Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Occupy Movement: What is it?

 Let's start at when and where it actually began, shall we? The Occupy movement began with Occupy Dataran on July 30th, 2011. It was organised as a peaceful protest for reformed democracy, and equality amongst everyone. The inspiration for the movement came from the Spanish protests in May, the 15-M Movement, and the Democracy Village set up by the UK Parliament in 2010. The Occupy Movement managed to gain mass attention from both the media and the online group Anonymous, who are, ironically, a group of hackers originating from the infamous 4chan; the group called for protesters to "flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and Occupy Wall Street".

 Occupy Wall Street is, without a doubt, the most famous protest of the movement, and, here in the UK, Occupy London is big news. For London, the protest was organised to take place outside London Stock Exchanged, but protesters are now camped outside St Paul's Cathedral. The main purpose of this Occupy London (I'll just refer to it as O.L. from now on) is to protest against economic inequality, the lack of affordable housing, social injustice, corporate greed, and the influence on the Govt. from lobbyists (For those who don't know what this is, lobbying is a method used by insider pressure groups to attempt to influence Govt.). A main group that supports O.L. is UK Uncut, which protests against tax avoidance and the cuts being made by the Coalition Government.

 O.L., as with the rest of the Occupy movement, is very controversial, and very much a 'love or hate' topic. However, there is much misunderstanding about the aims of the movement. A common phrase used to describe it is "The 99% against the 1%"; the 1% represents the wealthiest people in the country, or even the world, and the 99% is, to be put simply, everyone else. However, many people not involved with the movement believe that it is people challenging the Govt. for the sake of challenging, or something like that. In reality, it is people coming together to stand up against injustice. Another misconception is that it is working and middle class people claiming that they are part of national poverty; it is important to highlight here that the movement is not necessarily 'rich' v 'poor', but is more the public calling out against how money is distributed by the Govt.. An interesting statistic I found states that, by 2007, a mere 1% of American households owned more than 34% of private wealth, and just 19% owned over half of it. (Full article, written by the Guardian, can be found here.)

 Coverage of the Occupy movement has also been increased by celebrity support. Occupy Wall Street has seen Kanye West, Tom Morello (of Rise Against the Machine), David Crosby, and many others have spoken or performed to the protesters. Also, it was revealed that Lemony Snicket had observed from afar, and wrote about it in his own darkly humorous style. O.L. saw fashion designer Vivienne Westwood join the protesters, and is thought to be using the movement as inspiration for her next fashion line.

 Finally, there is evidence of some success for Occupiers. On the 1st of November, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral resigned after a backlash when he attempted to forcibly evict protesters, and 170 members of the extreme right-wing group EDL were arrested on Armistice/Remembrance/Poppy day, after they attempted to attack campers.

  Below is the "Initial Statement" issued by protesters in London on the 16th of October
  1. The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
  2. We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
  3. We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
  4. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
  5. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
  6. We support the strike on the 30th November and the student action on the 9th November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
  7. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
  8. We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.
  9. This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!

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