Now into its third week, the Occupy Wall Street movement is still attacked by critics and dismissed by many, despite its important message and growing support. People, particularly those in the top 1 percent of the tax bracket, have been critical of the movement’s apparent lack of organization and failure to create a concrete list of demands. But these criticisms are ignorant and presumptuous.
The movement isn’t going for simple solutions because the country is facing a complex problem. They are trying to draw attention and increase political discussion regarding the plight of the 99 percent.
The protesters are well organized, considering the campaign is international in scope. In the New York City protests, for example, activists have set up multiple committees to spread the message and address key goals.
Every day there is a general assembly, where protestors plan their next move and help focus the groups’ ideas. To organize the different groups around the country, an active social networking group is hard at work, using Twitter hashtags, sharing videos and setting up websites to explain what the movement is about.
And it is about something. The protesters have embraced the motto: “We are the 99 percent,” a unifying call to attention that aside from the top 1 percent of the population, the entire country was hurt by and still suffers from the recession.
Occupy Wall Street and its associated movements are protesting against the low taxes on the rich compared to the rest of the population and cuts to public education. There isn’t a list of people to elect, or a list of anti- or pro-government demands and there doesn’t need to be one.
The protests ask: How can those who are deeply involved in Wall Street and who pump large amounts of money into Washington, D.C., be allowed to dictate the action while jobs and important social programs suffer?
That’s what is most important to college students. Continued education cuts forced many public universities to raise tuition. The student protests in 2009 regarding rising costs were an early sign of discontent.
Many of the stories on the “We are the 99 percent” Occupy Wall Street website deal with students struggling to afford college or who are in heavy debt with no job opportunities upon graduation.
What’s more, the movement, unlike many of its contemporary protests, is organized in a way that gives it a strong chance to get its message out to voters and lawmakers.
The methods, borrowed from the revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt in the spring, are forms of non-violent protest. Activists in New York, Los Angeles and other cities actively make sure others do not grow aggressive toward the police, so as to not face any police force or arrests, though that tactic hasn’t exactly worked.
The framing message — an all-inclusive, nonpartisan movement for the people against corporate influence in politics — allows for the Occupy Wall Street movement to draw in people of any age and political affiliation.
Students are playing a major role in the protests, but everyone from World War II veterans to former Wall Street workers have joined. It’s this kind of strategy of gathering the masses that helped past protesters, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., succeed.
And maybe this is what the country needs. Not a violent revolution, not a regime change, but a social justice campaign that can get people involved with American politics again.
This year people, especially those our own age, are showing they can make a difference by voicing their opinions.
At this point, it’s not clear whether the Occupy Wall Street movement will bring about monumental change, but it needs time. What is clear is the movement is growing, and its message is universal.
Occupy Wall Street begat Occupy Los Angeles and other solidarity movements, all with the same goal of an honest democratic process and a focus on things that matter, such as education. Is there really anything bad about that?
It’s time to occupy.
Nicholas Slayton is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism.