As Occupy Wall Street enters its third week, the movement is gathering support across the United States. By Richard Chambers.
What started as the protest of under a hundred college students in Zuccotti Park has ballooned into a social movement with real support across the United States.
By gathering at landmarks, the protesters have given huge visibility to their cause. The Brooklyn Bridge march on Saturday provided many powerful images and the arrests of over 700 people in a peaceful march is likely to help their cause further.
With every accusation of police heavy handedness, the appetite for protest seems to grow stronger. It is reasonable to suggest that had Officer Anthony Bologna not used pepper spray on protesters on September 24th, Occupy Wall Street may not have had quite as much support as it does today.
Celebrities such as actors Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon and documentary maker Micheal Moore, have drawn attention to these incidents, giving all-important publicity to the gatherings.
Reports on the sequence events that led up to the arrests of over 700 people are conflicted but the arrests are likely to have a similar galvanising effect on the public perception of the protests.
, Occupy Chicago
and other groups inspired by the movement which stemmed from little more than a few dozen college students in Zuccotti Park are springing up in cities across the United States and spreading north across the border to Canada
The protests have similar origins to those which took place in Greece and Spain this summer. Parrallels can easily be drawn with the
acampadas and indignants who thronged to Puerto del Sol in Madrid earlier this year. Occupy Wall Street's own website points to the influence which these movements had on their own campaign for socio-economic justice, also acknowledging the protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo which led to the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypt.
While Occupy Wall Street is unlikely to go so far as, or even seek to emulate the Arab Spring, it must now decide what its overarching objective is. The diverse backgrounds of the protesters is easy to see from reports and YouTube videos from New York.
Students, both workers and the unemployed, citizens of every persuasion are coming to protest 'corporate greed', the execution of Troy Davis
and other perceived wrongs in the United States. The unifying goal, however, appears to be to seek justice for the perceived crimes that led to the global economic crisis and for the U.S. Government to break its ties with Wall Street.
of Spain began with a vast range of goals, in fact many of the protesters were entirely apolitical. The Spanish movement unified, however, and drew up a list of demands (read here
). In harmonising their objectives, the Spanish movement gained a purpose and strengthened.
The next step for Occupy Wall Street and their offshoots across the United States is to present a similar achievable argument. The support of trade unions
is likely to give greater legitimacy to their protests.
That similar protests have never caught on in Ireland is notable. In Novemeber 2010, as many as 50,000 people marched against the final budget of the Fianna Fáil/Greens coalition. Since then, there has been fractured protests by groups opposed to job losses, public sector cuts and education fees but nothing on the scale of what has been seen in New York.
There is an atmosphere of relative apathy towards mass mobilisation in Ireland and the lack of media coverage of the events in New York is unlikely to encourage any similar movements here.
While crowds of thousands of people from a spectrum of backgrounds and creeds come together in the U.S., Greece, Spain and even in our neearest neighbour, there has not been a similar outpouring of protest at austerity measures in this country.
With the budget looming and new wave of spending cuts expected, the atmosphere might soon be rife for a similar outpouring of frustration in Ireland.