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One Year Anniversary of the Occupy Movement


This week is the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, and as two new fund-raising CDs get played more and more, it’s increasingly obvious that the 1% have more in common with Saudi potentates than regular Americans. … In some ways, that’s not new.

Speaking to the Knights of Labor in 1886, Mark Twain said, "Who are the oppressors? The few: the king, the capitalist and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; … the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat.”

What is new – besides the two excellent CDs – is the resolve of Occupy Wall Street.

A nonpartisan movement, Occupy protested at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, along with Veterans for Peace, labor unions, Code Pink and other groups, and demonstrated against both Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker. This spring and summer, Occupy held demonstrations in Chicago over NATO and G8 and at New York’s “Night of the Living Debt” (about $1 trillion in American students’ loan burden), plus partnered with labor’s SEIU to protest Big Banks such as Citigroup.

Author and correspondent Chris Hedges said, “The importance of the Occupy movement is that the corporate state understood and feared its potential. I do not think the state has won. All the injustices and grievances that drove people into the Occupy encampments and onto the streets have been ignored by the state and are getting worse.”

Indeed, 54% of Americans said they have a positive view of the Occupy Wall Street movement, 23% had a negative view. Why?  The 1% is out of touch. Writing in The American Conservative magazine, former Republican Congressional aide Mike Lofgren said, “Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?”

Occupy isn’t a condemnation of the wealthy but criticism of a system that lets the rich buy government.

Catholic Worker activist Loren Hart wrote, “I am still here occupying because we are making substantial progress daily. That may be surprising to anyone who has been relying on the mainstream media for information. Some people have even mistaken a lack of attention from popular news sources as evidence that the Occupy movement is dead [but] people everywhere are rising up and demanding a fair deal.

“I am still here occupying because of the continuing involvement of well-known activists [and] because of the dedication of retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, retired Philadelphia police Captain Ray Lewis, and New York City Council members,” Hart added.

Other involvement has come from musicians – who have a heritage of supporting progressive causes, from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Mahalia Jackson through Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan and John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and Pink. Support comes from two uplifting CDs benefiting the loose movement. “Occupy This Album” is a 4-disc package with 77 cuts by the likes of Willie Nelson, Toots & the Maytals, Third Eye Blind, Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Arlo Guthrie, Lucinda Williams, Loudon Wainwright III, Debbie Harry, Yoko Ono, and David Crosby & Graham Nash.

Folk The Banks!” has 18 tracks featuring artists such as Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, Chumbawumba and Tom Morello, who said, “The wealthiest CEOs reward themselves with million-dollar bonuses while millions are out of work. What can we do about it? We can protest against it, fight back against it, and sing songs that do both.”

Hedges added, “If the ruling class responds rationally to the grievances and injustices that drive people into the streets, as it did during the New Deal, if it institutes jobs programs for the poor and the young, a prolongation of unemployment benefits, improved Medicare for all, infrastructure projects, a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions, and a forgiveness of student debt, then … the energy in the street can be channeled back into the mainstream. But once the system calcifies as a servant of the interests of the corporate elites, as has happened in the United States, formal political power thwarts justice.”

Bill Knight is an award winning freelance writer.  The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.