THE OCCUPY WALL STREET protests have entered their 14th consecutive day today in New York city and the movement appears to have spread to other areas in the US.
But what is it all about?
Occupy Wall Street
A hundreds-strong diverse group of protesters began to demonstrate on 17 September near the New York Stock Exchange in downtown Manhattan.
Demonstrators said they wanted to protest against issues ranging from the bank bailouts to corporate greed within major financial institutions. Some taking part have also been protesting against police brutality and the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last week. Protesters say they plan to continue their action indefinitely.
Around 100 people have been arrested over the course of the protests so far, with dozens of those arrests being made on Saturday 24 September. The offences include disorderly conduct, assaulting an officer and obstructing government administration, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The protesters are describing themselves as a leaderless movement modelled along the lines of the protests which ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
A group called OccupyWalllStreet.org which describes itself as providing technical assistance for planning the protests says: “Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies if [sic] our nation”.
The protests have attracted the support of filmmaker Michael Moore, who says it is “highly ironic” that so many protesters have been arrested while noone from “corporate America” has been arrested.
OccupyWallStreet.org says it is not affiliated with any organisation and that the marches will move towards One Police Plaza tonight. The NYPD response to the protests has been criticised after videos of protesters being pepper-sprayed or dragged over security railings by officers surfaced online.
The NYPD says its internal affairs department is investigating the complaints.
The group Anonymous claims to have identified the police officer involved in the pepper spray incident and it released personal details about the alleged officer. A video claiming to come from Anonymous threatened to retaliate against the police if people were not able to continue the Occupy Wall Street protests “without shame or threat”.
Various commentators have questioned the potential success of the movement in achieving any effective change: Eric Augenbraun writes of the lack of any “clear definition of goals or constituency” or leadership in The Guardian, while Anthony DeRosa of Reuters warns against dismissing the protests outright despite its disorganising and apparent lack of clear direction.
Michael Moore told Democracy Now! earlier this week that he believes the Occupy Wall Street protests have the potential to spark a much wider movement. “The majority of Americans are really upset at Wall Street,” he said, because of losing their homes, the threat of foreclosure, unemployment, and health insurance issues.
Trade unions and workers’ groups are beginning to lend their support to the protests.
On Tuesday, several hundred pilots from the Air Line Pilots Association joined the protest and the following day the New York Transit Workers Union voted unanimously to support Occupy Wall Street.