On Sept. 17, 2011, a small, semi-organized, loosely structured group began what would quickly become the largest national, non-violent protest on American soil in decades. The group set up camp in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, within New York’s financial district, and has grown exponentially since, with thousands of participants spanning “100 cities [across] the United States” and demonstrating in “over 1,500 cities globally” (Occupy Wall Street). Those who support or are active in the Occupy Wall Street resistance movement make up a leaderless, diverse group of people who believe that Wall Street, the heart of America’s financial center, is ultimately responsible for the economic collapse, the recession, and for widening the gap between the one percent of American’s who “have” and the 99 percent of Americans who “have not.” According to members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the wealthiest one percent of corporate America has attained or maintains its wealth with selfishness, corruption, greed and unfair privilege, while causing and allowing the rest of the country to flounder in economic despair. Thus, the non-violent, sit-in protests that have sprung up in pockets all over the world in support of this movement actively oppose and reject the “corporate greed, social inequality and the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations” that many believe have been perpetuated by the corruption and greed of corporate America’s top one percent (NY Times).
In essence, what the Occupy Wall Street movement seeks to expose and eradicate is the inequality of balance between those of us who have and those of us who have not. While most of us are desperately trying to keep our heads above water while the economy continues to tank, banks and other corporations are only profiting from the recession that 99 percent of us are experiencing, if not perpetuating it. My thesis, simply stated in the words of the 99 percent, is that the Occupy Wall Street movement is lifting the veil off of the harsh facts that many people are “getting kicked out of our homes,” forced “to choose between groceries and rent, “being denied quality medical care,” are “working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all” (We Are the 99 Percent) while banks and corporate executives continue to prosper at the loss of others.
Three pieces of evidence to support this claim can be found within the official literature of the Occupy Wall Street organization website, within video news reports that depict the scale and size of this movement (representing the masses it represents), and the hard statistical data that shows how the rich are becoming richer while the middle class is eradicated and the poor become poorer. One needn’t look further than the thousands of written accounts from ordinary citizens detailing personal stories of loss due to layoffs, foreclosures, and other instances where the corporations are literally stealing from those without to line their pockets further.
Several criticisms of this claim exist, primarily from conservative groups and wealthy citizens and corporations that seek to downplay the movement’s aims as a scapegoat for people’s troubles. Another criticism is the danger and damage the protestors are causing, such as violence (Dobnik) city complaints and increased spending to protect and clean up after all the protestors (Hoppin and Baxter). In rebuttal, I simply point toward the declaration of independence and other formative documents which state every American’s right to freedom, equality and opportunity (of which, the 99 percent are majorly lacking). It is not only our American right to have access to these things, but it is our right to participate in conversations about policy and take an active role in shaping them, especially in a democratic society where the majority is supposed to rule, not an elite few.
In conclusion, the events surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement are essential in several ways. To begin with, the majority of Americans are being kept down to struggle in an endless recession while banks and corporations continue to profit at others’ expense. The Occupy Wall Street movement is essential to not only exposing these circumstances but actively rejecting them and demanding policy reform in the interests of all Americans. Secondly, regardless of whether you identify with the elite one percent or the masses of struggling “99 percenters,” no one can deny protestors’ rights to take a stand and try to affect change. Our country was built out of resistance and our efforts to stand up to corruption, greed and oppression. Shouldn’t the future of our country be molded out of the same passionate, resounding calls to afford opportunity and equality to all? Without our ability to oppose and demand, America as we know it wouldn’t even exist, and we’d still be under British rule.
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