What started as an unheralded protest in Lower Manhattan, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, is now spreading all across the country. Protests are planned, or have occurred, in Chicago, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, Hilo, Baltimore. And, yes, there is a protest planned for tomorrow in Portland. I plan to be there. You can get the details here.
Today, the AFL-CIO is joining the protest in New York, where just last weekend 700 protesters were arrested for occupying the Brooklyn Bridge.
The protesters don't have specific demands. At least none that they can articulate. They are protesting the economic state-of-affairs. This movement cuts through the rhetorical labyrinth and points a stark finger at the economic realities of today. While 15% of Americans are living in poverty and home foreclosures are at an all-time high, corporations are making record profits, rigging the system to avoid paying taxes, and sticking it to us with exorbitant banking fees. In short, the rich keep getting richer while the world crumbles for the rest of us. Here's what they say at the Occupy Portland website:
It is no longer enough to vote and to participate in the political system because our political system has been altered drastically from its intended and proper function. Currently, we are allowed to pick from a few candidates whose campaigns are funded more and more by large organizations, corporations, and special interests. The success of their campaigns depends largely on how the corporate mass media presents them. When our elected officials enter office they then pander to the small groups responsible for their election. Even good men and women cannot make real improvements that benefit the American people.Amen.
I believe the people at these protests are the same people who rallied around President Obama in 2008; the same people who are now so bitterly disappointed by his failure to bring about the changes he promised.
Unlike the Tea Party movement, which was fostered and promoted by Fox News and other monied interests, this appears to be a real grassroots movement, similar to the Wisconsin union protests and perhaps even inspired by the Jasmine Revolution that is still underway across the Middle East.
I continue to hope that these popular movements will wake up the powers-that-be to the need for real reform. We need a government that, rather than deferring to rich and powerful corporations, will bring them to heel, will serve all the people, will address the needs of the hard-pressed common folk of this country.
Rally on, you 99%! Rally on, you rabble-rousers. Rally.