“A lonely vigil in remote Alaska. . . . The tundra is outside of Bethel, Alaska. The day is chill. The sentiment is solid. Find your spot. Occupy it. Even if it is only your own mind. Keep this going.”
Diane McEachern told Reuters her friend had snapped a photograph of her occupying the tundra of Alaska on a frosty day as a bit of lark, but when she posted the photograph to an Occupy Wall Street site, it went instantly viral. A group of friends responded with an Occupy the Bering Sea photograph. Days later, a photograph from Antarctica surfaced.* The message is rippling across the world, one photograph at a time.
During the Arab Spring and, going further back, the Iranian protests, videos were instrumental in passing information out of tightly controlled regimes.Videos were a way for protesters to show that they were being attacked and brutalized in Syria, Libya and Yemen.
For the U.S. protests, however, photographs have been the rallying point online. The Tumblr blog “We Are the 99 Percent” helped create a cohesive narrative for folks to rally around far outside Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. When the protests on Wall Street had only a few hundred attendees, hundreds more were photographing themselves and their handwritten lists of frustrations and posting them to Tumblr.
Looking at the images of the protests that occurred in 81 countries around the world Saturday, the visuals are strikingly similar. In Tokyo, cardboard signs read “We are the 99 percent.” The tent cities look the same in London, Toronto and Washington. U.S. dollar bills cling to a man in Stockholm.
Instead of witnesses to violence, the photographs are instead an encouragement, a reminder that there are others out there like them. It’s turning the protests into instantly shareable memes. The Guardian reports that protests have taken place in 951 cities, each documented with the photographs that have managed to unite a loose, scattered movement into one that, by all appearances, only seems to be gaining steam.
*I can’t reach the folks in the photo, but one participant’s dad wrote to tell me they are indeed in Antarctica. Another former resident of Antarctica also wrote in to testify to the photograph’s legitimacy. He writes it’s “McMurdo Station, Antartica, 77 degrees 51’ South.”
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