More than two months have passed since activists started demonstrating against social and economic inequalities in Zucotti Park, Wall Street, New York. Now the so called Occupy Wall Street movement has grown and become known globally. Critics say that the movement must have a concrete agenda in order to be taken seriously. Yet the occupiers do not show any signs of leaving their tents.
Many of us have seen it, the slogan “We are the 99%”, referring to the privileged 1 per cent who are very wealthy in U.S. and the other 99 per cent who are less fortunate. Growing economical injustices, irresponsible speculations at the financial market, corruption and the corporations´ large influence are all motives of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrators, who have lived in the Zucotti Park in New York for more than two months. The movement is initiated by the Canada-based Adbusters, an anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist and pro-environment organization. Inspired by the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt during “Arabic Spring”, the OWS-demonstrators moved in to Zucotti Park in mid-September.
What first started as a reaction to the situation in U.S. later influenced other countries. On October 15, demonstrators in around 900 cities across the world staged rallies, for the same sake as the original September-protests. However, the heart of the movement is still situated in New York, the financial Mecca of the world, where the markets have not recovered since the recession in 2008. The huge inequality gaps which became more obvious as the crisis of 2008 expanded have increased for some time in U.S. Since 1979, the average incomes for the wealthiest people have almost tripled whereas the other 90 per cent have seen their incomes decreased. In 2007 the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population owned approximately 35 per cent of the country’s total capital.
– There are of course obvious reasons for OWS to continue demonstrating. The rich ones become richer while many are left behind. Yet, I think the problem with OWS is that they lack concrete goals. They need a clearer agenda, says Daniel Kederstedt, U.S. correspondent for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in New York.
Others have pointed at the lack of structure of OWS – an organization that claims to include people of all kind of political and religious views and denies having any chosen leader. But does it need a leader in order to progress?
On November 17, OWS managed to mobilize more than 30 000 protestors in New York, and demonstrations were going on in 30 other cities in U.S. In NY, the protestors managed to block all entry points to New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), before city authorities arrested hundreds of people. Not only in Zucotti Park have the police driven out the demonstrators but they have faced increased frustration from authorities in other big cities in U.S. The police have sprayed down the occupiers with tear gas and also acted violently towards them. Violence among demonstrators has also occurred, although civil disobedience is their main method.
OWS has a lot of support around the world and receives daily donations estimating thousands of dollars. Also, the reputation of the financial district of Wall Street has become worse as OWS progresses.
Johan Norberg, Swedish freelance writer and Senior Fellow at the Liberal Cato Institute thinks OWS can also influence politicians.
– I don’t know if the reputation of Wall Street and private banks in U.S. can become much worse today. The main question is whether OWS can transform its discontent into a challenging force towards them. At least, I think they can make it harder for the decision-makers to establish regulations that benefit certain financial corporations.
Right before demonstrations were initiated in Zucotti Park a document on the blog of OWS was written, in which the organization demanded that U.S. President Barack Obama would ordain a Commission which should end the influence which assets have gained over the U.S. representatives in Washington. In the document, it was also stated that: It’s time for “Democracy and not Corporatocracy”.
Looking from one perspective, it is a concrete demand, but undoubtedly huge and compound in today’s capitalized world. Daniel Kederstedt calls for a narrowing down of the actions of OWS:
– The best thing would be to boycott those specific actors who do not do a good a job and who practice values that one is against, as for instance the greedy corporations.