Adbusters, the nonprofit, anti-consumerist organization, made the first call for an occupation of Wall Street back in July when they posted an article on their website titled “#OCCUPYWALLSTREET.” The rallying cry proposed a massive occupation of Wall Street—some 20,000 individuals—a “fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain.” The group declared: “It’s time for democracy not corporatocracy.”
Adbusters latched on to the idea of an American Tahrir, also adopting the concept of new media protest at the genesis of the movement, even opting to include Twitter’s now-famous hashtag in its branding campaign.
Two months later, the protest came to fruition. A hallmark of leftist activism is the amalgam of diverse movements present at protests. Alexa O’Brien, a spokesperson for US Day of Rage, one of the groups participating in the protest, says they are focused on reinforcing the First Amendment: the rights to peaceably assemble and to free speech on public sidewalks.
Other protesters carried signs in solidarity with Troy Davis, while another group, the Platypus Affiliated Society, explained that it’s an educational group focused on problems and tasks inherited from the old left. But all parties agreed that Wall Street, and particularly the class divide, are bad for America.
“Corporate greed is bankrupting America,” says Chris Priest, a representative from US Uncut. “Wall Street is the pinnacle of corporate greed that bankrupted the country, and is imposing severe cuts on the middle and working class. They’ve seen no consequence for the financial depression they caused.”
A protester named Larry says that he joined the movement to protest the pitiful conditions of workers, particularly black and Hispanic employees. He fears the budget cutbacks will disproportionately affect the poor majority. “Wall Street makes its money off of exploitation,” he says. “We’ve sacrificed enough. That’s how they’ve got their billions.”
Spurring a Tahrir or Spanish revolution was an incredibly lofty goal, and all told, about a thousand protesters made it down to Wall Street. It seems some element—some unseen ingredient—is missing from America’s climate to spur the great cultural revolution seen in the Arab world. Of course, everyone has a different diagnosis for why the anti-establishment mass protests haven’t hit America’s shores yet.
Austin Mackell, an independent journalist stationed in Egypt, explains that the Arab Spring was a mixture of urban youth and traditional industrial activism. “Many credit the general strike that took place in the last few days before Mubarak’s ouster as critical in amping up the pressure on him.” Basically, he explains, a country needs the newer, sexier image of a young revolution, but it also needs the basic tools of organized, older labor to keep things focused.