Occupy Wall Street: Is It Becoming Your Father's - Even Grandfather's - Movement?

By Goodale, Gloria | The Christian Science Monitor, October 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Occupy Wall Street: Is It Becoming Your Father's - Even Grandfather's - Movement?


Goodale, Gloria, The Christian Science Monitor


Many of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters are now much older than college age. Is this a sign of cross-generational appeal, or is the movement being taken over by aging '60s radicals?

For a movement that burst into life on the sleeping bags of college kids, some of the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters are getting downright long in the tooth.

This week alone, the Raging Grannies and the Granny Peace Brigade have turned up to show solidarity. And signature boomer anthems by Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, and Woody Guthrie are being sung by AARP candidates at encampments around the country.

Is this spreading "Occupy" social action - now appearing in hundreds of towns and cities across the globe - being taken over by hoards of old lefties and aging '60s radicals, in search of "somethin' hap'nin' here?" Or, as some suggest, is the steady influx of a wider demographic a sign of a broader systemic call to action with a cross-generational appeal?

"More and more middle-age people are showing up all the time," says Robert Hockett, a professor at Cornell University Law School, who has a small apartment just around the corner from Zuccotti Park where the Wall Street protest began in New York. He attends the nightly general assembly meetings, he says with a laugh, adding, "They are my neighbors now."

A student of social protest, he says that "this is different from many earlier movements such as the antiwar actions, because the issues don't fall into partisan political or age divides." Rather, he says, "these economic issues are hitting old and young across political lines."

Veterans from earlier protest eras are putting in a good showing. Margaret Ratner Kunstler, widow of the iconic progressive attorney William Kuntsler, has been in the heart of the fray from early on and represents many of the protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge two weeks ago.

"I'm a grandmother and these are my children," she says with a laugh, noting that the reach and organization she sees springing up around the movement "is giving me hope."

She says her optimism about people power flagged after the 1999 Seattle protests at the World Trade Organization meeting, because police began to develop more stringent crowd-control tactics. These included rubber bullets, "pens," and pepper spray.

But this time around, it was the YouTube video of police using the spray on young women in the Wall Street demonstration that broadened the media coverage from the underground press. …

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