The Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York City has grown and now reaches from the Big Apple all the way to Maui and from London to Tokyo. The protests are taking place in big cities and small towns and everything in between — including Dayton.
What it is, what they want
Beginning Sept. 17, 2011, protesters responded to calls from Adbusters, a Canadian anti-capitalist magazine indirectly funded by George Soros, and gathered in Zuccotti Park in New York. They became known as the Occupy Wall Street movement. There is no leader; instead, decisions are made by a General Assembly. In an article for The Nation, Nathan Schneider describes the General Assembly as a “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist thought.” He compares it to assemblies like those in “Argentina, Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and so on.”
“The main goal of the movement is to make a fundamental change to the way our country is governed,” said Kim McCarthy Lunay, a Dayton Occupier. “The people’s vote no longer counts with our elected officials, and that must end.”
She said the movement is more about pointing out what the protesters think is corruption in Wall Street. They want banks to stop foreclosures and kicking people out of their homes. Their mission (as described on their Facebook page) is “[ending] corporate corruption of our governments and our lives.”
Some specific demands include overturning the Citizens United case that allowed corporations to donate money to political candidates as individuals. “Campaign finance reform is essential in order to remove the influence of lobbyists and the corporations they work for,” said Lunay. They also want term limits for Congressmen, who currently can hold office for as long as they can be re-elected.
Occupiers also want some restrictions on groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council that write legislation for industries and present it to politicians for voting. “This is going to be a long process, but one that I believe the people will eventually rise up for,” said Lunay.
The message of Occupy resonates with some members of the Fairmont community. “I think it’s great that they’re standing together for something they believe in,” said senior Hannah Kichline. “I really support the movement.”
Movement also takes root in Dayton
Occupy Dayton initially set up shop in Courthouse Square but was asked to move temporarily to Dave Hall Plaza for Dayton’s Tree Lighting Ceremony. They found out that they were not allowed back, and soon they were kicked out of Dave Hall Plaza. After a month of looking for a place to stay, they now have an office space at the former Third Baptist Church.
To make the protests go smoothly, the Occupiers form committees with names such as Food, Media and Direct Action to provide basic needs for the protesters. These groups are what keep Occupy running. “Because we are not a large group overall, people step up when things need doing that might or might not fall within their range of expertise,” said Lunay, a member of Dayton’s Direct Action Working Group. Anyone is free to join these groups as a way to get involved. Others are in charge of keeping a live video feed of the protest going. Occupy groups in various cities put their live video feed on occupystream.com.
More than 1,800 people around the world have already been arrested for the cause and others are willing, though most prefer to protest within the limits of the law. They choose to follow the rules of the park they are occupying. If that means leaving park grounds when it closes, they will. Instead, they do what they can to get these rules and laws changed.
“We are holding Non-Violent Training classes that Occupiers can attend in order to educate ourselves about what exactly are our rights are in any given situation and to help us keep a good relationship with our police force,” said Lunay. “I know we have people who are prepared to stand up for what is right, and if that involves getting arrested, then so be it.”
The main opposition to the Occupy Movement comes from conservatives. Their argument is that the people who have their houses foreclosed have only themselves to blame by taking on loans they can’t pay off.
Others believe that the Occupiers are going against the core ideals of America. “They’re protesting what America was founded on: capitalism,” said Fairmont senior Brandon Howard. “The people they’re protesting are the only people who are able to give jobs to those who need them.”
Some people wish the Occupiers would stop protesting and get busy looking for a job. “It seems like they’re wasting time protesting when they could be doing something productive, especially when they don’t have any real demands,” said senior Jeff Kremer.
Others are a little more direct in their opinion. “They need to go get jobs and help themselves,” said senior Caitlin Brown.
Still others support the Occupiers’ right to protest, but not necessarily the reason behind the protest. “I really respect that they have the opportunity to express their views,” said senior Melanie West. “But I think that their radical protesting methods may be ineffective.”