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WALL STREET/ Occupying the Kingdom

Lorenzo Albacete comments on the Occupy Wall Street movement, how it gained followers and the attention of the media, and what the underlying causes of this and other protests are.

Occupy Wall Street protesters   (photo ANSA) Occupy Wall Street protesters (photo ANSA)

Today I want to write about the so-called "Occupy Wall Street" movement (OWS). I have no idea whether when you read this the OWS will have proven to be a passing fad sustained by the media coverage or whether it will have shown itself to be a significant element in American history.

I recently read an article by Fr. Javier Prades-Lopez about a similar movement in Spain that can help us to judge better the significance of OWS. (From Tahrir Square to the “Puerta Del Sol”? Reflections about an Ongoing Process, Oasis, June 21, 2011).

According to Prades, "When, one week before the regional and local elections, the squares of several Spanish towns – as Madrid’s ‘Puerta del Sol’– were occupied by hundreds of young and not-so-young people, the so-called ‘15-M [15th May] Movement’ was born. The press immediately ventured a comparison between these protests and those taking place just a few months earlier in some Countries with a Muslim majority, whose symbolic image remains Tahrir Square." This comparison (also made for a while here in the USA), argues Prades, cannot be sustained. "The only real analogy is the fact that these movements express a profound discomfort..."

What exactly is the source of this discomfort?

The Occupy Wall Street protest began in September as a small encampment of mostly young activists with mostly inscrutable objectives that were mostly ignored by the media. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the protests quickly became the subject of ridicule. But then something funny happened: Occupy Wall Street exploded into a nationwide series of demonstrations, drawing support from unions and mainstream liberal groups, and earning comparisons to the powerhouse Tea Party movement and revolutionary pro-democracy protesters in Egypt's Tahrir Square.

It was on June 9 that Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters had registered the domain name  OccupyWallStreet.org and called for a Sept. 17 protest, where "20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street for a few months," demanding "democracy not corporatocracy." In August "hactivist" collective Anonymous releases a video pledging its support for the protest and encouraging its members to participate. Later in September, supporters of Occupy Wall Street start posting their photos and stories to a new "We Are the 99 Percent" Tumblr page, bemoaning that the beleaguered majority gets "nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything."