Occupy Wall Street
For a moment in the mid-naughties, they were the coolest of all cool social media-fuelled meme-thingos.
I’m talking about flash mobs, the groups of strangers who gather in a public place to do something like dance a routine, freeze in a contorted pose or smack someone over the head with a pillow. At their best, flash mobs, which are typically organised through social media, are flickers of spontaneity, bursts of community in CBDs filled with busy suits.
In recent years though, they’ve become a whole lot less cool. That’s because they’ve been gatecrashed by another crew: the cash mob.
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Across her neck, the contradiction of a permanent tattoo shackle that reads: “Freedom.” Across one forearm, a tattoo that reads, “Liberate All Beings.” On the other arm, “Inside Job,” a reference to her belief that 9/11 was carried out by the US Government.
Kanaska Carter is 26. She is a former hairdresser from Canada who came to the US to protest on the 10th anniversary of September 11 but got caught up in Occupy Wall Street, six days later. And now there’s the Google wars, another natural fit for a conditioned young protestor.
Kanaska has lived homeless on the streets of New York for five months. She makes some money busking and inking tattoos and knows various places about the city where she and her friends can get free dinners each night.
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Activists formed a movement whose broad, and loosely defined aim, was to protest against the inequality caused by both the global and American financial systems. The protests occurred against a backdrop of failed regulation of rogue bankers in the USA, financial turmoil in Europe, and persistent high unemployment in much of the western world.
The movement first set up camp in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district and soon adopted the slogan “we are the 99 per cent” - a slogan which refers to the fact that one per cent of Americans possess the vast bulk of the nation’s wealth.
What happened next
As the financial turmoil skipped from European nation to nation, the Occupy Movement likewise spread to at least 70 countries, including Australia, where tents proved the garment of choice for some protestors.
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Matt Granfield is a typical Gen Y guy with a social conscience. He joined his friends in protesting at the Occupy Sydney movement. His Uncle Barry was shocked to see him on the television. The Vietnam war veteran doesn’t understand what Matt’s generation could possibly have to complain about. While Matt thinks his Uncle, with his Medicare assisted health care and addiction to consumer goods, should question what he hears on the news every night. Below is a copy of their email exchange.
From: Barry Granfield Sent: Sunday, 30 October 2011 10:20 AM
To: Matt Granfield
Subject: Occupy Wall Street Protests
Dear Matthew, I saw you on the news last week. I have to say, I’m most disappointed. This Occupy Sydney thing is a farce. I know you’ll say it’s hypocritical of me, but back in the 70s we were fighting against The Vietnam War and a government who locked people in jail for refusing to be conscripted. We had a good reason. This is just silly. What on earth are you protesting against? And since when did you learn to play the bongos?
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The Occupy movement has certainly been grabbing the headlines over the last week.
Apart from the protests that simultaneously occurred in capital cities around Australia, there was also the controversial police evictions of both the Melbourne and Sydney sites.
In the latest news, it was reported that there are concerns that Occupy Melbourne will be targeting a protest towards the Queen when she visits the city later today.
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The Occupy Wall Street movement’s Australian offshoots in Melbourne and Sydney were ejected from their places of gathering on Friday and Sunday respectively. There were bloody scenes in Melbourne and in Sydney protestors awoke at 5am to find themselves being dragged away by police. That’s not the biggest problem the Occupy movement is facing though, writes Lauren Rosewarne.
About five or six students from my year level at high school ended up at Melbourne Uni. Most of them I spotted in the first week or so; it took a year and a half for me to eye the only one I really wanted to see.
And there he was. Mid-1999. Crouched down on a footpath, scrawling out in huge letters: “Students for Chalk”. He didn’t stick around too long after that.
I was thinking about him and his postmodern protest the other day when 40-odd Occupy protestors crossed my path in Amherst, Massachusetts, where I’m currently working. One kid, probably all of nineteen, waved a giant “Fuck da Police” placard at me. A cheeky grin on his face.
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One of the favoured chants of the Occupy Wall Street protesters is “This is what democracy looks like”. It’s an unusual definition of democracy, predicated on an impertinent belief that stopping people from going to work or abusing them for wearing suits is a central tenet of the democratic process.
The protests, which started in Lower Manhattan two months ago as a demonstration against corporate greed, have now been replicated in many of the bigger cities throughout the world. In Melbourne protesters and police scuffled a couple of times, with dog squads and mobs coming face to face. Protest sympathisers say the cops have been too rough, while the cops say the crowds had fair warning they would be dragged away if they didn’t leave voluntarily.
Martin Place in Sydney has been another venue for occupation, albeit an occupation which sputtered to an early halt when the anarcho-syndicalist catering collective failed to lay on any food for the demonstrators, many of whom promptly called it a night and went back to Mum and Dad’s in Paddington for dinner.
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