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Occupy Wall Street: Alternative Eco-Unit?


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By Debra Atlas

NEW YORK — The Occupy Wall Street protest has rapidly become a global phenomenon that offers a window into a different type of ecological unit: a totally organic type of social organization.

Begun on September 17 with 2,000 people gathering in lower Manhattan and marching uptown to Broadway, this movement has since been repeated across America. At least 82 countries and thousands of protesters have been involved in similar movements, such as Spain, in recent months.

Occupy Wall Street participants span a diverse range of backgrounds, age groups and beliefs. Crowds consist of students, families, the elderly, construction workers who join in on their lunchtime, business people, unemployed Wall Street executives, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, parents, and others.

The ongoing protest is a movement created and nurtured by the Internet. Tweets and Facebook messages are constantly providing updates to those around the world.

But perhaps there is more to this growing sit-in than just protesters speaking out against bank bailouts, corporate greed, and the unrestrained power of Wall Street in Washington, DC. The rallying cry: “We are the 99 percent!” may be the catalyst for change, an opportunity for participants literally create something that is unique.

Americans are rallying to this cause. People from across the country are sending clothing, supplies, money, even notes of support. As varying needs arise among those gathered, new services are quietly made available to fill them.

The group BMW Guggenheim Lab—a mobile laboratory that has traveled to nine urban cities around the world over the course of six years—met with the organizers of New York’s Occupy Wall Street and members of the community to discuss and examine issues that are affecting our cities. Their purpose is to generate “solutions from the people.”

These continuing protests are changing conversations—on the street and in the national media. A recent news program on CNN featured three journalists examining the issues behind the protest at New York’s Zuccotti Park, renamed Liberty Square by the crowds.

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Two of the news aficionados were baffled as to why Mayor Bloomberg did not bring in the riot police and clear the crowds, as they were squatting on private property which the owners wanted to clear and clean up. The third journalist tried unsuccessfully to get the message across to the others of the purpose and importance of what the protesters were trying to do. He grasped the point that they were standing up for what they felt was right, that this was a movement that had captured the imagination and emotions of the general public and that the mayor was being wise to allow them to stay. His message clearly fell on deaf ears.

The idea that so many people from so many different walks of life are engaging in this ever-expanding protest, this “people’s assembly”—ranging in the thousands in New York City alone—could well be birthing something with creativity and freedom that will last for years to come.

Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.

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