Echoes of '68 as protests spread from Wall Street


Demonstrators dress up as zombies and eat Monopoly money in New York

THE “OCCUPY Wall Street” movement may have reached a turning point with the arrest of more than 700 demonstrators on Brooklyn Bridge on October 1st.

As they continue into a third week, the protests, which were initially ignored by mainstream US media, are making newspaper and television headlines.

In a seeming throwback to 1968, the protests appear to be spreading across the US and overseas. Folk guitar-playing, hippie-style clothing and communal living add to the impression of historical deja-vu.

The encampment at Zuccotti park in lower Manhattan yesterday displayed a map of the US showing 21 cities where protests have been organised, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Demonstrations usually target Federal Reserve buildings. “Arrest the fat cats,” said posters in San Francisco.

A demonstration is planned at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC on Thursday. Protesters are also organising in Prague, Melbourne and Montreal, the Wall Street Journalreported.

The richest 1 per cent of the US population possess more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent. Nearly three million Americans received foreclosure notices last year, and 9.1 per cent are unemployed. The billionaire investor Warren Buffett told PBS that class warfare is going on, “and my class isn’t just winning, I mean we’re killing them.”

Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street, yesterday urged protesters to dress up as corporate zombies and eat Monopoly money to let financial workers “see us reflecting the metaphor of their actions”.

One camper set up a table with stacks of Monopoly money and white tubes of face paint, the Associated Press reported.

The day’s schedule, posted on the website, included two general assemblies and three rallies, including one against police brutality.

Protesters who were arrested on October 1st complained that their wrists were bound for hours behind their backs with plastic handcuffs, and said they were refused water.

They said the police lured them onto the bridge and trapped them with a giant orange net. Police say they warned protesters to stay on the pedestrian walkway and have released video of protesters chanting “Take the bridge”.

The actor Alec Baldwin has joined the ranks of celebrity supporters of the protests. Last week Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore visited the campsite.

The Princeton University professor Cornel West and the former governor of New York David Paterson also stopped by.

The protest website says it was inspired by the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt and the 15M movement encampments in Spain.

A declaration released by the group on September 30th says: “We gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice . . . We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.”

The declaration makes 23 accusations against corporations, including foreclosing on homes, taking taxpayers’ money in bailouts while paying exorbitant bonuses to executives, poisoning the food supply, treating animals with cruelty and “holding students hostage” to debts on their education, which the protesters say ought to be free.

The movement started in July when Adbusters, a political advocacy magazine in Canada, called for protest on its blog.

A group in New York organised a march on September 17th, which ended up occupying Zucotti Park.

Most, but not all of the demonstrators, are young. They include students, anarchists, unemployed people, trade unionists and supporters of the right-wing Tea Party.

Some have travelled from other parts of the US with the intention of returning to their home towns and launching protests there.

The camp has established a post office box, media centre, medical station, recycling centre, library and newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal.