What is OWS?

After looking at my previous posts and at the other posts on this blog, I have come to the conclusion that Occupy Wall Street is a protest. However, the question now is what type of protest is it, and how does it compare to past protests? According to the post Types of Protests by Kara, which is a more in depth analysis of the brief post I made containing definitions of protest, revolution, and demonstration, OWS includes aspects of both Passive and Direct action. OWS has included in its actions the displaying of signs, distribution of flyers, petitions, and passive picketing, as well as a more direct approach, such as occupations, lock-downs, disruptive picketing, demonstrations, boycotts, sit-ins, and strikes. Basically, whatever is considered part of a protest, OWS has done it. However, how does OWS compare to past protests, like the Vietnam War Protests? Did it start out the same, and what was the end result of the Vietnam protests? When the Vietnam War started in 1964, the venture was sold as very patriotic, and thus, not many people protested. After nearly 20 years in the Cold War, the American government used the logic that if America did not intervene, then what was going on in Vietnam would spread, according to the Domino Theory. While at first this seemed to appease the American public, it eventually started to lose favor with the increase of the draft. The draft increase particularly affected the working class and the poor, since they did not have the means to dodge the draft. Burning the draft papers became one of the first forms of direct action. The second round of protest increases started when the dead soldier count increased in Vietnam. The war had promised victory, but instead was taking many young lives. In fact, one line used by name protesters was “Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?” This line was shouted after it was found out that the US government had sanctioned the killing of innocent people in Vietnam. As the years went on, the Vietnam protests grew larger and larger, eventually leading to rallies in New York City and Washington DC. The veterans threw their medals and ribbons away in a demonstration that shocked many people, making them think that ” those who had worn the uniform of the US military had come to think that the only way ahead was to discard the very things that had been issued to them to represent their bravery” (History Learning Site). At the height of the war, the hippy movement preached peace and love (not war), and many young people wanted to drop out of society. Both of these went against the concept of doing the right thing for your country. The US media definitely played into this, since they were able to bring the war right into people’s homes. The media was able to portray the war for what it actually was, which led to even more opposition against the US government. The Kent State University incident in 1970 is a good example of a peaceful protest that turns violent in a flash. The students at the university burned down one of the buildings on campus, which caused the National Guardsmen to come in with rifles to try to subdue the demonstration, however, things got out of hand quick, with four students being killed at at least ten wounded by gunfire. With the news of political assassinations, indiscriminate bombings, and drug trafficking in Vietnam, the American public viewed the American government to have lost all accountability (Mark Barringer). The antiwar protests had become institutionalized, and eventually led to President Nixon ending US involvement in Vietnam in 1973. So after this long, brief history of the Vietnam protests, how does OWS compare (or contrast)? According to the post made recently by Savannah, Occupy Proposes a “Real Democracy”, OWS is about the fight for representation. The question she poses is more along the lines of whether OWS wants to change the government, or just change the way we are represented by our congressmen and senators. From what I can tell, OWS seems to be heading toward neither. According former Clinton pollster Dough Schoen, OWS “reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people.” He added that the protesters “are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies” and comprise “an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence” (Greg Sargent). However, Schoen’s poll reflects none of his claims. It finds that only 6% of the population say that income inequality frustrates them about the political system of the US, while 35% want the OWS movement to emulate the effect that the Tea Party had on the GOP, and apply the same effect to the Democratic Party now. The poll also finds that less than a third of the population wants the protest to become violent. Schoen’s poll, instead of following Schoen’s radical claims, instead follows suit more with the thought that OWS is leaning more toward being a protest that focuses more on passive action rather than direct action. While there have been reports of police brutality in the OWS movement, I think that, in line with the poll, OWS is heading toward a change in the way the US population is represented, with use of passive action more than direct action. I do not think that Americans, for the most part, want to overthrow the government, but would rather see a change within the government by transforming “the interests of the politicians from big business to their constituents” (Savannah Edwards). While the Vietnam protests also included passive action, I think that OWS is going in another direction from that form of protest because, ultimately, it wants a different outcome. The Vietnam protests, while wanting to pull US troops out of Vietnam, were different from OWS, since the OWS wants to change representation rather than pull us out of a war (which, by the way, only got 8% of the vote on Schoen’s poll). While US involvement in Afghanistan is a big deal, OWS would rather focus on more domestic issues, which is why I think that the movement will lean more toward passive action and trying to change the way the US population is represented in domestic politics.

-Erin

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/protests_vietnam_war.htm

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/kent_state_university.htm

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/vietnam/antiwar.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/what-occupy-wall-streets-critics-are-really-trying-to-accomplish/2011/10/18/gIQAr6MIvL_blog.html

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2011/10/3790409/survey-many-occupy-wall-street-protesters-are-unhappy-democrats-who

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