Demonstrations that began in the financial district of Lower Manhattan are spreading to cities across the United States, and now Ireland, fueled in large part by social media and the Internet. Collectively known as Occupy Wall Street, the protests are a response to what protestors view as income inequality and “greed and corruption” among the nation’s richest one percent, according to a website loosely affiliated with the movement. Protestors call themselves the “99 percent.”
Initially ignored by major news outlets (NPR, for example, declined to cover the protests their first week), the protests have grown through word-of-mouth on the Internet and through social media such as Twitter. Media have criticized the protests for lacking clear goals.
“We went from media ignoring us to controlling the news cycle. It’s important to celebrate victories 4 morale & this change is a Victory,” wrote OpWallStreet on Twitter.
In a nationally televised press conference on October 6, President Barack Obama said the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are a product of “broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”
Largely viewed as a reaction by the left, prominent conservative activists have responded to the protests with their own “We are the 53 percent” website, referring to the number of Americans they claim pay income taxes. The assumption is that the protestors on Wall Street are part of the 46 percent who do not pay income taxes and that the protestors have failed to take personal responsibility for their economic plight.
But as The Washington Post points out, this is a strange position for conservatives to take as it flies in the face of decades of conservative tax policy aimed at reducing or eliminating Americans’ tax responsibility. In fact, The Post says, tax cuts put in place by both Republican presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan lowered the tax liability for income levels across the board, not just for the wealthy.
Despite the criticism from the right, the protests have spread to cities across the country. Demonstrations have popped up in Atlanta, San Francisco and other cities. English language Al Jazeera features a map of all the demonstrations. Protests in Boston lead to the largest mass arrest in that city since the Vietnam War. Police arrested veterans and others after the protestors refused to move from a series of parks known as the Rose Kennedy Greenway, according to The Boston Globe.
As the protests grow in the United States, similar demonstrations have begun in Ireland, according to The Irish Times. Calling themselves Occupy Dame Street, the protestors are camped out in front of the Central Bank of Ireland.
The Huffington Post also notes that in the United States, Columbus Day — a national holiday — saw the average age of the protestors in Manhattan drop as protesting parents brought their children with them to the site of the demonstrations.