It almost looks like Wall Street is twinned with Tahrir Square. Well maybe not. Not yet anyway. But it was remarked on all through the summer in a number of places that if the level of American debt was as egregious as stated, if the middle classes were being so very squeezed, if the young could not bear having the debt dumped on to them, and if there was so much unemployment, where was the protest?
Finally it has arrived. Who said young people weren’t interested in politics? And it’s big. And it’s gaining in size and organisation, albeit from a very small start. Three weeks ago a friend of the blog, who was working in Washington, was in Wall Street and remarked to me about this small, slightly irritating student type protest that cluttered up the street a bit. To my shame I did not pick up on the movement of the year!
It certainly was a little amateurish, but none the worse for that. People seemed to be enjoying themselves in the late warm weather. Teachers, unemployed graduates, and veterans abandoned by their erstwhile masters, joined in. One group of elderly ladies in identical yellow ponchos and sensible shoes marched to protest their dissatisfaction with 1% taking from the 99% -the of the rest of us.
There were even echoes of the glory days of the late 60’s with a short lived but entertaining topless demonstration which I show here simply for erudicion you understand.
La liberte guidant le peuble
Then, suddenly, matters took a dark turn. On the eighth day the Police, as Police in America have a nasty habit of doing, overreacted. Two officers bravely marched up to an inoffensive group of girls and pepper sprayed them at point blank range. Here then was the first shot in what is becoming the most interesting movement in decades. The Police, as always, were behind the curve on the technology. Used to the state filming the peasants, they were entirely wrong footed as the demonstration filmed the state. It is clear they do not like this. Video of the incident went viral through Youtube. You could smell the thing change in an instant. A whiff of 1968 is in the air again.
In that moment the authorities lost control. It catapulted out of their hands. Copy protests are now up nd running in Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago. The authorities are desperate to downplay it, and if you only get your news from the mainstream TV or newsprint, you’d be forgiven for noteven knowing it was there. But stunningly designed, edgy and really clever artwork combined with superb web coverage, is showing that this idea of the dispossessed 99% has found it’s moment and finally getting organised. Check out Occupywallstreet – its well put together. This lot are digging in for the long term and a silly student march and shouting match has turned into a movement. From being barely a protest, it is now a guttural welling up, a rising of dissent by the dispossessed and disenfranchised? A perfect storm of indignation has turned Occupy Wall Street into the number one flashpoint for the disgust and frustration of the ordinary American with Big Government and Big Business dumping all the pain down on them.
Historically the authorities do not allow protests in America to remain peaceful. Her history is littered with confrontational discontent.
I am old enough to remember the chaos of the long hot summers, and of Paris in 68. The whiff of political cordite is hanging in the air.
Are these the first movements in the fall of the Fourth Republic?
I have a post “Occupy Wall Street Actions Spread Worldwide ” posted Staurday which has a map and linkinks to sites which can show you how fast this idea and movement is going round the world.
Copyright David Macadam 2011