Demanding economic reform, hundreds “occupy” Wall Street

NEW YORK – More than 1,000 people, mostly young and college educated, came together Sept. 17 to occupy Wall Street.

They occupiers came from as far away as Wisconsin, Illinois and as close as New Jersey. But they all came to make a statement: They have lost faith in our political system, and although those interviewed said they would probably be worse off if a Republican were elected in 2012, they have very little hope that things will change for them or the average working person either way.

 “We need to get money out of politics, ending the corporate corruption going on” said Laura, from New Jersey.

Asked who were the people at the occupation, she said, “Most of the people here are very young; they’re the ones getting screwed by this.”

Referring to President Obama’s new jobs plan, she said, “The American Jobs Act … to be honest, I’ve stopped listening, because both parties have been bought by the corporations…If the Republicans win it will be scary, but I don’t hold out much hope for Obama until we get money out of politics.”

Laura’s comment about the two parties was prevalent among those interviewed. A couple who received their eviction notice the day of the demonstration/occupation. He was an adjunct for eleven years and had lost his job; she, a college graduate, earns $30,000 yearly working for corporate America. When they applied for food stamps, they were told the household income was $100 above the threshold. That’s pre tax income.

“I saw the thing on Facebook” said Vin, also at the rally. “Got invited by one of my friends, and I supported everything they said. I’m a student at St. Johns. I agree with everything. I’m here showing my support to send a message to Wall Street.”

Asked if people were demonstrating for jobs, Vin answered, “Yeah, yeah. I don’t have a job right now and can’t find one”.

“We have to tax the rich. I wish I had a bigger sign that said I’m with Warren Buffet; let’s tax the rich,” said Claudia, another demonstrator. “We have to get money back into the system. They’re not creating enough jobs, we need to put the American people back to work, we need to rebuild our infrastructure, we need to invest in the future. We have to stop the long term wars.” She argued Obama’s jobs plan is a good start, saying, “Yes, let’s do it. Unfortunately, the rationalism with which the president is trying to govern is not met with a congress capable of answering. He is confronted with a congress that is trying to thwart any initiative.”

In the crowd, there were groups sitting in circles holding teach ins.

Merissa, one of the demonstration’s organizers, summarized her role: “People are discontent, with capitalism, the society in which they live. There’s no democracy in their workplace, no democracy in their schools. We have to build a new social body, and that’s key for me as an organizer. I’m doing this because I’m tired of protesting, I’m tired of falling into these patterns that are demoralizing and disempowering. Our power comes from our collective spirit, to create a new world – together. It’s that collective spirit; it’s amazing to see here in the square tonight.”

“We can’t rely on politicians or established institutions to do the work for us. We have to build an independent social movement to address the problems ourselves and not go through policy changes,” she continued. “People will choose individually how to engage in politics. I’m more interested in building a grassroots movement” than engaging in elections. “You do it through unity and vision and a plurality of voices.”

“I’m not sure this is a movement,” one spectator said, “but I’m thinking these young people are speaking for many Americans.”



Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.