The non-violence resistance movement, dubbed Occupy Wall Street (OWS), started in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, located in the financial district on September 17th, 2011 and has since spread to different occupancies nation-wide. Through demonstrations and protests, supporters of all occupancy movements show direct opposition to the social and economic inequality that is being created and maintained by the government. Both the social and economic inequality are directly resulting from steadily increasing unemployment rates, corporate and Wall Street influence on the government, risky lending practices, as well as unjust government bail outs for the rich. The slogan “We are the 99%” has become highly popularized among supporters of the occupancy movement. This slogan is meant to express the disproportionate gap in the wealth distribution of the nation. The wealthiest individuals and the concentration of all national income are represented in the 1% and, hence, the rest of the individuals (lower class, middle class and even upper middle class) that are literally paying for the frivolous spending and irresponsible decisions of that small percentage are represented by the majority 99%. All the occupancies nation-wide have the same goals in common which include the production of more jobs, equal distribution of income, bank reform, as well as a decrease in corporation influence in the government. Until these goals are met, supporters will continue to express their outrage and frustration with the government and protesters will continue to voice their opinion and occupy public spaces. On the start of the OWS movement, as reported by the New York Times, Mayor Bloomberg, who is a part of the 1%, stated, “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it”
This statement was soon forgotten by Mayor Bloomberg 60 days thereafter when he ordered New York City police officers to evict all occupants of Zuccotti Park at 1 a.m. Within hours, hundreds of demonstrators were restrained and apprehended by the police. Public streets leading to Zuccotti Park were blocked off as well as air space to prevent media from obtaining footage of the raid via helicopter. The next day after the raid, more public streets were blocked off around the financial district. Police prohibited anyone that did not have employee identification or proof of official business to access any of these public streets. As stated by the New York Daily News, two weeks prior to the disbandment of OWS, the mayor of Oakland condoned the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades to disassemble Occupy Oakland. Several other occupancies underwent violent and forceful disbandment by their city police. Ironically, each mayor uses the same excuse of sanitation problems and health risk to defend their decisions. It did not take long for the media to report suggestions of criminal activity, such as groping, robbing, and fugitive hiding soon after the dismissal of the protestors. I believe the media’s negative images of the occupancies served as negative proproganda and played an influential role in redirecting the people’s opinion about the occupancies to that of opposition towards them.
I am in strong support of all occupancy movements. I believe the disbandment of the occupancies is a direct violation of the first amendment. We, the people, have a natural right for freedom of speech as well as a right to assemble in public places without posing a direct physical threat to anyone, as stated by our founding fathers. No one has the right to change or limit that to make it conducive and/or acquiescent to the demands of one individual or a minority group. All the mayors that executed these raids, as well as any individual that condoned these acts, were and are in direct violation of the natural rights of the citizens. Since when did it become unlawful to walk down public streets? There is not any written law or rule that states an individual cannot be in a park, at a certain time, to voice an opinion when it does not pose any threat. This government is not resembling a democracy to me anymore. First the government, puts the citizens in a debt that they never explained we were in, least of all headed in that direction. Then the government limits the amount of income that is to be given to the working class, the middle class, the people who really need it, which, in turn, limits the amount of resources and capital allocated to these groups . Next, these publicly elected officials continuously tax us without a proper representation, all to fund this top one percentile of individuals. Then, understandably so, people want to voice their opinion and assemble together to create a strong forefront. However, our legal system states that this is unlawful and creates a systematic takedown of all assembled groups, violating our first amendment. And the scary part is, as our rights are being violated and the frustration steadily building, government officials have blind eyes and deaf ears because no one is saying or doing anything to assist. This leaves me to ponder who will stand up for our natural/civil rights if they are being violated by the government? And to what extent and at who’s expense? So many questions are left unanswered by these events. But the most paralyzing unanswered question, in my opinion, is who is in control? Are the people still in control of the government? Or are the government now in control of the people?