For the past two weeks, protesters have carried out an occupation of Wall Street and held demonstrations to denounce the giant financial institutions that control American economic and political life.
The demonstrations are beginning to attract broader popular support. They are part of the growing opposition in the United States and internationally to the policies of the financial elite and its political representatives. Similar demonstrations have been organized in other cities throughout the US.
The reaction of the government to the demonstrations is an indication of the fear within the ruling class that they could spark a broader popular mobilization under conditions of a renewed economic downturn. Over the weekend, 700 people were arrested while demonstrating on the Brooklyn Bridge. This followed the use of pepper spray against peaceful protesters last week.
In contrast to the repression meted out to the protesters by the New York City Police Department, not a single leading official of a major US bank or financial institution has been held accountable for the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. The banks’ reckless speculation and outright fraud set off a global depression that has wiped out tens of millions of jobs. Public treasuries have been looted to the tune of trillions of dollars to cover the bad debts of the banks, but the same government officials who organized these bailouts—led by Bush and then Obama—have given the bankers a free pass.
Bill Van Auken's article features a photo of some protesters and one carries a sign which reads: "Where the f**k are the unions?" It caught my eye and it's a detail Van Auken explores in his article:
A few union bureaucracies aligned with the Democratic Party, such as the United Federation of Teachers, SEIU and Transport Workers Union Local 100 have formally endorsed the protests, as have some groups aligned with the Democrats, such as MoveOn.org and the Working Families Party. An article in the Wall Street Journal Monday, however, pointed to the dilemma of Democrats hoping to make political hay out of the Wall Street protests. It quoted Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf as saying in relation to Democrats coming out in support of Occupy Wall Street: “The upside is that most of the people in the city probably agree with the protesters…The downside is most people on Wall Street, the people who work on Wall Street, won’t forget that.”
MARGOT ADLER: To understand what Zuccotti Park looks like, think one part those protests at Greenham Common in England, people sleeping under tarps; one part the Rainbow Gathering, the yearly hippy fest where no money changes hands, and there are cafeterias with free food. One part civil disobedience protest. Plus a just bit of high tech. The marches are actually streamed live.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
ADLER: Makhaten(ph) helps maintain the live stream.
MAKHATEN: So rather than depending on CNN and corporate media, you end up with your own sense of what's going on, you know, from what you see.
ADLER: But what media? For the first two weeks, the media was hardly here at all. Then after some women were pepper sprayed in a demonstration widely seen on YouTube, followed by a march last weekend with 700 arrests, the media has come in droves.
(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)
ADLER: There's lots going on here. There's art, music, even free rolled cigarettes from North Carolina. Nick Long sits at a table and rolls them.
NICK LONG: Everybody is supporting it, because they know it keeps people calm, You know, everybody needs their nicotine.
ADLER: There's even a place you can send stuff to support the protesters. They've received cookies from a grandmother in Idaho, pineapples from Hawaii.
How will you know when the Occupy Wall St. protests are a big success? When the Democrats start trying to claim them.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday: