As the Occupy Wall Street protest nears its third week this Saturday, demonstrators continue their marching, picketing, and numerous acts of civil disobedience.
The popular filmmaker Michael Moore was with a crowd of thousands at the protests on Wednesday night.
Some of the countless videos posted online after last Saturday’s attempted march on Manhattan’s Union Square show police attacking peaceful demonstrators and using pepper spray and mass arrests to try to squash the protests.
In one particularly frightening video, shown on some major television networks, several women are cordoned off into an orange holding pen as one white-shirted policeman walks over to them, sprays a can of mace into their faces and then makes a calm about-face and walks away as they fall, screaming, to the ground, writhing in pain.
Protesters numbered 5,000 on Saturday and the numbers grew even larger by the time the rally with Michael Moore took place Wednesday night.
A journalist arrested has told how he was thrown against a wall, handcuffed, and spent eight hours in a police cell, despite having a badge identifying him as a professional reporter.
John Farley, an editor for MetroFocus, public TV station WNET’s news magazine, was documenting last Saturday’s demonstration when he was roped into a large net and restrained with plastic zip-ties.
“Protesters were marching along the sidewalk in unison, chanting. There was no sense of chaos,” he wrote. “However, the stream of protesters did disrupt traffic. As more people spilled into the street, police demanded that they stay on the sidewalk. But as people seemed to be retreating from harm’s way, police began pushing the protesters. I saw police use large nets to corral people en masse. I watched as police pepper sprayed several young women in the face.
“When I saw the young women get pepper sprayed, I ran over to interview them. While holding a microphone and wearing a badge identifying myself as an employee of WNET – New York Public Media, I found myself suddenly roped into one of the large nets.”
While a majority of the protesters are under 30, among them are some older demonstrators, including seniors. They carry signs demanding curbs on Wall Street, demands for finance reform, job programs for youth, no cuts to Social Security, an end to the death penalty, and even generic posters like one for “Peace and Love.” The variety of slogans has been used by some commentators to write the protesters off as disgruntled youth with no particular focus, except, perhaps fighting with the police. (story continues after video)
Right-wing bloggers blame the demonstrators for the police attacks and like the crowd at the tea party Republican debates who clapped for the death penalty in Texas, they cheer on the cops and write things like, “Keep spraying those dirty hippies.”
The people in their 20’s who are occupying Wall Street may not come from large, recognizable organizations that we see at many other demonstrations. That doesn’t mean that they, or their cause, is “out of focus,” or somehow “illegitimate.”
People in their age group have had their futures already taken away from them by the very financiers they protest against. What does seem illegitimate or out of place to many is the questioning of their right to protest, not the protests themselves.
The Wall Street financiers are terribly afraid of the coming of a day when the majority of people in their 20s rise up against them.
Many of the youth out at these protests are disgusted with the status quo and many, if they could, would re-make our society to be more people-friendly. And, there is a lot that can stand some overhauling – health insurance companies, foreclosures on people’s homes, unemployment, militarism and war, a political system that allows corporations to purchase lawmakers, corporate greed, wealth gaps – to name only a few. The “Wall Street Occupation” reflects what is happening today – more and more young people stepping up to say they reject all of these bad things about our society and they want something better.
Youth taking to the streets to protest the deeds of this nation’s financiers constitutes a welcome addition to the big fightback going on in America today. Wall Street had better get used to it.
Photo: Making cardboard signs on the pavement of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, Sept. 26. Louis Lanzano/AP