Occupy Wall Street is this year's Tea Party
The protesters are organized, lucid and motivated in their search for a political process that doesn't exclude them.
By David Weidner, MarketWatch
The revolution just might be televised, after all.
More than two weeks after a band of young people began camping out in the shadow of the New York Stock Exchange, the movement to remake America's inequitable financial system is growing.
It's been called the Woodstock of Wall Street, but that's hardly an apt comparison. The gathering at Max Yasgur's farm 42 years ago was built on a generation looking for peace, love, some drugs and acid rock. The kids today are looking for real, tangible change of the capitalist sort. They're organized, lucid and motivated.
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Actually, they have more in common with the tea-party movement than the hippie dream, with one key difference: They're smart enough to recognize the nation's problems aren't simply about taxes and the deficit.
They want jobs. They want the generation in power to acknowledge them. They want political change. They want responsibility in a culture that abdicates it. They want a decent future of opportunity.
If that isn't American, then what is?
Another key difference between today's kids and their hippie forefathers: They're willing to gut it out.
Not only is Occupy Wall Street showing no signs of dying out, but it's getting stronger. On Sunday, a night of rain dampened the crowd at Zuccotti Park, but then the sun broke through, and they were back at it: challenging police, marching and drawing attention to their cause.
They're wired and ready. They're using YouTube and blogs. A newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal, began publishing last week. They meet in the evenings in a "general assembly" to discuss tactics.
Bigger than it was 2 weeks ago
Moreover, there are signs the Left Coast wants to get into the action. On Sunday a group called Refund California announced a series of protests throughout Los Angeles. On Monday, a teach-in took place aimed at bringing awareness to how Wall Street has worsened California's budget problems.
On Tuesday, Refund California went to Orange County for a protest. On Wednesday, the group will target the home of a bank executive. And on Thursday a big bank in L.A. will be the next target. Protests in Chicago this weekend showed the message isn't lost in fly-over country.
This isn't just some anarchist or lefty agitating. Many of the protesters are furious with the Obama administration's kow-towing to Big Finance. They're critical of Federal Reserve policies. Refund California is aligned with 1,000 faith-based groups.
Protesters are admonished for displaying the U.S. flag incorrectly. These protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful. And, despite what you hear, there's been a lot of goodwill between the police and protesters. They're sharing coffee and doughnuts in the morning.
Meanwhile, another group, Occupy Los Angeles, is organizing its own protests. This movement, though small compared with the New York effort, is slowly gathering steam. Back East, Occupy Boston is gaining momentum. Protests in the financial center of Dewey Square took place Monday.
The persistence is paying off. The media are beginning to pay attention. Local papers in New York have been running more Occupy Wall Street stories. All of the major networks are covering the protests now.
There are many more reporters on the scene, and the coverage has moved from the police confrontations to what these thousands of protesters want.
The press seems confused. There were signs about Afghanistan, taxes, Wall Street greed, corporate responsibility and just about every pet cause out there. But what some decry as a lack of focus is really about them not getting it: This movement is about money. It's about wasting money. It's about greed for money guiding those in power. It's about the inequitable distribution of money.
Most of all, it's about process. In a "general assembly" meeting Saturday, Occupy Wall Street came up with its first official document. It is a powerful summation of grievances, not just of the young, but of many Americans: home foreclosures, workers rights, Internet privacy, health care and bailouts. Read the declaration of Occupy Wall Street .
"No true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power," the declaration states. "We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known."
The protesters urge others to join them in public spaces everywhere.
Occupy Wall Street is a bigger and more important movement than it was two weeks ago. As the country faces a year in which many of its major political offices could potentially shift hands, there finally seems to be a movement that reflects frustration with a system beholden to big financial interests.
Still, there's much work to do. The movement needs to sharpen its message. It needs visible and well-spoken leadership and people to become active politically. Some have argued that the protesters need more concrete ideas, such as financial-transaction taxes or Wall Street reforms. Blanket anti-corporate statements aren't actionable.
But for a generation accused of being lazy, unwilling to work and living under their parents' roofs for far too long, these kids have shown a hell of a lot of mettle so far. The odds are still long, but they've succeeded in the first step.
They've gotten our attention.
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