Occupy Wall Street flexes muscles one month on

Exactly a month after a few hundred activists set up camp in New York, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone international and won the attention of the White House -- even if no one knows where it will go next.

world Updated: Oct 18, 2011 02:06 IST
Occupy Wall Street,Zuccotti Park,anti-capitalism activists

Exactly a month after a few hundred anti-capitalism activists set up camp in New York, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone international and won the attention of the White House -- even if no one knows where it will go next.

Protestors sheltering under plastic tarps in the well organized camp at Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, began their second month Monday with plans to follow up on big demonstrations that swept through the popular Times Square area over the weekend.

They not only have set up all the basic needs of an open-air community -- ranging from a cell phone charging station to a library -- but are flush with $275,000 in donations, according to Darrell Prince, a spokesperson for the protest.

The next major event could be on Saturday which will see a "National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality," according to the http://occupywallst.org/ website.

Defying expectations, the movement has already had a huge impact, spawning copycat demonstrations across the United States and Europe, all with the same underlying message of anger at economic disparities between the top one percent and the other 99 %.

Although their numbers are still relatively small -- the biggest demonstration gathered between 10,000 and 20,000 people -- senior politicians are paying close attention as the 2012 presidential contest gathers pace.

President Barack Obama has led Democrats in tentatively embracing the movement.

His spokesman on Sunday said that an election campaign trip to North Carolina and Virginia this week would address the need "to ensure that the interests of the 99 percent of Americans is well represented" -- a telling reference to the protestors' increasingly famous "we are 99 %" slogan.

On the other side, Republican presidential candidates have been scathing in their attacks on a group, signaling that it has at the least become too big to ignore.

The latest boost for Occupy Wall Street came Saturday when Martin Luther King III, son of slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, said at a new memorial in Washington that his father would have joined the protest.

"We have bailed out the auto industry, and we should have. We bailed out Wall Street. Now it's time to bail out working Americans. That's what this is about," he said.

"I believe that if my father was alive, he would be right here with all of us involved in this demonstration today."

The protests have so far been mostly peaceful. However, 175 people were arrested in Chicago over the weekend, following other mass arrests in recent days in Boston, Denver and New York.

The main question now is how the movement, known by its initials OWS, will use its growing power. To date not a single specific demand has been issued, prompting ridicule from critics.

However, the strategy of simply providing a big tent for mostly young people unhappy about a stagnant economy and angry at the disconnect between ordinary people and the political-business elites appears to be working.

Mike Lupica, a columnist for the Daily News in New York, wrote Monday that the unpredictability of OWS was stirring the country "because nobody is sure how big the whole thing is going to get."

Some predict that the rapidly approaching cold weather in New York will drive protestors away.

However, activists deny this. And a symbol of that determination can be found right on the homepage of their website: the detailed agenda posted on the website scrolls down literally forever.

First Published: Oct 18, 2011 01:39 IST