Is Occupy Wall Street Really the 99% ?
The Occupy Wall Street movement started up much like many other social movements in this era: through social media. Although the website created supporting the Occupy movement emerged on July 14th, 2011 and officially began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square located in New York (according to OccupyWallSt.org), Occupy Wall Street only began to receive considerable media attention on September 24th, 2011 after a video showing a group of nonviolent female protesters being pepper-sprayed went viral and was later broadcasted on TV networks as well (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ05rWx1pig). This flare of attention is comparable to how the Black Lives Matter movement blew up after the Charlie Brown shooting in Ferguson. Similar to the BLM movement, Occupy Wall Street expanded naturally as more and more people became socially aware of the growing increase in income inequality not only within the United States but all around the world. The issue is more notable and recognized than ever before. The distinctions between the 1% and the 99% are real and thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, this contrast is being brought up not only in everyday conversation but also in political and economic discussions.
So why is it that the same issues revolving income inequality and uneven wealth distribution that loomed over the citizens of the United States (and the rest of the world) since the beginning of the movement in 2011 are still extremely prevalent today? The Occupy Wall Street activists called themselves “the 99%”, but how much of the actual 99% is covered in the scope of their movement? Most activists were white, middle-class individuals. Where were all the people of color, the members of the LGBTQ community, and those individuals who are so poor that they can’t even afford a home and live on the streets? The real 99% encompasses everyone, but the movement itself failed to do so.
Occupy Wall Street protests grew far past the streets of New York with movements arriving in cities such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Baltimore, and Atlanta. Although the Occupy protesters in New York have managed to ally themselves with immigrant-rights groups in a joint effort to spread the word, other activists groups such as the ones in Los Angeles had trouble representing every aspect of the 99%. Some elements of the movement such as Occupy L.A. were so unorganized due to lack of leadership that marches for immigrant rights would occur in the morning, while other demonstrations led by Occupy L.A. advocates were held in the afternoon. These groups could have taken advantage of the fact that they were arguing for the same thing, a representation that encompassed the entire 99% of the population, but they didn’t. These small faults make for weak social movements that struggle to make any actual lasting impact, just as Occupy Wall Street struggled to provoke any real change.
Costanza-Chock, Sasha. “Mic Check! Media Cultures and the Occupy Movement.” Social Movement Studies 11, no. 3–4 (August 1, 2012): 375–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2012.710746
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