The University of California, Davis, campus police chief has been placed on administrative leave after a video showing campus police pepper spraying seated protestors has gone viral. Protestors have called for the resignation of U.C., Davis chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, according to The New York Times. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Speaking at a rally Monday, Katehi apologized to the protestors. “I feel horrible for what happened on Friday,” she said.
Encampments of protestors in New York and Oakland, both part of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, were raided by police Monday and cleared of demonstrators, tents and garbage. Officials in both cities said the camps posed health and safety concerns for the protestors and nearby residents. Police cleared the Occupy Wall Street camp in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, birthplace of the Occupy movement, Monday. About 180 to 190 demonstrators in the park were arrested, according to The New York Times. At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the park needed to be cleared because “health and safety concerns had become intolerable.” Protestors have been camped out in the park for two months.
Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta was once again the scene of protests and arrests Saturday night as Occupy Atlanta demonstrators clashed with police. Nineteen protestors were arrested, many for refusing to stay on sidewalks and blocking city streets, after demonstrators began an impromptu march down Peachtree Street. Occupy Atlanta demonstrators vowed to once again camp out in Woodruff Park despite a warning from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed that anyone remaining in the park after it closed at 11 p.m. would be arrested. However, protestors began exiting the park shortly after the deadline as dozens of police officers on motorcycles and horses—some in riot gear, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution—encircled the park preparing to make arrests. A handful of protestors remained in the park and were arrested, a symbolic move by the protestors one Occupy Atlanta spokesperson told Atlanta’s WSB-TV.
The protests in Lower Manhattan have been going on for more than a month. Other protests have steadily built in recent weeks, with large numbers of people turning out in cities from Boston to Los Angeles. Though predominantly young, protesters include older and middle-aged people as well. Some have jobs, others are unemployed and they represent just about every race and ethnicity. The messages and wants of the protesters are just as varied.
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.