Occupied Earth

Rebecca Yampolsky-Shields


It would surprise many to learn that the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon was actually started by a Canadian. On July 13th, 2011, the Canadian magazine Adbusters introduced the Twitter trend #occupywallstreet. Their original postings stated those interested should “On Sept. 17th, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchen, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street”. This was a call for the United States stand up against the establishment

Apparently Americans liked the idea so much that they chose not to wait until September 17th, and so on the 1st, more than 1000 people followed Adbusters’ call and  began the protest.

Something that stood out early in papers and on TV was the idea of the 99% versus the 1%. This refers to the large wealth gap between the wealthiest 1% of Americans and the rest of the population. The slogan that started out on the internet quickly became a unifying chant to shout while marching.

Clearly not everything has gone as peacefully as Adbusters imagined though, because as of October 24th, there have been almost 1000 arrests in connection with Occupy Wall Street. It started with only 7 in the first week, and then 80 in the second. However, arrests spiked to an estimated 700 on October 1st alone, because of protestors marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Protesters filed complaints against police actions on this day, stating that the cops were violating their basic rights, but nothing has come of this yet.

The protests have recently been receiving some negative feedback from the general population as well, mostly revolving around an uncertainty of what exactly is being protested against. The Internet is plastered with an array of reasons for the crowds on Wall St., and this has resulted in some confusion. Corporate greed and power (over the government) and economic inequality are examples of what is being protested. But the voices of those fighting are being drowned out because of the clash of demands.

There has also been some criticism that the protestors have no real demands. Practically none of the thousands of protest signs ask for anything; they only show dislikes. There is an old saying that one is more likely to get what they want if they say what it is that they want, rather than what they don’t want. This seems to suit the Wall Street protestors well; if they don’t share what exactly it is they want, there is little chance that those they are protesting against will change their ways.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has now spread all across the US and around the world. It has now been estimated that there are protests in more than 1000 cities in more than 82 countries. One of these cities is Toronto, where groups have been organising since October 15th. Between 2000 to 3000 Torontonians have shown up to these protests on Bay Street.  

What can we, as students, learn from this? Well, there have been some issues recently in our school, and maybe there is something we can learn from the thousands of protesters worldwide. Could it be that the solution to the grad couch (or lack thereof) issue could be solved with an Occupy NT? It is something to consider, although a sit-in at school is probably not anyone’s idea of fun.

It is uncertain right now of what will come next for the Occupy movements, but they have shown no sign of slowing down. Will they gradually fade away, leaving little change and only memories behind, or will more people embrace the power they have and join the group and become the change? It could go either way, but for now, it is amazing to see that people have the spirit to rally together and fight for what they believe.