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After months of growth and publicity, the Occupy movement appears to be at a critical juncture. Police have routed them from urban spaces in New York, Portland, Oakland and London, among other cities. As weather turns colder, their ability to stage prolonged outdoor protests may wane. And media attention, which was slow to develop in the first place, may fade as the newness of the movement wears off. All of which raises questions about the movement’s roots and ability to survive.
While the Occupy movement has been visible in many American communities, it did not originate in the U.S. On May 30, 2011, a leader of the Spanish Indignant movement, inspired by the Arab Spring, fueled the Occupy movement. He called for a protest against the government because of the high unemployment rate caused by the worldwide economic recession. This protest was particularly inspired by the peaceful protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo, which forced the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak out of office.
Additionally around this time in mid-2011, the Canadian movement, AdBusters, petitioned to be able to protest peacefully on Wall Street about a lack of equality in wealth across the world. The claim was that the top one percent of the world’s population hold 90 percent of the world’s wealth, and the banking industry which encouraged the global financial crisis had gone unpunished for that crisis. This call to arms provoked the movement across North America and the rest of the world in what is now the Occupy movement.
However, the first ever Occupy protest was held in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, on July 30. It was called Occupy Dataran. This was the first in a series of what have turned out to be protests spread across 82 countries worldwide. The spread was testament to the power of social media to help protestors organize far-flung activities. For instance, one method that many of the protests have been using is a Twitter feed, “#Occupy Wall Street.” To governments and police, this amazingly effective use of social media to organize is worrisome because it so difficult to control. This inconvenience was probably an intention of the movement; however, the effectiveness of social media to organize is all too reminiscent of both the London Student Protests last December and the London Riots during this past summer.
Other than Occupy Wall Street, other notable protests across the world have included the Occupy London protest starting on October 15, a matter of months after the summer riots outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The protest has temporarily shut down the Cathedral, because the church felt that it could not fulfill its daily duties with the protests outside.
Relevant to the Principia campus has been the Occupy St. Louis movement which has been in force since October 1. It has been a tented village outside the Old Courthouse. In the last few weeks, however, to the relief of some and to the dismay of others, the protesters are being asked to leave. In some cases, they’ve been forcibly removed from their protest spots. For instance this last week, after eviction notices had been posted, the Occupy protests in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia were broken up by the police with arrests made. Furthermore, at Occupy London, the protesters had been given a week to leave, particularly because of the public disgruntlement with St. Paul’s Cathedral closing. Whatever the case may be, the Occupy movement has shown that it can organize quickly and with impressive effect. The ability to protest peacefully has been made easier and more accessible for many citizens around the world who want to make their views known to their governments.
It is fascinating that this outlet of democratic sentiment has spawned from North Africa, a part of the world known for its dictatorships and oppressive regimes. The Occupy protests seem to be in part inspired by the Arab Spring, demonstrating that citizens in both developing and developed countries are letting their governments know they have had enough of current politics.