Category Archives: History

Crime in OWS vs Crime of OWS

From the violent shutdown of Zuccotti Park on November 15 to continued police brutality, the OWS movement is no stranger to crime. There is, however, a very large difference between the crimes committed by people who participate in OWS-related events and occupiers who commit protest-related “crimes.” What is unfortunate is that the media has played a role in discrediting the movement as a whole by its association with and response to these crimes.  According to a statement issued by the Women’s Caucus of Occupy Philly:

“Rape happens every day, murder happens every day and suicide happens every day. These tragedies are not symptoms or creations of the Occupy Movement, nor are they exclusive to the Occupy Movement; they are realities of our society and of our everyday lives.”

By taking what this quote says into account, the difference between the two groups is more easily defined. As a “society,” a term defined by as “an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes,” the Occupy encampments are bound to have individuals in their midst who are prone to committing crime. Therefore, when sites like and PunditPress put together statistics seen in the chart below, it’s important to remember the circumstances that contribute to those statistics.

It’s sad to acknowledge that rape and sexual assault in particular have occurred in multiple locations across the nation; however, these actions weren’t carried out as measures backed by the OWS movement. In order to counteract this issue and raise awareness for its implications in society, some people are attempting to educate about how these issues go completely against the goals of Occupy Wall Street. In order to potentially eradicate sexual violence from first the movement and eventually the world, many people are asking for help.

With that being said, there are both those who commit crimes within the movement that can detract from its legitimacy (one woman reacts to an action by one of this type by saying, “You’re giving this movement a bad name right now, because you are going around and violating others’ space, and it makes people feel unsafe.”) and those who commit crimes for the movement. An example of this—most likely an occurrence that added to the 6000+ arrest that had already been made by February 2, 2012—can be seen in how one group of occupiers was promoting the idea of getting arrested. In the flyer below for a recent event, one of the two ways that the organizers ask people to get involved is by “acts of civil disobedience.”

With the intention behind this call to action as a demonstration of the evils of this nation’s justice system, these arrests are hardly seen as “crimes” in the eyes of occupiers and other supporters. Therefore it is important to realize that statistics cannot always be taken at face value.

Becca Barbush


Patriarchy at the root

“Occupy Patriarchy calls on the Occupy movement everywhere to support and attend these rallies because an attack on the 52% is an attack on the 99% and if we want to confront Wall Street, then we MUST confront patriarchy.”

With this quote,, a project by the Feminist Peace Network, sends its rallying cry to the internet.

While there are countless motives for people to be involved in the OWS movement around the world, it seems that many of the issues that people are fighting to improve stem from shared, deep-rooted needs of all human beings. With many different types of people making up the 99% and only a small representation of that number actively involved in the movement, it is important to discuss what those deeper issues really are.

One particular group has found a way to identify both a specific cause and what they feel is one of the source problems. In all probability, all of the contributors of the Occupy Patriarchy blog feel as though patriarchy is at the very root of the issues and that all of the specific concerns that stem from it are simply manifestations of this type of group consciousness. One contributor to another blog explains this as he or she discusses the presence of sexual assault in many of the OWS encampments:

“Sexual and bodily violence are part of the everyday social interactions that make up our economy and our lives. In the same way that we can’t begin to tackle the economic disparities between white and black Americans without acknowledging the racism and everyday violence/bullying/intimidation black people face in the workforce or as consumers, we will never truly make life better for ALL 99% if we can’t come to terms with how patriarchy, kyriarchy, and rape culture limit women’s access to wealth and economic opportunities.”

In this quote, the contributor acknowledges the “manifestations” of the issues and also brings the specific examples back to what problems he or she feels are at the root. Both blogs repeatedly reinforce the importance of raising awareness of the problems associated with patriarchy as the current standard around the globe. However, even if awareness can be raised, success cannot always be garnered so immediately. In the following quote it becomes apparent how this fight is a step in the right direction for progress, but recognizes that there is a long road ahead:

“But as women in the Middle East who have participated so fearlessly in the uprisings of the Arab Spring have discovered, the success of progressive and revolutionary movements does not guarantee gains in women rights.“

Women protest in Egypt

Now, with the ability for women in the United States to use the structure and status of the Occupy Wall Street movement as a platform, steps can be taken and change could be implemented that could eventually raise the quality of life for women around the globe.

Becca Barbush

Occupy Wall Street is Nothing Special

But what do they want? – by Tom Tomorrow, Oct 2011

Much has been made of the OWS movement’s apparent lack of leadership and concrete goals, its direct-participation organization and the idea of occupation as a radical act, and its utilization of technology. Based on my own historical research and the research of my colleagues, it appears that in truth, the only unique feature of OWS as a protest movement/mass demonstration is the technology, and this is only because such technology (and the resultant social organization/attitudes) did not exist in the past and so comparisons in that regard are apples-to-oranges. So in response to the question of “What is Occupy Wall Street?” my answer – from a historical perspective – is that it’s, well, nothing special.

Kara, in her post “What is Occupy Wall Street?“, discusses how OWS’s organizational principles are in line with long-established principles of true anarchism: loose organization, consensus-based egalitarian leadership, addressing economic grievances, and raising awareness. In addition, anarchism “seeks to transition the old system into one that fits their needs,” as opposed to a thorough overthrow of the existing system.

Erin has observed that the Great Depression saw similar economic-injustice/class-based protests. Protests on that subject go back to the 1800s with Coxey’s Army marching on Washington, D.C.–then, as now, the protestors were widely perceived as a disorganized mob.

So in this regard, the only radical thing about OWS is the literally radical (root-based) organizational mentality.

Oakland – Indigenous People’s Resistance Day 2011

OWS’s use of the word “occupy” is another radical, original action that the movement is credited with – yet this blog post, by somebody self-identified as unaffiliated with the movement, highlights how OWS has only been employing a superficial sense of the word. To be situated in, to engage, to take possession of. The movement as a whole has not been engaging with the highly problematic history of the word as a key referent to white colonialism and oppression. Sophie Lewis suggests that, since the word is now so entrenched, people should consider actually radicalizing the concepts espoused–in other words, actually pursuing equality for all, rather than reinforcing various forms of oppression such as cissexism and the erasure of people of color. The Albuquerque movement, happily, is one example of an active attempt at true radicalization: it has chosen to call itself “(un)Occupy” to more accurately reflect the goal of decolonizing the 1%. If such cases of true radicalization (e.g. discussion of social privilege) become more widespread and even part of the popular discourse, then OWS could be said to have more of a unique aspect to it.
(Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations also applauds the Denver movement, and her whole post is worth reading in addition to Lewis’s writing.)

With regards to technology and OWS – my comparison of the Kent State shootings and the November, 2011 pepper spraying at UC Davis revealed that, while the internet is more “immediate and personal” than other media, images from the Kent State shootings spread just as rapidly after accounting for the built-in delay of media development. Therefore, it seems unfair to say that OWS is a wholly new form of protest due to the inclusion of instant-communication technology; rather, it is simply a protest of its time, of a society infused with current technology, just as previous protests were products of their technological means. Coxey’s Army did not have television or radio coverage to help speed the dissemination of its message like the social justice and anti-war/nuclear protests of the 1950s-60s; were the mid-20th century protests new forms of protests because they had ham or CB radio available for popular use (cf. twitter) or television to help get their message out to the public faster?

One could argue that there have always been “slacktivists” – people who say they support the cause, but don’t actually get themselves out there to do anything. Is writing letters to the editor, for example, a form of pre-internet slacktivism? Attending the big, publicized protest but not any other events? Wearing a shirt with the anti-nuclear symbol (now known as the peace sign) and leaving it at that? I am skeptical of claims that “Facebook activism” is somehow worse than previous ways of failing to commit to a cause.

In conclusion – OWS is just another protest that may or may not end up being effective the way it intends, like the Alcatraz occupation with which (surprise) OWS shares its current momentum thus far.

Cody VC

So, what is Occupy Wall Street anyways?

The easiest way for me to define OWS is really difficult to define. It seems that every part of the definition I think up comes with about a thousand stipulations: do we look at OWS as part of a global protest or do we limit it to groups that claim the title “occupy,” do we measure its successes by policy changes or by the movement’s spread across borders? There are a few things everyone seems to agree on:

It didn’t start with Zuccotti Park. OWS is part of a larger global protest or protest movement that represents the frustrations of the underprivileged many in regards to the privileged and powerful few – bankers, dictator-like leaders, whoever. Think of my Shepard Fairey post Part 3

The global movement and OWS use new media and social media tools to spread the movement.Another post on our blog compares its global spread to that of the anti-globalization movements in the 90’s. The 2011 movement of anti-capitalism (a feature of OWS according to this post and many OWS protesters) has an ally in the internet and social media that wasn’t so prevalent in the 90s.

In fact, Time‘s Person of the Year article claimed that these movements have partly redefined the terms “globalized” and “viral.” They say that globalized no longer simply means economy, it can also mean this globalized movement and globalized feeling; and viral is no loner cute videos of pets or people doing embarrassing things, it can be a protest or a plan or a news story. Richin’s hyperphotography shows that OWS and the global movement have the internet’s cubist linking ability to thank for some of its successes. (Richin) See practically all of the Shepard Fairey posts, but most notably Part 2.

Part of this “viral” protest makes OWS into a kind of social meme. Celebrities follow it. Through their endorsement, their fans may join the cause or at least learn about it through “weak ties” as discussed in “Unreciprocated Ties.” “Occupy” is an advertising scheme too – this Tide advertisement copies the “99%” meme.

And, many of us have seen the pepper spraying cop, who has an entire tumblr dedicated to him. In a post about this, and other images from the OWS movement, J Hallward talks about a  comparison between the pepper-spraying event at UC Davis and the Kent State Massacre images. Though, obviously, the Kent State Massacre was a much more serious incident, the blog post does bring up another point about OWS.

It isn’t a new occurrence. Yes, OWS, the Arab Spring, Tunisia, and Moscow are recent events. These types of protests, however, are not. The Times notes the phenomenon of protest history.

Ever since  modern republican democracy was invented, astonishing protests and uprisings have spiked and spread once every half-century or so… It happens almost like clockwork, yet each time people are freshly shocked and bamboozled. (Abouizeid 89)

The article mentions the American, French and Haitian revolutions of 1848, various revolutions in 1910, and of course, the 60s. And they had art too:

1960’s anti-war image

So, what is Occupy Wall Street anyways?
It is a part of a movement that shows the frustration of the “common man” against the people who supposedly have the power, like so many that came before it. But, due to the proliferation of internet usage and social media, the movement has gone global in new way. Its images, ideas, and messages have gone viral.


What is Occupy Wall Street: (besides confusing)

Like one of my fellow classmates previously mentioned, explaining what “is Occupy Wall Street” is such a daunting task due to the many pieces and complexities within the movement. I almost think it would be easier to define OWS with less knowledge of the movement because as this class has progressed, and every article, blog post or news report I have seen, has added a new perspective, insight or layer of complexity to how I would define the movement.

My blog posts focused on Media Bias in reporting OWS as well showed comparisons to historical movements similar to Occupy Wall Street so I will attempt to tie these together to answer the daunting question of:

What is Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street is a social movement which cannot and does not want to be defined into a simple “catch all” definition. As What is Occupy Wall Street, points out OWS is not just 1 group. It is a compilation of all different groups, with different goals, agenda’s, and motives. (91 and counting).  The only way to accurately define Occupy Wall Street would be to define all groups within the movement. (which would take way longer than I want  to spend on this project) Occupy Wall Street is not a leaderless movement, as many media outlets want to portray; instead OWS is a movement of many leaders and groups. In the same sense it is not a movement with no demands, it is just a movement with many demands of many groups within it. It has demands, just not uniform demands. In a post We demand better Demands, points out OWS has been portrayed in the Media as a movement with no goals, but in fact it does have goals, these goals were just not accepted and were called “Outlandish” by the media.

The main thing I learned from my research is not only what OWS is but also what OWS isn’t. Occupy Wall Street is not what it is being portrayed in mainstream media sources. Occupy Wall Street has picked up the stigma of a violent or deviant group, when in reality it is a peaceful attempt to bring some sort of social and economic change. This goes back to The One Bad Apple post which talks about how a few bad apples have been given the face of the movement by bias media sources. Certain Media outlets seem more concerned with reporting about the “bad apples” than presenting the various aspects of the OWS movement outside police/occupier violence.



Additionally, Occupy Wall Street has been portrayed as an unorganized movement. However in my previous post (labor movement) it explains OWS does not need a leader. It is loosely structured, not unorganized. Although the loose structure limits its ability to organize quickly it has allowed it to be more successful and survive as a movement, whereas past structured movements  with similar motives have not. (Labor movement 1981) It also has been shown that in fact OWS does have the ability to organize and form a rigid structure when it needs to communicate and relay message. (Meechie Peachie)

The presence of mainstream media bias in reporting has shifted the focus of OWS to labeling WHO is Occupy Wall Street and not what Occupy Wall Street is. The need to place one label or stereotype on who is occupying has taken priority over what the actual issues being protested are.

It is important to realize what Occupy Wall Street is as a movement and not what it is being portrayed as in the media. Occupy Wall Street is a diverse movement of different people, groups, motives, and goals, with the common goal of bringing attention and change to social and economic inequality. Media may report about one group within the movement but that does not truly represent the entire movement.

When asking yourself the question “What is Occupy Wall Street?” it is important to keep in mind the insightful words of Flava Flav “Don’t believe the Hype” (mainstream media hype that is)

I hope this made some sense, and allows you readers to answer this complex question.

From Alcatraz to Zuccotti: Part 2

American Indian people and their supporters wait for the ferry to Alcatraz in ’69 or ’70. (Ilka Hartmann, via California State University)

My previous post narrated the basic history of the 1969-71 Occupation of Alcatraz. This was the takeover of the then-abandoned former prison by a group of American Indians, mostly California-area college students, in response to unjust treatment of the First Nations by the federal government. The occupiers wanted their grievances heard, and demanded the deed to the island in order to establish an university, cultural center, and museum. The government refused to listen to their demands, the initially sympathetic press grew disdainful, and as the basic organization of the occupiers degraded the government found reason to invade and remove everybody from the island.

The occupiers’ concrete goals were not achieved, but public awareness of their objections was raised and the government policy of ending First Nations sovereignty was gradually halted. While the basic arc reads as very similar to that of the Occupy Wall Street movement thus far, as my colleagues have observed there are some significant differences. OWS has not articulated goals that are as specific; OWS is a larger, more amorphous group; llaurenfrank: “for OWS there doesn’t seem to be anything specific that the government can do in order to end the protest.”

While it is true that OWS’s goals have remained comparatively broad, a recent Washington Post article indicates that their basic goal of correcting economic inequality remains the same. Brittany Duck, a participant in the D.C. May Day protests, said that “[T]here’s still a lot to do. Politicians say the economy is turning around, but for many people out here, the blue-collar workers, it hasn’t.” savannahredwards1 asks, “are [OWS] actually trying to get a specific goal accomplished like the Alcatraz ‘occupiers’ or are they just trying to change the way we think?” The Post article, as well as the articles included in this round-up of coverage of the May Day protests, illuminates that a large number of OWS participants are not satisfied with having “made a lasting contribution to the national debate about income inequality.”

A group of American Indian people at Pier 40 following the June 1971 removal. (Ilka Hartmann, CSU)

The larger scale of OWS is indeed different from the Alcatraz occupation, but one could argue that there is some similarity to be seen in the diversity of the Alcatraz occupation–over 20 tribes were represented, which is part of what led to the development of factions (Winton). Their individual goals differed, but the overall goal of government respect and recognition was the same. This can be compared to regional differences among OWS groups, where the individual goals differ while the overarching goal (correcting economic inequality) remains the same.

With regards to how the government can respond to the OWS protests: it’s possible to argue that there is, in fact, something specific that the government can do to respond to the demand(s) of OWS. If the root problem is income inequality, then bills could be introduced raising the minimum wage to align more realistically with the current cost of living. This would turn the minimum wage into what is known as a living wage; Pennsylvania State University has a website that calculates the living wage for localities across the USA and shows the disparities, illustrating how the difference can contribute to poverty and economic inequality.

That is just one example of a concrete solution; debates over progressive tax rates, another potential concrete solution, are currently ongoing but do not seem likely to go anywhere.

So how does this link back to the Alcatraz occupation? Again, there’s the impact on the national discourse without (immediate) concrete gain. It’s possible that in the long run, due to OWS, we will see real attempts to address income/economic inequality, like the Alcatraz occupation helped end some discriminatory policies.

nb: it should be pointed out that, as has been observed repeatedly by my colleagues on this blog, the majority of ows participants are socially privileged in a way that the alcatraz occupiers were not. it could be argued that this is why their trajectory has bottomed out earlier than alcatraz’s; the perception of this privilege caused people/the media to dismiss them more quickly. however, what will be the real long term effects remains to be seen.


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.