By Erin Delman
- Outraged citizens decry the current American economic policy during the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.
On Sept. 17, 2011, a group of New York City residents loosely organized a protest in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. Establishing camp in privately-owned Zuccotti Park, these activists would later be joined by hundreds of supporters in the Occupy Wall Street protests that have continued for three weeks.
Despite its lack of organization, the nascent movement has gained substantial national and international traction as similar demonstrations emerged in cities through the United States and the world.
The self-proclaimed “leaderless” group is unusually diverse, composed of people of different races, genders and political persuasions. The Occupy Wall Street supporters unite behind the movement’s mantra, “We are the 99 percent,” and they march against the era of corporate greed, embodied in the workings of the banks, mortgage industry and insurance companies.
The protesters decry the current American economic policy that seems to curry favor with ultra-rich corporate giants while abandoning the middle working class. They fear that status quo economic policies will engender an entire social class of young, able, educated and unemployed Americans.
The movement’s lack of organization annoys politicians and citizens. It focuses on negativity, yet offers no tangible solution or suggestion. Critics point to the lack of a specified objective as proof that the protesters are merely resentful anarchists, rather than a serious group with the ability to affect widespread change.
Opponents say that the use of general assembly to make decisions, though admirable for its appeal to the fundamental tenet of democracy, is unrealistic to implement on a larger scale. Although the protesters’ complaints are valid, their approach, and more importantly its sustainability, is questionable.
But right now, none of the protesters care about the longevity of the occupation, but rather its effect. Sure, the occupiers can be criticized for their lack of defined goals and hierarchy, yet they recently forged alliances with labor unions that may provide the structure that critics assert the movement needs.
Although I don’t condone the inchoate approach of the Occupy Wall Street gatherers, I sympathize with many of their grievances. Critics that denounce those at Zuccotti Park as anti-capitalist left-wing anarchists are wrong. What the demonstrators speak out against is not capitalism, but rather corporatism. They are champions of the American dream, not opponents. They want a country where people have the ability to live in economic security.
Finally, they want to know that their government will work for the people, and not faceless corporations. Many of those that now sleep in a park in Lower Manhattan walked door-to-door campaigning for President Barack Obama in 2008. They want to hold him responsible for the promises he made three years ago, something we should all be able to relate to.
The critics are wrong because the movement does have an objective. Yet their goal is so simple, so inherent to the American identity, that it need not be specified nor articulated. Ultimately, the entire protest and all of its satellite demonstrations focus on the concept of government accountability to the people.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters want a return to the fundamental tenets of American politics. As citizens, they need assurance that the American government continues to guarantee and work to maintain liberty and justice for all.