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For ten days people have been on Wall Street as part of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest and major U.S. media outlets have been nearly silent. Although we are updated on regime-change protests around the world, American protests against greed, corruption and the bailout of big business has received very little attention. CNN, like most media, is dominated by the start of the trial against Dr. Conrad Murray (charged with the death of Michael Jackson). CNN’s Top Stories also include video on the Washington Monument shaking during Hurricane Irene more than a month ago and a brief mention of protests in Greece against proposed increased property taxes in order to deal with their failing economy. The Wall Street protests did not rate even a line on the crawl at the bottom of the screen.
Occupy Wall Street is, however, making headlines on Facebook and the Huffington Post, which has posted stories and videos. The BBC has also run stories. Yet many people seem to be unaware of what has been taking place. Most disturbing are the allegations (backed up by video evidence) of police brutality against the protesters. The most often circulated video shows police cordoning off a group of women and then spraying them with mace. Occupy Wall Street has identified the officer who maced the women and have called for him to be punished with arrest and jail. There are also several videos of police arresting protesters and using what appears to be excessive force.
This lack of attention may be changing. Susan Sarandon has said that she will join the folks in New York. Michael Moore has lent his support and has called for occupations in other cities. So far, protests have spread to San Francisco, Boston and Chicago. Organizers claim that “at least 52 cities in America are occupied or organizing. We span at least three continents.” But even if Occupy Wall Street hasn’t spread as far and wide as claimed, it is still a major event. People from all walks of life and of all political persuasions have been part of the movement. As the Occupy Wall Street website says: “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
In an era of partisan bickering over everything from healthcare to job creation, regular Americans have found some common ground. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if someone is pro-Obama or pro-Tea Party. What matters to most Americans, it seems, is that our government gets its act together and really starts to do something that helps those without trust funds and off-shore bank accounts. Most Americans are still reeling from the faltering economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 9.1 percent of Americans are unemployed. Of course, this figure masks disparities such as much higher joblessness for veterans, those with disabilities or racial minorities (African Americans, for example). Many other people are under-employed or employed but without health insurance. Millions have lost homes and savings over the last few years. And this is true of people in all segments of society – factory workers and PhDs; young people and those who thought they’d have been able to retire by now.
What will be gained by the protests? I’m not sure. Perhaps as word spreads and major media (hopefully) pays more attention, our leaders will take notice. Even if that doesn’t happen I find hope in the protests anyway. At least it is still possible for diverse groups of Americans to band together for a common cause. Quite frankly, after watching the hostile and partisan start of the 2012 election, I was beginning to think we’d forgotten that we are all in this together. If only those we’ve elected (or are thinking of electing) would come to the same realization.