College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Occupy Wall Street Sweeping the Nation

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been edging closer to Oxford, as protests began in Memphis in the past two weeks, and the protest is going global, as far away as Brussels, the capital of Belgium.

This speedy world-wide spread of protests started with just over a thousand people protesting the greed of Wall Street investment bankers and has grown to include hundreds of thousands of protesters in 900 cities around the world, according to “The Atlantic” magazine.

The movement originated as a protest against the current state of the economy, which the group blames on Wall Street dealings and the tax system in the United States.

Chuck Smith, a political science professor at the University of Mississippi, describes the protests as “frustration with the distribution of wealth in the country as it has evolved in the last 30 years.”

Many students, as well as Americans, are not yet sure what to think about the protests. Jana Newcomer, a freshman journalism and pre-law major, said she is neutral on the protestors stance, but thinks the protests are a good thing.

“It’s refreshing to me to see that people are exercising their right to practice free speech,” she said. “It’s really good to see people actually taking a stand.”

When it comes down to placing blame for this occurrence, Smith said Wall Street is the perfect target many Americans feel have contributed to this problem.

“The obvious poster-children for the upper part of that group (who to blame) are Wall Street investment bankers, and they have also been targeted as being responsible for the ‘08 meltdown from which the country has not recovered economically,” he said.

As the protests have grown since beginning on Sept. 17, the protesters’ messages have become muddled.

Sam Graham-Felson reported in an article in the news magazine “Mother Jones” that he went to march with the protesters and said he was astounded as well as confused by all the different issues being protested within the group.

Graham-Felson documented that beyond the original economic nature of the protest, many people were pushing other messages such as “Legalize Marijuana, Free Palestine, Anti-Fracking.”

Though the protests on Wall Street are tending to get fairly muddled, the like-minded protests occurring elsewhere are keeping the economic message more central to the marches.

Smith said he feels that with the protests swaying so far left on the political spectrum, they can be compared to the Tea Party, which swung to the far right.

“(The Tea Party) was a really loosely held together group, protesting, angry, upset and couldn’t really articulate everything that they stood for, and I think this group is kind of like that,” he said. “Where the Tea Party is out on the right, this one is more left-oriented. But they seem, as the Tea-Party did, to have an agenda that not everyone is sure about.”

Smith said he deems the fast spreading and Euro-Zone economic woes as an aspect that differs this movement from the Tea Party.

“It’s really too early to answer the question about what the political fallout will be,” he said. “This seems more capable of causing mass unrest than the Tea Party.”

Ryan Grover, a liberal studies major, believes the movement could have a lasting effect on the U.S. economic policy.

“The protesters out there are working for fairness and equality in America,” he said. “I think that will lead to legislation that will hopefully change the way politics are run and especially the way taxes are done.”

Occupy Wall Street intends to continue its protests indefinitely. How long they will actually last is debatable. Currently, many news organizations, most notably Fox News, blast the protesters for not having one set agenda and purport that this could cause the movement to fizzle out.

Still, Occupy Wall Streets’ official website puts its number one goal as giving a voice in the economy and in politics to who it deems the “99 percent.”

This refers to the rest of Americans who are not the 1 percent of wealthy Americans. The dismal shape of the economy is so far fueling the protest’s growth.

Wall Street protests have even moved into rich neighborhoods around the country.

Though no protests have occurred in the Oxford area, students such as Grover believe they may see this come to fruition and be a part of it in the future.

“I wish that I could be out there,” he said.

“I support their cause. I feel like they are doing the right thing.”

from DM by Will Bedwell