The Occupy Wall Street movement that has captured the attention of the national media has now spread to the Bay Area and of all places, Walnut Creek. Protesting against the wealth disparity in America may seem out of character for an affluent city, but the truth is that the economic downturn has had an impact everywhere. The grievances expressed by the protesters at the Occupy rallies are not trivial and cannot be ignored.
The Occupy movement does not operate under any central leadership, so the various rallies across the country unsurprisingly lack a cohesive message. But the general theme expressed has been fury against the financial institutions that brought the American economy to its knees in 2008. They have legitimate reason to be furious – Wall Street displayed an inability to restrain itself in the deregulated market of the last two decades.
Critics of the Occupy movement have declared the protests ineffective because of the lack of a cohesive message, but this argument ignores the actual objective of the protests. The protesters aim to simply draw attention to their grievances, and in this regard, they have been highly successful. New rallies are cropping up in small and large cities across the United States and are receiving constant media attention.
The protesters may inconvenience everyday citizens on their way to work, but protesters are hardly ever beloved by the rest of the population. The goal is disruption and though disruption, the protesters compel society to discuss their grievances and re-examine public policy.
Occupy Walnut Creek has just begun to take form, but its sisters protest in Oakland has already drawn attention from around the country when Oakland police dispersed the protests with tear gas.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Tea Party protests that began in 2008 are an interesting blueprint for success for the Occupy movement. The Tea Party began as a leaderless protest against big government and excessive deficit spending, but has since evolved into a sizable political operation with dozens of Republican congressmen who wield considerable power in the government. If the Occupy movement can continue to draw attention, politicians will respond to their demands and change will be affected.
As corporations continue to hire new works tentatively, despite sitting on $2 trillion in cash reserves, we should all sympathize with the sentiment expressed at the Occupy rallies and especially with the plight of the unemployed.