Pro: Protestors will soon reach common ground
By Alec Lautanen
Executive Opinion Editor
Slogans like “Occupy Wall Street,” “We are the 99%” and “People over profits” have become increasingly familiar in the last few months as hallmarks of the Occupy Movement. This series of protests, although seemingly disjointed and unorganized, holds promise as an influential force for lasting social and economic change.
The Occupy protests, which aim to raise awareness of social inequality and wealth disparity through “occupation” of public places, have already increased national focus on issues that affect average Americans, like social inequality. If continued, the Occupy Movement will prove itself a key force in government policy, both in the United States and abroad.
In July of 2011, Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters suggested a peaceful occupation of Wall Street, the financial heart of the United States, as a rally against a growing divide in wealth between the richest and poorest Americans. The idea quickly spread and formal protests began on Sept. 17 in New York.
Since that time, the movement has spread to almost 2,500 cities and 21,000 “occupiers” worldwide, according to the movement’s website, occupytogether.org. Its main grievance against wealth disparity arises from a recently released report from the United States Congressional Budget Office, which shows the richest 20% of Americans controlling 85% of national wealth and the other 80% of Americans only 15%.
As protests have only been occurring for less than three months, results are not yet clear, but political leaders have already announced support for the movement. On Nov. 26, the city council of Edinburgh, Scotland, voted to “support the aims and sentiments of Occupy Edinburgh and the Occupy Movement.” Although this show of support may be isolated, a firm municipal backing of the movement and its goals cannot be ignored.
Unlike traditional protest techniques such as marches and pickets, the “occupation” approach will prove much more lasting and create a sense of permanency. Although police departments in cities like Vancouver and New York have been quick to evict occupiers, protestors’ resiliency in maintaining a public awareness of their movement will no doubt prove beneficial.
The strength of the Occupy movement lies in both its numbers and its world presence. Unlike other protests that can be isolated to certain areas or complaints, Occupy’s aims are accessible to the entire global community, and its appeal toward the average worker only aids in dissemination of ideas and spreading of support.
Opponents are quick to denounce Occupy’s leaderless structure and lack of consistent goals, but as the movement progresses, the scope and focus of its demands will also. The African-American Civil Rights Movement lasted 13 years, and its goals were seen as equally abstract when it started.
Critics also say the protestors will eventually become ineffectual due to their shortage of actual solutions and abundance of empty and disjointed complaints.
However, many individual petitions exist with specific goals. If a distinct leader did emerge, a combination of these petitions could be achieved and efforts could me more focused. The movement, if continued, will eventually find organization and leadership.
The Occupy movement’s structure and goals seem unordered and unclear now, but they will develop into precise and reasoned demands if given time. Although leaderless, the movement has already organized itself across the globe and will continue to progress until action is taken.
Con: Movement lacks firm stance, leadership
By Nick Block
A demonstration in Zuccotti Park, New York has sparked a wide-spread movement with the ultimate goal of closing the gap between the wealthiest one percent and the general public. The Occupy Movement is much too broad due to its haphazard approach and lacks a solid leadership base, two traits that will eventually lead to its demise.
The movement lacks organization and leadership and disrupts the peace as well. Unless protestors change their approach, they risk turning even more people against them. In addition, the Occupy Movement has been only a protest movement. It has not been able to focus on constructive suggestions, a consequence of the absence of structure and lack of mainstream political backing.
The protestors believed that, due Zuccotti Park’s status as private property, police would be unable to disband the protest. This assumption later proved to be incorrect.
Around 200 protestors were arrested when sanitation reached, according to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “unhealthy levels,” causing the police to take down tents and remove sleeping bags. The protests have since expanded to many U.S. cities including Los Angeles where, despite a demand that they disband, protestors continued to congregate until the police removed them last week.
“We are the 99 percent” is the main Occupy slogan, designed to emphasize that a small minority of the wealthiest people is prospering and getting richer while the majority is suffering financially. The protestors are pointing fingers at this minority, whose mistakes and greed they blame for the “Great Recession” of 2007. The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the incomes of the wealthiest people have more than doubled over the past 10 years while those of working people have mostly been flat.
Several polls have disputed the claim that protestors truly represent the 99 percent. In fact, only a Quinnipiac University poll found that the Occupy Movement was supported by more than 50 percent of Americans. With so many polls that have had a high percentage of opposition like the ones conducted by C-Span and The New York Times, this movement does not reflect the interests of a significant majority of Americans.
A primary reason the Occupy Movement has not gained the support it claims to have is its methods, which include public disruption, occasionally ending with property destruction. One example is the blocking of streets by protestors, which has disrupted the lives of many New Yorkers. The Occupy Movement lacks unity, leadership and a clear vision, making it difficult to gain the public support it needs. Even if the group’s main goals are clear, the disruptions on the lives of local residents continues to take legitimacy away from their cause.
The failure of the protestors to abide by the demands of the state and local governments to disband has led to police action, including the use of pepper spray and batons. Although protestors have the right to congregate and protest peacefully, they are infringing on the abilities of non-occupiers to go to work, use public facilities, and commute across the city.
The movement lacks unity, leadership and clarity, which makes it difficult to gain much needed support. The movement should choose its objectives and focus on key ones, coming up with creative solutions rather than simply complaining about the unfairness that they perceive. Both the government and corporations want to create wealth and will work with people to achieve these goals so long as their methods are constructive and their goals clear.