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'Occupy Wall Street' Becomes Nationwide Movement

Subheading: 
Young protesters drowning in student loan debt want to ignite America’s autumn revolt
Article Body: 

Remember the Arab Spring, and how protesters demanding democratic rights took to social media to begin a massive, widespread protest throughout the Middle East? It didn’t happen overnight but most of those civilian led demonstrations resulted in the fall of Egypt’s regime, which had been ruled by Muhammad Mubarak after decades of dictatorship, the overthrow of the government in Tunisia, as well as widespread uprising in countless others Middle Eastern countries. The same thing appears to be happening in the U.S. Dubbed “America’s Autumn Movement” by many social media users, the official protest began on September 17th in lower Manhattan’s financial district. The hashtag on Twitter was initially #OccupyWallStreet, named after the group that was funded by AdBusters (although they insist that this is a “people owned movement”). It soon became #TakeWallStreet, however. The mission on the group’s website states:

On the 17th of September, we want to see 20,000 people to flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.

Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants.

When reporters ask who leads the group, the response is always the same: “It is a leaderless movement.  We are all leaders.”

The website for this movement reiterates that point, stating:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.

The original call for this occupation was published by Adbusters in July; since then, many individuals across the country have stepped up to organize this event, such as the people of the NYC General Assembly and US Day of Rage. There'll also be similar occupations in the near future such as October2011 in Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C.

When the protest began on September 17th over 1,000 protesters descended on New York City’s Wall Street.  Many protesters are young and drowning in student loan debt, as noted in signs such as these that were collected by documentary filmmaker Dustin Slaughter. 32, from Philadelphia:

Similarly, there were tweets about student loan debt and other forms of debt. For instance, a person with the Twitter handle of @lecreative retweeted the following comment:

RT @matthewstoller: The animating force behind the people here. Debt. #OccupyWallStreet #gfc2.

The yfrog image was the following:

Slaughter was asked if he was there because of the student loan debt he owes.  He said in an Loop 21 interview via email: “[It’s] partly because of crushing student loan debt, but more so to help give voice to history unfolding in Lower Manhattan.” Slaughter has been laid off twice in the past year, and like many of the other protesters, he is young and educated, indebted and unemployed.

When Saturday’s protest kicked off at 9 A.M., it was peaceful and police officers seemed to be, overall, respectful of the protesters. Things, however, took a turn for the worse hours later For instance, a police officer by the name of Anthony Bologna was revealed by the group, Anonymous, for being the one responsible for macing women directly in their faces. The women were kettled, which is a form of containment or corralling (in this case, they used orange-colored fencing). There are also images of police officers grabbing women by their hair, shoving men down into the pavement with their knees. In other instances, there are pictures of men and women with bloodied faces (images below). On September 26th, Occupy Wall Street condemned the released information about Bologna.

These images of arrests and police brutality have spread like wildfire across social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. In response to these images, one woman said mournfully, “Our children are being brutalized for telling the truth . . . their future is fu*ked and they know it. Welcome to police state, USA.”

In a poignant Facebook note by Erin Leidy, 32, who traveled from Ithaca, NY to the protest in lower Manhattan, she wrote about the harrowing experience of those who were arrested:

Many people were badly hurt. One young man was kept in the back of a police van handcuffed to the wall with a head injury. Bleeding and nodding in and out of consciousness as they drove around for about an hour and a half. Somebody handcuffed across [sic] from him was able to get his phone from his back pocket and text the medic team from behind his back.

Perhaps the outrage from seeing what NYPD police officers did to protesters this past weekend has sparked the spreading of the movement across the nation. It is hard to speculate, but the occupy movement is popping up in cities across the nation. There is also a page called OccupyTogether.org, and it contains countless cities across the U.S. where people are organizing similar protests.

Renowned intellectual and activist, Dr. Noam Chomsky, has come out in full support of the movement. He decried the “gangsterism on Wall Street,” adding, “The courageous and honorable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.” Roseanne Barr was at the protest when it was initially launched, and rapper Lupe Fiasco has come out in full support on Twitter and at recent concerts.

Why are these people getting involved? As Slaughter explained, “This is really the only recourse we have left. Our government has been usurped by wasteful, corrupt and short-sighted powerful interests who in no way have the best interests of the working class and poor.”

You can watch the protest live on #OccupyWallStreet Livestream.

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Getty Images
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Politics & Money
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Hashtags: 
#OccupyWallStreet
#TakeWallStreet
Author: 
C. Cryn Johannsen
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