Week 8 — Occupy Wall Street: A Movement Mobilized

After another week of endless midterms and very limited time for thoughtful reflections on the latest social movements, I’m glad to have an opportunity to discuss a movement that peaked my interest from the beginning of its mobilization: Occupy Wall Street movement.

Wealth inequality in the world, let alone the United States, has been an ongoing issue for years and will likely be so for generations to come. Social movements protesting this type of inequality can be seen throughout the many layers of history. So, it is interesting to see how a movement like this picked up such incredible traction over the past few years. The OWS movement sets its sights on alleviating the harsh repercussions of growing forms of capitalism as well as the widening gap between the top 1% and remaining 99%. The physical manifestation of this movement is seen from protesters literally occupying Wall Street, corporate headquarters, and bank conglomerates (corporations that take the lion share of the U.S.’s national income).

Los Angeles Times capture of the OWS movement.


When we take a look at some historical precedents for protests against growing wealth inequality, the Poor People’s Campaign led by Martin Luther King Jr., comes to mind. What truly distinguishes these movements from one another even though they are essentially advocating for the same cause? Well for one, the PPC began in 1968, a time where social media was virtually nonexistent in any shape or form. Newspapers may have told a story, but often shed a negative light on the core goals of the PPC movement. The OWS movement had unbiased forms of media such as Facebook and Twitter to turn to in order to actively express the opinions of participant and observer. (wiki, Poor People’s Campaign) In addition, newer functions such as live streams and the vitality of the hashtag, #Occupy, wholly reflected the sense of exigency associated with the movement.

“We are the 99%.”

Its mobilization stemmed from a dedicated power structure that allowed the multifaceted nature of the movement to be realized in so many different regards. While this movement will likely provide precedence for future movements as a result of its success online and offline, there are certain notable critiques, that should be discussed. Colorlines.com examines the possible lack of diversity in the movement: many marchers seemed to be white males taking a stance for their own sense of inequality experienced. Referencing PPC, a movement where people of color were really the main proponents for shifting corporate influence away from politics, I feel that the inclusion of marginalized communities is imperative to the continuation of the movement.

While it is true that we operate in an economy where banks and national corporations are at the center of the financial cycle, their dissolution within society does not seem like a plausible solution. If economic and political policies can be adjusted to equally redistribute the wealth, we may face a smaller income gap, but decreased efficiency. Learning about how this works just comes from social and political awareness, which can luckily take place conveniently, online.

Zlutnick, David, Rinku Sen, Yvonne Yen Liu. “Where’s the Color in the Occupy Movement? Wherever We Put It.” Colorlines, May 1, 2012. http://www.colorlines.com/articles/wheres-color-occupy-movement-wherever-we-put-it