Yesterday marked the beginning of the "occupation of Wall Street," a mass protest organized by left-leaning groups like Anonymous and Adbusters aimed at corporate greed and designed to force President Obama to "capitulate" to their demands. While the exact ultimatum won't be made public until next Saturday, chants of "Whose street? Our street!" and "This is what democracy looks like! This is what hypocrisy looks like!" (shouted at banks) made it clear that the demonstrators were venting their well-founded anger at the "masters of the universe."
However, our reporter saw very few tents, which were part of the original idea to create a long-term encampment to gain public favor and apply pressure on the authorities. The Times notes that aside from a few tense moments, respect between the police and the protestors ruled the day. This may have been the case because the NYPD blocked off a large swath of Wall Street that was initially intended as a staging area.
On Twitter, accusations flew that the hashtag #occupywallstreet had been strategically blocked, but there was no evidence of this. Live streams carried footage of simultaneous protests across the world. What remains to be seen is how long the protesters will stick it out: making the suits' work week miserable is crucial. "I'd like to stay till Tuesday or Wednesday. I have to go back to Ohio for a little bit of work," a man told CBS, "But I'm praying that the movement's so strong that I'll come back next week."
The Nation spoke with a protestor who was a little higher than the median age, but his story is particularly compelling:
Matthew Prowless says he doesn’t mind the mixture of causes and affectations—what he calls “window-dressing”—for a far more serious cause. Unlike the majority of the college-aged activists, Matthew is a 40-year-old father of two who says he is attending the protest because he had no other recourse.
“My home has been seized, I’m unemployed, there’s no job prospects on the horizon. I have two children and I don’t see a future for them. This is the only way I see to effect change,” he says. “This isn’t a progressive issue. This is an American issue. We’re here to take our country back from the corporations,” adding he fears for the future of the United States where corporations can now spend unlimited, anonymous dollars to elect the candidates of their choices.
Reporting by James Thilman