and casually affiliated network of protesters is taking over public spaces with sleeping bags, sandwiches, and placards.

These groups are armed with everything from manifestoes -- their essential grievance is that financial institutions have too much political influence, to the detriment of almost everyone else - to a circulating library staffed with an actual librarian, trash disposal teams, and advice on how to properly safety-pin a dollar bill.

The protesters are predominantly under 30; are communicating via Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and even e-mail; and are sharing grievances, doling advice to newcomers, and self-consciously declining to set out a formal list of demands. They are also showing signs of preparing for a protracted battle.

According to the Occupy website, the movement has emerged from a climate of outrage over perceived economic injustices and is taking inspiration from recent social protests in the Middle East.

"Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions," reads a statement on the website. "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," the statement says. "We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants."

As the movement spreads, political analysts and social scientists are asking whether this is the sort of social unrest that emerges only in hard economic times and recedes in better days, or is a sign of a new political movement emerging on the American landscape.

While it may be too early to say for certain, David Johnson, an Atlanta-based Republican political strategist, suggests the former.

"It's drawing in everyone across the political spectrum," he notes, pointing to the range of voices being heard in the media coverage. "They have everyone from libertarians, to liberals, moderates, socialists, and hard-line conservatives," he says, adding that this sort of coalition works well for a short period of protest.

"This kind of fractious group won't hold together for the long run," says Mr. …

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