There is an age old saying in the streets of NYC. "Cash rules everthing around me, get the money, dolla dolla bill y'all."
And it is the money and the power that protesters are up against as many gather today on Wall Street to mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a city where cash literally rules everything, especially in lower Manhattan, the heart of the financial district and the home to Wall Street, will a grassroots, ragtag, populist movement be able to jolt NYC's banking empire?
For occupiers, this occasion has little to do with reminiscing. Occupy Wall Street organizers have been dilligently planning for what they call, "Phase II," the next chapter in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Bringing light to corporate greed, income equality, and creating a legitimate uprising against debtor culture are their key objectives. But will Monday's public protests help or harm their cause?
Whatever your thoughts about Occupy Wall Street, protesters who took to New York City's Zuccotti Park one year ago, altered economic politics moving the conversation from the debt crisis fallout to the colossal crevice between the 1% and everyone else.
A leader-FULL movement representing the other 99%, Occupy Wall Street has planned three days of activities culminating in S17, the date when occupiers first converged on Wall Street one year ago. What is different today is that organizers have created educational opportunities, alerting protesters of their rights and how to interact with police. After all of the challenges the Occupy movement has faced, eviction from Zucotti Park, the collapse of many other demonstrations inspired by Wall Street and held all over ther world, it seems now Occupy organizers are being much more strategic about evasion and getting their message out.
And what exactly is that message? The primary criticism of Occupy has been, what exactly is the point of the protests? What is it the movement ultimately seeks to achieve? Everyone from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to rapper Jay-Z have questioned the motives behind the occupiers. A press release posted by backing organization The New York General Assembly notes three key areas of emphasis: education (Saturday, S15), celebration (Sunday, S16) and resistance to economic injustice (Monday, S17). Yet, a call and an email by this reporter to the Occupy Wall Street PR team for further clarification went unreturned.
Using the motto, "All Roads Lead to Wall Street," occupiers are placing all their chips on Monday's resistance portion of the program. Starting at 7 a.m., protesters will build a "People's Wall" around Wall Street. Intended to be a non-violent sit-in, the wall is also connected to another planned demonstration, "99 Revolutions" a mobile protest meant to intersect with other protests happening in the financial district by reversing traffic flow in the streets. Finally, a Storm Wall Street effort will get underway highligihting the areas where occupiers are looking for environmental reforms from the financial sector and an end to corporate domination of the planet.
Americans have no more fundamental right, than that of free speech and civil disobedience. It is why Occupy-affinity groups like Occupy Catholics have emerged to support the OWS goals of debt resistance, elimination of income inequality and access to good paying jobs for all Americans. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Occupy Catholics is the first progressive Catholic movement to emerge from a popular movement. Other groups include Occupy Faith and Occupy Women.
Not only is Occupy 2.0 not operating in isolation, it appears Occupy Wall Street is more organized than ever. There are numerous Facebook event pages, blogs with Occupy resources, live streams, hashtags and more. Still, early reporting from most media outlets, including The Seattle Times, reveals many believe Phase 2 will be a series of flash-in-the-pan rallies with little, if any, impact.
Americans need to look no further than the Tea Party to see how people-driven movements have the power to change the establishment. Tea Partiers have influenced every area of 2012 electoral politics, all the way up to the GOP vice presidential selection. Yet, Tea Party activists were never subjected to the same kinds of force and police intervention as those participating in Occupy. As of Saturday night, police were rounding up protesters by the dozens.
This much is certain, life in lower Manhattan will get hectic tomorrow. What is less clear is with larger numbers, better organization and a clearer mission, will year two of Occupy Wall Street be enough to reform the cash-rules-all whims of Wall Street, or will chaos and confusion keep the revoloution in check?
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