It doesn’t seem like three weeks have gone by since protesters converged upon a small park near Wall Street and started what some have called the movement of a generation.
With an intensity and dedication that hearkens back to the Vietnam War era, people have mobilized against an establishment in this country that they have deemed the “1 percent.”
Hundreds of people, old and young, camped out at Zuccotti Park, renamed Liberty Square, to show that they belong to the 99 percent of Americans who are not the uber-wealthy and are not going to sit idly by as the rich walk all over them.
They came from New York, New Jersey and even California and the Midwest-and they have stayed. They live in an urban campground that serves as a kibbutz of sorts. There are group meals, working groups and stations for first aid and comfort.
There is a newspaper, websites, live feeds of the actions of the protesters both in and outside the park, and the group’s governing body is based on participatory democracy.
This world that has emerged here is egalitarian and peaceful. Some may call these folks out-of-work hippies or utopia-seeking trust fund babies who need a cause, but it is much more than that.
There are working people, students with thousands of dollars in loans that they are trying to figure out how to repay, mothers and fathers, grandparents-all with a similar goal: real economic justice and fairness for this country.
For some, this is not their first battle. They have been protesting since the Civil Rights Movement. For others, this is their first foray into political activism and they have taken this movement to a new level.
Two Saturdays ago, 80 people were arrested when the police confronted the protesters. That was a one-day story in the “mainstream media.” After that, the story gained traction through social media and the alternative press, and as the weeks go by, social media and web stories have soared.
Actions and protests began sprouting up all across the country, and even the mainstream media tentatively began to take notice.
As protests were mounted over the weeks, they all seemed to end at Liberty Square. No matter what group was protesting, eventually their people and their message converged on the park in solidarity.
As Saturday, Oct. 1 rolled around, the protesters marched, as they always did, but this time it was across the Brooklyn Bridge. As the thousands began their march, others joined in. Marchers came from every walk of life. Young, old, native, tourist, activist, anarchist, Black, white-all were part of what has become not a protest but a movement.
Then, as the marchers split off, most on the bridge’s walkway, others took to the roadway-led there by police into a trap in which over 700 were arrested.
And with this, the mainstream media took even greater notice. From that point on, the mainstream media were in the park 24/7, with satellite trucks and reporters taking notes all day and night. Finally it had begun to be a story for them, even though it was a story all the while for those who really care about the 99 percent.
Even with the arrests, the masses would not be deterred. They stayed peaceful and respectful, and this action has simply empowered them more.
Now, as the Amsterdam News goes to press, thousands will join the movement; unions like 1199 SEIU, Teamsters Local 237, RWDSU, DC37, TWU, UFT and dozens more groups, including NYU and CUNY students, will descend on downtown with a message to the 1 percent: We are the 99 percent and we will show the world that “this is what democracy looks like!”