Origins of the Occupy Movement

Posted: March 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

The financial crises of the late 2000’s, is considered my many to be the worst financial crises since the great depression of the 1930’s. It resulted in the collapse of many large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national government and downturns in the global stock market. As a direct result of this, the housing market also suffered. The recession contributed to the failure of key businesses such as Lehman brothers and declines in consumer wealth estimated to be in the trillions of U.S. dollars, and a significant decline in economic activity, leading up to a global recession in 2008.

The recession was caused by a series of valuation and liquidity problems in the united states banking system in 2008. In 2007, the united states housing bubble finally reached it’s peak and burst. This meant house prices, which had steadily increased for years, suddenly plummeted al at once causing the values of securities tied to U.S. Real estate to fall dramatically, such was the effect of this, that it damaged financial institutions globally.

Since the financial crises hit, the world economy has been affected greatly, but one thing is for sure, it has effected certain levels of society far more that others. While there are still many people out of work or unable to find jobs as a direct result of the financial crises, the super rich were able to recover very quickly. Large corporations and wealthy businessmen were minimally affected by the recession, and were the first to recover. Shortly after the economic recovery began, many fortune 500 companies in the U.S. Reported record profits and many billionaires saw their net worth hit new highs. The 2011 edition of the annual U.S. Dollar billionaires ranking compiled by Forbes Magazine broke new records, both in terms of the number of billionaires, which reached 1210, and their total wealth which exceeded 4.5 trillion U.S. Dollars. This shows quite clearly that the recession has only further widened the gap between the rich and poor, setting up the perfect climate for protests such as the Occupy movement.

On the 26th of March 2011, a march took place in London in protest against the government cuts. This march was the first to show the extent of the unrest, as the march was hijacked by anarchist pressure groups who attempted to turn the march violent. The violent groups broke away from the main march, and moved into the west end where shops and banks were vandalised and some individuals clashed with police. Further clashes were reported later in Trafalgar Square. 201 people were arrested, and 66 were injured, including 31 police officers. These protests were only the beginning, as in august of the same year, further unrest in the capital gave rise to riots which spread as far north as Manchester. The protests began following the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of armed police officers. Although there were far more underlying issues, and it has been speculated that the underlying financial issues present in the capital contributed greatly to riots. They were characterized by rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels. As a result, the Prime Minister returned early from his holiday in order to deal with the situation, as did other government and opposition leaders. All police leave was cancelled and parliament recalled to asses the situation. As of the 15th of august, about 3,200 people had been arrested and 1000 charged.

The month after the riots took place, with the United Kingdom still in a state of shock, Canadian activist group Adbusters suggested a peaceful occupation of Wall Street to protest corporate influence on democracy, a growing of disparity in wealth, and the absence of legal repercussions behind the recent global financial crisis. They sought to combine the symbolic location of the 2011 protests in Tahrir Square with the consensus decision making of the 2011 Spanish protests. The groups produced a poster, with the words “What is Our One Demand” above a picture of a dancer atop Wall Street’s iconic charging bull. Their one demand was a presidential commission, to separate money from politics. They also promoted the protest vis social media, though they have said the idea took root of it’s own accord, and many people outside of the group became involved.

The occupy Wall Street movement was only the beginning, ans since it started, similar protests have been going up all over the world. They have been seen in Barcelona, Madrid, London, Isreal, Hong Kong, Moscow, and many other places across the globe. Since it’s inception, the protest has transformed in it’s point, to become mainly anti capitalist, they have taken up the moniker “We Are The 99%” they protest against the distribution of wealth and disagree with a society where it’s possible for one percent of the population to control a large majority of the wealth. Many of these protesters come from left wing or socialist groups.

Since these protests started, there has been constant opposition form from many people. In England especially, there has been opposition from different right wing groups including the BNP and the EDL. One of the protests, in Newcastle, has had particular opposition form the EDL, who have made occasional violent attacks against their occupation. The people who oppose the occupy movement generally seem to feel that the protesters don’t have one solid argument and that, even if the government were to cave to their demands, it would turn out that they themselves wouldn’t know what these demands were. This view has been constantly shouted down by the protesters who say appear to have many views held jointly aong all of them. Most of the protesters I have spoken to have expressed a desire for some kind of distinction between investment and utility banking.


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