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Ambiguity surrounds Occupy movement
It was an abnormally warm autumn Saturday in downtown New York City. Grand Central Terminal was crowded. Not just with people; colorful and abrasive signs were in abundance, being held by protesters. Something different was going on in the consumerism mecca that is New York City.
Hopping off the No. 4 train at Wall Street station, the action was almost instantly visible. We followed a stream of signs and props to a nearby park. The plaza served as the headquarters of the entire Occupy Wall Street operation, and felt that way with the surprising amount of computers and wires running across the park floor.
It took a few minutes to breach the park’s outer walls: in our way was a plethora of protesters, serving as barricades to the park. Quietly, they held signs stating ‘The Beginning Is Near,’ ‘Workers Need A Voice,’ ‘Where’s the Constitution?,’ and ‘End of Fed.’ Every few seconds or so, a police officer would walk across the sidewalk, asking those passing by to keep moving. Attached at the hip of each officer was several sets of handcuffs, two cans of mace, and a black baton at the ready.
Once inside the park, a thriving group of sundry people was bustling. Park benches and tables were arranged into information stations and the cold concrete now doubled as beds and art easels. Stairways served as auditorium seating for those who would listen to “freedom preachers” and small musical gatherings.
Now the Occupy protests has gone beyond its Wall Street constraints. According to OccupyTogether.org, more than 1,300 cities have planned rallies, with more on the way in the upcoming weeks. Occupy New Haven is planning to launch this Saturday on the city’s green. Ireland has even joined the movement called Occupy Dame Street, set up outside of Dublin’s Central Bank headquarters.
The movement is growing, but at whose expense? According to New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly, more than $2 million in overtime coverage has been spent as a result of the Occupy movement. This fee, which primarily comes from the taxpayers of New York, shows a stark irony in what the movements are attempting to accomplish. Each protester was armed with cell phones, computers, food products and clothing: most of whose brands have corporate offices in the buildings nearby. Further incongruities can be seen with famous figures stepping up to “support”, such as Kanye West and Russell Simmons, who flaunt and create songs about reprehensible spending.
Despite the motive being unclear to most, they have received national spotlight, which is key to any kind of movement. Staging their largest gathering to date in the conglomerate of capitalism was a bold move, and has not gone unnoticed thanks to the media circus surrounding the cause. They just need to solidify their voice, and this perhaps comes from the drawback of not having a specific figurehead. By going nameless with affiliation and leadership, the organization is having a tough time being taken seriously by any of the groups they are against.
Quinnipiac students should take notice of their surroundings. I’m not asking students to begin camping outside of Arnold Bernhard in protest against President John Lahey and high cafeteria food prices. Noticing that this movement is made up of mostly college students with hefty student loans is a start.
What long term progress these protests will make remains to be seen. Therapeutic relief, however, has been achieved for many of those protesting in the form of their new occupation: public dissent.