They were dismissed as neo-hippies, painted as leaderless, angry without a stated cause, and clearly unemployed, as they seemingly spent their days “harassing” the employed workers of America’s great financial institutions. The media didn’t give them much thought, and honestly neither did I. (It’s New York, somewhere, someone is always protesting something.)
But then, before all the celebrities like Russell Simmons and Kanye West began to show up, and before slogans about the 99% were created, I saw a viral video of an unarmed woman being pepper-sprayed by the NYPD. Like many revolutions throughout history, it was the physical violence against the non-violent that made me, the uninvolved, get outraged, perk up and at least start figuring out what all this protesting was about.
The first thing, I learned: no way is this leaderless. There were committees to distribute supplies, a makeshift library, a PO Box, a newspaper, and a website being run by somebody. Just because the media hadn’t identified a leader, doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. I also learned that while the demands were many, including basics like jobs and healthcare, there was a common cause that had led 2000 people to plant themselves in a park, vowing to stay through a New York winter to have their voices heard.
What do they want? According to their website, “#OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations,” says the official website. “The movement… aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.”
In just over a month, Occupy Wall Street has gone from being a movement few took seriously to a force. It’s spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. I’ve seen powerful images of army personnel (in uniform) who support the movement. One held an upside down flag scrawled with anti-government rhetoric, another (also in uniform) confronted 20+ police officers at Occupy Times Square, scolding them for harassing the citizens that they were sworn to serve and protect. The movement has garnered the attention of our President and other national leaders, who have finally realized that Americans are angry and unwilling to accept the status quo.
How angry are you? If you’re not writing the checks that pay your bills, you’re one of the 99% that Occupy Wall Street, and its extensions, are protesting for. Are you willing to protest with them?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk