Flash Mob or Tipping Point? What Do You Think of the Expansion of the Occupy Wall Street Ranks?

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October 10, 2011; Source: Reuters | Eighteen days ago, 10 or so young people set up a protest in a tiny private park around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange. The demo was brazenly, and somewhat laughably, called “Occupy Wall Street.”

No one is laughing now. In New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, and now dozens of other cities across the nation, small groups of people are assembling in downtown parks. In recent days we have seen unions and advocacy groups joining the ranks of the encampments around the country. As the Occupy movement has held on, it has organically attracted people concerned about foreclosures, healthcare, unemployment, and other related issues, prompting some to complain about the lack of a cohesive message.

In New York, protester Larry Hales addressed this issue in an interview with Reuters: “One criticism of us has been that our demands are not clear, but I think for most people, the message of why Wall Street is the target is very clear,” he said. “It’s the banking capital of the world.” For now, that seems to be enough of a message to fuel the expansion of a movement that has captured the imagination of young people to an extent not seen since Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign.

Beyond the nascent Occupy movement, we have seen a spate of comments from some elites on the lack of balance in our financial and tax systems—most recently from the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

As Occupy Wall Street prepares to enter its fourth week on the ground in New York, NPQ would love to hear your thoughts about this new protest model and how you see it fitting into this economic and social moment.—Ruth McCambridge

  • kg

    I think they are fools, frankly. I work next to the park where they demonstrate — it looks like a homeless encampment. It is totally unclear what they want, what they are for, what they are against — everything is vague.

    They marched on 1 Police Plaza — and demonstrated at the wrong building (it’s hard to miss an NYPD Precinct house!).

    All they are doing is keeping the “little” people from using the park, (real “Wall Streeters” work far from the park) closing down the farmers’ market in the park (hurting innocent farmers), dressing up (today) in skeleton costumes, and banging on drums. They look confused, grubby and half-stoned.

    None of them seem articulate or even aware that there is a cause — if there is one. It all looks like a very dirty and rather dreary slumber party.

  • Aaron Lester

    Media like to see the specific demands; the soundbites, so that their stories are easier to write. This probably kept the protests in a “brown out” early on. Now, as demos spread, and groups like labor join, Occupy can’t be ignored. The movement should take a cue from the 08 Obama campaign and remain somewhat of a blank slate. Let the disaffected among us, the other 99% as they say, cast their hope on the movement. Don’t narrow the focus, don’t alienate. Don’t let the tea party be the only activists to tap into economic insecurity.

  • Larry Kaplan

    Too early to tell—could go either way. Ask me in three months.

  • DK

    What do they hope to accomplish? Even the “organizers” don’t know what they are about. It is easy to point fingers, but not so easy to offer wise, balanced solutions.

    Problems definitely exist in our country many of them caused by greed. But corporations and banks and Wall Street are not the only greedy ones out there. Individuals who wanted to get rich quick by flipping houses, families who lived beyond their means, politicians who dole out government programs to keep their constituents happy. We’re all to blame and we all will be suffering until we wake up and start taking personal responsibility for ourselves and the needy in our own communities.

    True charity begins at home, not from Washington, DC.

  • William Carbone

    This is probably a premeditated and contrived series of events by a political party joined at the hip by certain media.
    Glenn Beck previously had predicted such moronic events would take place.

  • Karen Garber

    I would like to think that these demonstrations reflect the participants’ recognition of our rights to free speech and assembly, and that there is a message going forth that clearly states there is a difference between democracy and capitalism without accountability.
    Perhaps that is just the message I would like to see advanced.

  • H.Laird

    A great comparison to this are the public demonstrations that are happening in Israel right now… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Israeli_social_justice_protests
    Who knows what could come of it in North America..

  • Poppa Joe

    This is a spontaneous

  • Diane Masseth-Jones

    As a protestor in the past, supporting Equal Rights Amendments (ERA) and the Vietnam War (lost a brother in the war) protest marches and sit-ins made an impact, change our social fabric and demonstrated the true spirit of what it means to live in a democracy. I feel that this movement is sparking a rejuvanation of advocacy that is sending strong but personal stories that need to be addressed. The media is a problem as it is bought and paid for by corporations. It is a form of entertainment and no longer an objective viewpoint of reality. Carpe Diem!

  • K Snow

    We live in California. I am longtime in NPO/NGO field. My husband is a physician and researcher. We sent him to NY last weekend for the express purpose of seeing with his own eyes what’s going on. Last night we had a dozen people at our house to share his photos and experiences. All of us are progressives looking for a way to get active in a meaningful way.OWS offers a vision of how to do that: be together, stand up, say what you feel. Seeing and hearing what’s going on in NY is the most hopeful thing since Obama’s swearing-in. Real people, who represent VERY DIVERSE parts of the US–young, old, white, black, veterans, middleclass, labor folks, lawyers, doctors, professors (all people my husband met and interacted with)– are using real organizing tools (from signage to livestream to concensus building) to build a movement. We’re not interested in waiting to find out–we’re ready to act.

  • Drr

    It is a national catharsis over fear and a lack of empowerment. Catharsis is great, up to a point. I suspect something bad will eventually happen so I worry about the future. A “movement”: or non-violent mob is romantic until it begins to implode.

  • myfriendSteve

    I think they are fools, as evidenced by their own statements and behavior. Every single person from this mob that I have seen interviewed, has a different complaint, a different agenda, a different reason for wanting to be a part of the mob. In my opinion this has a negative impact on addressing the social problems of our day. Clean up, get educated, unite with like thinkers, present an intelligent, honest, balanced plan and you might get some respect. Like this you come off as dirty, whining, welfare babies crying gimme, gimme, gimme. Leaders present a vision for others to follow – these slobs offer nothing. Do something with your life, convince me you have a better plan. Mob rule is never a better solution.

  • Ann W.

    The protestors are “useful idiots”, pawns of elitist intellectuals and labor union leadership whose goal it is to topple Capitalism in favor of a Socialist system. This is not a grassroots uprising. It has been meticulously planned and geneously funded by those who have an interest in creating a system that offers them more power, control and wealth. If successful, it will result in a nonprofit sector with a reach and scope limited to government contacts and fee for service. Philanthropy and the freedom it brings to nonprofits to adapt to community needs and market demands will be much more limited.

  • Lorna

    While to some extent I think almost all of us over the age of 25 bear some responsibility for the financial mess we are in (having extended our selves with credit far beyond what we could reasonably pay for), I lay the greatest portion of the issue squarely at the feet of those who promoted untenable housing loans and credit to those who clearly were not in a position to pay, and enticed the rest of us through sophisticated advertising to believe we could ‘have it all’. Let’s hear it for those who are willing to stand up in the face of those who shammed and scammed and, hopefully, bring a new order to our country’s and the world’s financial health.

  • Irene F

    These protestors are reflecting what the general public feels about the current times and how we got hear. Wall Street and the greed for profits started this economic downturn. The divide been the “haves” and “havenots” is much more defined than in the past. The frustration from lack of accountability is building and this is protest movement is a result. I can only see this movement growing….

  • Judith Patrick

    We have seen world-wide protests recently … against political repression and against economic injustice. It was just a matter of time before the USA experienced its share of visible unrest. While inexperienced in the art of forming or verbalizing a clear objective, these young protestors did accomplish one goal … that of giving the collective finger to an image of political favoritism and indifference to the plight of the middle class. I don’t see this as a tipping point, but rather as a testing of the tipping point.

    discontent over racial injustice did not emerge in the 1960s. It existed throughout the history of the USA. However, in the 1960s,those of us who marched did so because we FELT UNIFIED. We had great leaders in the movement who came forward and could verbalize the impact of the issue and the outcome we envisioned. However, the roots of the movement began way back in the 1920s … maybe back in the 1880s when former slaves began to believe that they might actually experience freedome someday.

    Never ignore small actions born of discontent. In the past twenty years we have seen farmers forced to sell their farms to big corporations and big-box stores force the small “mom-and-pop” shops close their doors. In the past three years we have seen families lose their homes to foreclosure and workers become unemployed. All along we have seen individuals and small groups publicly express their unrest with these issues … sometimes even violently. What has been missing is a highly visible and profoundly political target that cohesivly is representative of multiple levels of discontent.

    Our political representatives bailed out Wall Street, or so the story goes. Truth be told, not every business represented on the stock market received a bail-out. However, Wall Street currently is representative of both the state of our economy and the state of our political system, and as such it is an almost perfect target for a yet unspoken objective to repair both.

    The tipping point has not yet been reached. No great leader has arisen, and a cohesive goal has not been formed. However, as a child of the 1950s, I cannot bring myself to ignore these small protests which are spreading. These are not born of flash-mob mentality. these are tests … pushing and shoving their way into the public view … forcing evryone to face a growing concern.

  • International Profes

    This is one of those easy questions that are often offered up w/o much thought: Okay for elementary school to get the children used to questions.
    Its too early to see clearly what most likely will happen, no matter whether one believes, however tentatively or apoplectically one reacts to this premature question that will be asked by the minute, in our 24/7 media cycle.

  • kimberlay pearce

    From the the west coast of Canada: you voted for Obama in large measure because he tapped into a profound longing in the American people for something better – not just economic life but in civic life. You’ve awakened to the fact that no one person can make the changes and so I do believe that this is more than a flash crowd.

  • Pat R

    It’s a hopeful start. Something basic has to change in this country. The huge gap between the have and have nots, the poverty, lack of healthcare – it’s unjustifiable in America.

    But what’s really interesting is the anger and condescension in some of the comments. Idiots? Morons? Really?

  • Reverand Joe

    This is not a Simply a protest. The occupation is Average Americans, the backbone of this country and economy finally waking up, turning off the TV and the media’s lies, getting off the couch and participation in democracy. As long as wall street continues to buy our government the occupation must continue. Democracy end when the occupation ends. Then we will go back to worshiping the golden rule.

  • Jane

    Well said Joe. I turned off my tv several years ago and haven’t regretted it yet. For many years I lived by the rule “Don’t let them into your house through the tv if you wouldn’t let them in through the front door”. The list kept getting smaller until I finally locked the door and threw away the key.

  • George Costanza

    [quote name=”Jane”]I turned off my tv several years ago and haven’t regretted it yet. [/quote]
    Hope you didn’t turn it off before Seinfeld! “We’re living in a society!”

  • Kathleen D

    I hope it’s a tipping point. I was amazed that the mainstream media didn’t even pick up the story until about 2 weeks in. I kept seeing video on Facebook, but it was as if media didn’t want to let anyone know that it was happening. Now with social media, it’s harder to supress information–whether you’re in Tunesia or NYC.

  • Tom Scott

    I really hope that this is a tipping point. It has been so frustrating that the folks that have caused so much pain around the world have not been held accountable, and on top of that, have continued to be paid millions while most of us have had to cut back. For those that are concerned about the goals of the protesters, go to http://coupmedia.org/occupy-vote.html and vote on what you think the goals should and should not be.

  • Run LMC

    It doesn’t give me much hope that anything will change. Seems like the flip side of the angry tea partiers – vague, inarticulate and unfocused demands that someone do SOMETHING about injustice. There is plenty to be upset about in terms of the inequities in our policital and economic systems. But this protest doesn’t seem to know where to start or what to offer as a solution. How will this movement effect the insulated super-rich? It won’t.

  • Michael Donahue

    Occupy Wall Street = Healthy!!

  • jdzlindeed

    Used to be an old saying: “When it rains on white people, black folk drown.” Well, we’re ALL drowning now, and I am glad that someone is finally standing up against this tsunami of greed and entitlement that is causing everyone from TeaParty-ers to baby-mammas to act out in various and sundry ways. Our way of life is at stake.

  • JJ

    Non-violent protest against injustice is always a good idea. I just wish the protesters would organize themselves better. They are doing little to detract from the legitimacy of the oppressors.
    Please protesters, make some real, organized demands and act in a way that makes it necessary for them to be met! You can do it!!!