By Eric W. Dolan
Small groups of demonstrators in major American cities have started their own “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations and organizers are planning further actions in more cities across the United States.
A diverse coalition of people have pledged to occupy Wall Street until something is done about corporate greed and the financial system’s undemocratic influence on the U.S. government.
The protesters have been camped out in New York’s old Liberty Plaza, one block from the Federal Reserve, since Saturday.
“The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99 Percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent,” said a statement on the Occupy Wall Street website.
At least 80 to 100 people were arrested over the weekend in the first big crackdown since the demonstration began. Police accused the protesters of blocking traffic and resisting arrest.
Video recordings showed female protesters being rounded up in an orange-colored mesh pen by police and subsequently sprayed with mace, seemingly without any provocation, and other protesters being dragged across the street by police. Another protester said she was arrested for trying to film the demonstration and locked in a police van for over two hours.
The protest spread to other cities over the weekend.
A small group of “Occupy Los Angeles” demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to show their support for the protesters in New York City.
“Corporate interests seem to be controlling both parties,” one protester told LAActivist.com. “The ‘little man,’ the ‘American every man,’ just isn’t getting their voice heard. When you need $35,000 to donate to a campaign to get your voice heard, to have a meeting, that’s not democracy.”
“Occupy Los Angeles” protesters plan to begin a demonstration at City Hall on October 1. The “Occupy Los Angeles” Facebook page had nearly 2,000 likes as of Tuesday afternoon.
Another demonstration popped up in Chicago over the weekend. Around 20 “Occupy Chicago” protesters gathered at Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, on Friday and then marched to the Federal Reserve Bank. Some protesters have remained camped out in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the organizers said the “occupation” had grown from 4 people to about 50.
Other “occupation” protests are being planned for Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Boston, Phoenix, Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. The site occupytogether.org has been set up in hopes of coordinating the protests.
Although the New York Times described the protest as a “noble but fractured and airy movement of rightly frustrated young people” whose purpose was “virtually impossible to decipher,” the demonstration has attracted some prominent voices in the progressive and liberal community.
Journalist Chris Hedges described the protest as “really where the hope of America lies.”
“The real radicals have seized power,” he asserted, “and they are decimating all impediments to the creation of a neo-feudalistic corporate state, one in which there is a rapacious oligarchic class, a thin managerial elite, and two-thirds of this country live in conditions that increasingly push families to subsistence level.”
MIT professor Noam Chomsky also said he supports the protest.
“Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world),” he said. “And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore and Current TV host Keith Olbermann both separately lamented the lack of substantial news coverage of the event, questioning why same-sized or smaller tea party protests garnered more attention than “Occupy Wall Street.”
Even Stephen Colbert chimed in, wondering why his reporters couldn’t find the stereotypical “mindless hippie argle-bargle” in the protest.