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
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. …