The Occupy Wall Street protests against corporate power and social inequality in the United States have spread to over a dozen cities across the country. The movement began as a loosely organized handful of people who began camping out in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district on September 17. Now it has spread through ten states, with new groups adding their voices to the movement.
Protesters are angry about corporate greed, corruption in the government and the growing gap between the rich and poor in America.
The protests have been largely nonviolent over the last three weeks, but hundreds of arrests have been made. Last week, 5,000 protesters rallied in the biggest gathering to date, and police resorted to pepper spray to control the crowds.
Key labor unions have joined in the movement, adding their support to the protests that organizers believe will continue to build.
New protests have sparked up in the states of New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Oregon, Washington and California.
One of the main targets of the mass rally has been the Federal Reserve for its role in the 2008 Wall Street bailout. Protesters accuse it of allowing banks to continue indulging in huge profits and bonuses, while middle-class Americans were being laid off as the economy went down the drain.
Sympathy For Protests
Amid the many critics, a surprising voice of understanding has emerged in Richard Fisher, a president of the very target the protesters are crying out against. "I am somewhat sympathetic, that will shock you,” said Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve. "We have too many people out of work. We have a very uneven distribution of income. We have a very frustrated people, and I can understand their frustration,” he added.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have also tried to connect with the protesters in sympathetic voice. At a conference in the US capital Washington, Obama said: "People are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was one of many to condemn the Occupy Wall Street protesters. He criticizing them for targeting banks, saying they were attempting “to destroy the jobs of working people…and take away the tax base” in New York City.
“Everyone’s got a thing they want to protest, some of which is not realistic,” said Bloomberg on his Friday radio show. “You can’t have it both ways: if you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people.”
Key Points – “Occupy Wall Street” Protester Poll Results (source: Forbes)
- Out of the protesters who responded to the survey, oil companies and banks received overall impression ratings of ‘Horrible,’ whereas technology companies (like Apple and Google) and WikiLeaks (taking top spot in the survey) had the best impression ratings, ranking ‘Great’ overall.
- 98% of protesters say health care should be free
- 93% want student loans to be erased
- 88% agree that “the government should put some controls on CEO pay – like limited to 20x or 30x the lowest paid employee”
- 84% think the government should prevent banks from implement $5 debit card fees, with 16% saying it didn’t matter as customers can always leave
- 80% believe higher earners should pay higher taxes, saying it is fair for the top 10% of taxpayers to pay more than 70% in taxes and for about 40% of US workforce to pay no income tax
- 54% do not believe Obama’s stimulus plan was positive
- 32.5% think the government will mismanage healthcare