Tag Archives: street


Where are they now?

Where are they now?

Curious about the current issues of the Occupy movement? Check out this article in The Stranger to learn about the repercussions of the May Day protests in Seattle.



Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.


Occupy Bias

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.  To me, the Occupy movement is all about stereotypes based on bias.

Occupiers are considered to be radical socialists and anarchists, criminals, racist (this too), lazy and homeless, except when members of this diverse group are none of these things.  The police are overly violent and are under the control of the big bad government, except when they are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability (llaurenfrank, asulkin, kjonach, ivazuka).  Corporations are always evil, unless they fund Occupy, and everyone in the 1% are trying to keep the 99% down, unless they use their power and influence in favor of Occupy.

People are quick to judge the movement and place labels on it, just as Occupiers are quick to judge and label those who oppose them.  But when those labels are laid out so simply, and the incongruities are able to surface, does it still make any sense?  No?  My thoughts exactly.


Story, Brand, and Equity. OWS or Ad?

Occupy Wall Street is an advertisement. You may be confused at that statement and even laugh, but through analysis of what the movement started as and what it has become, the characteristics of a commercial correlate to those of the movement.

Specifically, I will compare the qualities of OWS to qualities of a successful Super Bowl commercial. According to Alex Konrad, a reporter for CNN Money, the three aspects of a brilliant Super Bowl Commercial are story, brand, and equity (Konrad 1). These three qualities of OWS can be analyzed through looking at the logistics of the operation, such as how it began, the image it has created for itself, and the lasting implications that have been produced.

The story behind OWS is a primary driving force. The only way a story can appeal to its audience is to be strong and meaningful. According to a study found in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, “…ads with a strong story not only have a better shelf life in our memories, but also have it easier maintaining momentum in later ad campaigns” (Konrad 1). The matter in which the story is presented cannot be overlooked. The presentation needs to be simple, yet informative and thorough. If it’s too complicated the audience will get lost in the message that’s trying to be conveyed.

The true story of OWS lies within its origins. What started out from claims of economic inequality and frustration, expressed through peaceful and non-confrontational protest, has expanded into a wide array of motives with multiple methodologies being used. An example is the most recent OWS event, May Day. On May 1st, 2012, 50 occupiers were arrests; some protesters even threw police barricades into the middle of Broadway in an attempt to interfere with car traffic, while others sent letters containing white powder, presumed to actually be corn starch, to large financial institutions. Tactics for the day included protesting outside of Bank America for its predatory lending strategy that led numerous consumers to foreclose, blocking tunnels and bridges in New York City, and picketing outside of NYU in regards to their expansion plans in Greenwich Village (Barr 1-2).

A common interpretation of OWS is its intention to defend democracy, although some occupiers may argue with democracy is no longer present within the U.S. Nevertheless, OWS is still an evolving global movement that is consistently changing. One of my colleagues, emiliealoisia, states in her post Why Get Involved? Motivations for Supporting OWS Differ Across the Globe, “Since the movement lacks a clearly defined ideology, reasons for joining may differ between individual protestors. This is especially true when we consider the movement’s spread to other countries. Internationally, OWS has been used in a variety of ways, most of which are different from its original use in Manhattan’s Zucotti Park.” Because motives, ideals, and methodology have changed throughout the movement, they have become diluted through the cycling of old and new members. As a result, there is no solidified message.

The next key component of a successful Super Bowl Commercial is brand. Brand is the identity that is created for the message that the audience can recognize in any setting. Essentially, brand is the linkage between the story and what the organization stands for. Without this representation, there is no effect on the audience being reached out to.

Motifs and iconic symbols within an advertisement, and in OWS’s case a movement, should be synonymous with its ideals and are important to creating the brand. A large aspect of OWS’s brand is its structure. The main objective was to create a loosely horizontal structure in hopes of eluding the concept of a hierarchy. The movement has suffered as a result of this lack of solidified leadership. For instance, The New York Times heavily critiqued OWS by pointing out how the movement was not cohesive and was based on theory rather than practice. OWS responded with the idea of their own newspaper; yet occupier opinions on the topics to be addressed and tactics to be utilized varied greatly. One side wished not to “engage the system,” while the other wanted “all-encompassing demands” (Reeve 1).  Because of the huge group divide in instances such as this, OWS has had issues developing a large consensus and thus, as The New York Times implied, a cohesive message.

But, OWS has made a pitch at organization and loose leadership principles. This is evident through their implementation of a General Assembly, a symbol of OWS because of its importance. It is a nightly congregation of individuals from various backgrounds who all bring various perspectives to the union. There are no leaders, but instead facilitators who run the meetings and switch responsibilities within and between meetings to ensure fairness and a sort of “anti-hierarchy.” The statement made by OWS’s implementation of the GA is vital to its brand.

Possibly the most important aspect of a successful advertisement, being that it is the culminating effort of story and brand, is a movement’s equity. Equit measures the impact a message has on an audience and more importantly, an organization’s staying power. Successful equity results in the audience’s appreciation for years to come, while lack of equity, in other words a one-hit wonder, result in a menial impact in viewers’ minds.

OWS’s equity can be measured by its economic, social, and political implications. But, what are they? According to my colleague, gvalerio2 in her post Can You Spell Success Without OWS?, no political or economic policy has been leveraged as a result of OWS, now 8 months into the movement. However, praise (as well as criticism) gave been given towards the movement. There has been praise handed out in support of OWS, mainly from Democrats, such as House Democrat Leader Representative, Nancy Pelosi, who states, “”I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen” (Desvarieux 1).

Socially, OWS has succeeded and failed in different areas. As I mentioned before, OWS started out as a movement and strong edifice for those who were dissatisfied with America’s direction. Unfortunately it has turned into a collection of individuals, rather than a cohesive movement. This is a result of having a reach so extensive that it has reached and influenced so many people that one congealed message may never be attained. OWS became a fad for some individuals, who in turn supported the movement half-heartedly. It has even become a pop culture parody in some cases, such as in the following Star Wars reference:


A fact about OWS is that it has raised awareness. It has become a global movement that has reached many cultures and countries extensively. I’ve even had the opportunity to conduct research in another Honors course on the socio-economic and political implications of the Occupy movement outside of OWS, through analysis of movements in the UK, Nigeria, and other cities in the U.S.  All movements share a common knowledge of the basic beliefs of the movement, mediums of distribution (social networking), and (peaceful or not) some implementation of mass protest.

Comparing Occupy Wall Street to a Super Bowl commercial is not meant to be demeaning. OWS has been used as a tool to raise awareness to a cause, just as a commercial is used to raise awareness for a product. Both aim to gain a following. The story behind OWS is there, although continuously evolving. The brand has made its statement through logistical structure, yet remains diluted in overall principle. Now, has OWS established lasting equity for years to come? Yes. The movement may fizzle out in the coming months or years, but the impact of global awareness cannot be undermined.

Mark Bray, Ph.D. History student at Rutgers, said in regards to May Day, “There was a sense of novelty to Occupy in October…Today is more celebratory, and nostalgic” (Barr 2). Occupiers wanted their beliefs to be heard. The world has listened.

“Don’t tase me, bro!” ~ “I wasn’t planning on it, sir. I’m just trying to do my job.”

Police brutality is nothing to be overlooked or downplayed. It is a serious offense. However, it is not the all-encompassing defining action of the police against Occupy. Mostly they are just trying to do their job.

As mentioned in my previous post, there has been an increase in criminal activity in and around Occupy protest sites. As a result of that activity, the police force has to be ever more vigilant at those sites to continue to protect their cities. But as the numbers of police officers increase to survey the areas of protest, tensions between the protesters and the police force rise.

Sgt. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, explains this tension. In a Fox News article, he states, “paralysis is occurring across law enforcement. It’s becoming a Catch 22 […] To go in there to clear the [Zuccotti] park is going to cause confrontation. To not do so is detrimental.” Regarding the specific pepper spray incident in Kara Jonach’s post, Mullins told the Staten Island Advance to “remember who created the atmosphere,” referring to the rowdy protesters that caused many well-mannered, professional police officers to respond on-scene. He goes on to say that Bologna, the man responsible for pepper spraying the girls, “made a decision to use the pepper spray and it wasn’t popular,” essentially saying that it was one man’s decision and his actions should not be reflected on the police force as a whole.

Since this event, the way the police interact with protesters at Zuccotti park has changed greatly. A New York Times article reports that “most uniformed officers have remained on the perimeter of the park since the third week of the protest, rarely venturing in,” and the only officers within the park dress in plainclothes and are just there to keep the department privy to planned marches and the like. This new hands-off policing has “pleased the protesters, who have had numerous run-ins with law enforcement officers and tend to view them negatively.”

Based on what happened with the pepper spraying incident, there is good reason for protesters to be weary of a heavy police presence. However, I do not see why Bologna’s unlawful actions should somehow equate the entire police force. An anonymous police official at Zuccotti Park stated, “We try to maintain a low profile and not antagonize the crowd […] and once you go in there, there’s a sense of hostility.” Is it important for protesters to watch out for the police that act out? Sure, absolutely. But does that mean that every boy in blue is a threat? Not at all.


One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch

As explained in my previous post, there tends to be a bias against the Occupy movement regarding crime.  People tend to believe that when one person, or one group of people, act out and they happen to be participating in Occupy, then those crimes somehow come to represent the entire system that is Occupy, including all the protesters as a whole.  However, this is obviously not the case.

Komo News article reports that a man had been arrested for exposing himself in Seattle at least five times to children, and it turned out that “he had been at Westlake Park taking part in the Occupy Seattle protests” before his arrest.  Does that mean that all Occupiers are perverts?  Absolutely not.  He is just one man.  He does not, in any way, represent the Occupy participants who actually take part for a cause–there are discrepancies as to what that cause may be, but that is for a separate post.

Yahoo News article explains “at ‘Occupy Baltimore’ rape victims are being urged to not report their attackers to the police, but rather to a ‘security committee’ that will investigate the incident and, if necessary, provide ‘counseling’ to the perpetrator.”  Occupy Baltimore has chosen to deal with it in this way to protect the protesters’ anonymity.  However, just to be clear, this is in no way the norm for nearly all Occupy protest sites.  The volunteer security guard from Zuccotti Park states in an ABC News article that “‘we always encourage victims to go through the proper channels and contact police.'”

Fox News article gives a pretty in-depth look into specific examples of known sexual assaults at Occupy movements around the country.  I encourage you to read it for yourself if interested.  Furthermore, it highlights a few events where mobs of protesters acted out, such as setting off Molotov cocktails in Portland and threatening local establishments when they refuse to give their services to the protesters for free.  One such instance is explained here:

At the site of the Occupy San Diego camp, street cart vendors were forced to close up shop Monday when protesters, angry that they stopped receiving free food, ransacked and vandalized the carts. The angry mob not only scrawled graffiti on the carts, they reportedly splattered them with blood and urine as well. In addition, the vendors received death threats, according to local radio station KNX 1070.

And then, of course, there is the problem with the homeless population taking advantage of the movement.  Said Fox News article reports that “in Boston, homeless protesters were removed from Dewey Square after they were discovered to have knives and stashes of illegal drugs.”  However, if you read Sam Toolan’s post, you’ll know that no serious Occupier wants their name and their causes tarnished by those who take part in the movement for selfish reasons.  This does not only apply to the homeless, but to the sexual assailants and small radical groups within the movement as well.  Their actions may gain the most attention, mostly because it is bad attention, but they do not represent Occupy as a whole, and that is what many onlookers tend to forget.

In fact, because of crimes against Occupiers by other Occupiers, many protesters have joined together to create “a de facto security team […] bolstering their numbers with volunteers from outside their ranks, including former gang members” to try to keep protest sites as safe as possible at all times, as reported in a New York Times article. One volunteer security guard at Zuccotti Park–the same one mentioned earlier in the ABC News article–explains that “‘it’s much harder with the tents’ [to spot crime] but, he added, criminal activity was ‘very low,’ according to his observations.”  Members of the security force are there to de-escalate tense and potentially violent situations, and women-only tents, as well as tents for transgender individuals, have become havens for those who might worry about the few who act out during the demonstrations.

It seems the true representation of Occupy, in terms of criminal activity, is to prevent it.


Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

I happened upon that YouTube video when looking for evidence of crimes that occur during Occupy protests.  The video sounds like a great resource at first: they haven’t articulated their mission, you say?  Why yes, having read their call to action, it does seem like they are without a specific goal.  They seem to be protesting “everything under the sun,” you say?  I agree, it does seem like people just label everything as “Occupy something” nowadays.  But wait a minute, “unorganized group of punks and entitled socialist dirt bags”?  Okay, maybe this video isn’t so unbiased after all…

However, putting the opinions of the vlogger aside, there is a lot of solid content about crimes that occur to and by Occupy protesters.  This lead to my search for unbiased reporting on the criminal acts at Occupy protests, and let me tell you, this was no easy feat and I feel that I am still very unsuccessful.  As David Meyer said in an ABC News article, “’These protests have a history of welcoming everyone and just assuming they’re on your side'” and as a result, people with maligned intentions have the ability to misuse the cause for their benefit.  However, onlookers do not simply consider that the relationship between crime and Occupy “was just random variation and no causal relationship had been definitely established,” like Ben Adler did in his article for the Nation.  Cara Buckley explains in her article for the New York Times that “stories of crimes and dangerous behavior […] have been used as fuel by those who say the protesters must go.”  As a result, especially within the media it seems, the actions of the few somehow end up representing the masses who attend the Occupy demonstrations.  Thus the bias.

Such is the case in a Yahoo News article by Mark Whittington.  When delivering a break-down on crimes that occurred during the Occupy movement across the country, he muses that “’Occupy Oakland’ has devolved into something resembling Lord of the Flies” and reports that the protesters who are a part of Occupy Oakland are “a group described as ‘bullies, the mentally ill, drunks, thugs and anarchists’ [who] have turned the encampment into something resembling a state of nature, where the strong terrorize the weak, and where ad hoc rule making has caused a combination of anarchy and oppression. ”  Whether this be the case or not, there is no need for name calling.

You can find my post on the Occupy crime report findings here.