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On September 17th, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of New York’s financial district, calling for deep changes to unjust financial and political systems. Referring to themselves at "the 99 percent"—as opposed to the top 1 percent of Americans who control a majority of the nation's wealth—the mostly young demonstrators held signs saying, "Too Big Has Failed," "Tax the Rich," and "Our Democracy Isn't for Sale."
Though their numbers have dwindled, many of the protesters are still camped in Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Square) nearly a week later. They meet in daily General Assemblies to discuss issues such as police relations and meeting their food and shelter needs (as during the workers' rights protests in Madison, Wisconsin, supporters from far and wide have sent thousands of dollars worth of free pizza). Indeed, some protesters say they were inspired by the way demonstrators "liberated" public spaces during the Madison protests, the Arab spring, and anti-austerity protests in Europe.
"We occupy Wall Street as a symbolic gesture of our discontent with the current economic and political climate and as an example of a better world to come," the demonstrators wrote in a recent dispatch on their website.
How is it that our nation is awash in money, but too broke to provide jobs and services? David Korten introduces a landmark new report, “How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule.”
What the privatization of public spaces has to do with our likelihood of taking to the streets.
- While wealth and power concentrate in the hands of a few, the rights, jobs, and services that everyday Americans depend on are on the line. Across the country, people are rising up to defend them.
World War I veterans block the steps of the Capital during the Bonus March, July 5, 1932 (Underwood and Underwood). In the summer of 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, World War I veterans seeking early payment of a bonus scheduled for 1945 assembled in Washington to pressure Congress and the White House. Hoover resisted the demand for an early bonus. Veterans benefits took up 25% of the 1932 federal budget. Even so, as the Bonus Expeditionary Force swelled to 60,000 men, the president secretly ordered that its members be given tents, cots, army rations and medical care.
In July, the Senate rejected the bonus 62 to 18. Most of the protesters went home, aided by Hoover's offer of free passage on the rails. Ten thousand remained behind, among them a hard core of Communists and other organizers. On the morning of July 28, forty protesters tried to reclaim an evacuated building in downtown Washington scheduled for demolition. The city's police chief, Pellham Glassford, sympathetic to the marchers, was knocked down by a brick. Glassford's assistant suffered a fractured skull. When rushed by a crowd, two other policemen opened fire. Two of the marchers were killed.