But in three weeks, it has provided fuel for a broader national anti-corporate message, drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring but struggling to define its goals beyond a general feeling that power needs to be restored to ordinary people.
Now similar protests are springing up in Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago, and organizers in Washington plan a march at Freedom Plaza on Thursday to “denounce the systems and institutions that support endless war and unrestrained corporate greed.”
On Monday morning, the scene at the heart of the self-styled Occupy Wall Street movement — Zuccotti Park, two blocks north of Wall Street — had the feeling of a street fair, with women in brightly colored wigs playing with hula hoops.
A collection of protesters wearing white face paint with streaks resembling blood at their lips conducted a “zombie parade” down Broadway to underscore what they see as the ghoulish nature of capitalism.
Despite having no single leader and no organized agenda, the protesters insist they are on the verge of translating their broad expression of grievance into a durable national cause. “The criticism has focused on the lack of cohesion in our message and demands,” said Arthur Kohl-Riggs, 23, a political activist from Madison, Wis. But what the critics don’t understand, he said, is “the value of forming a direct democratic movement” that is not controlled by political elites.
The protests gained more institutional support when a national transit union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, pledged its support Tuesday. As Michael Bolden explained:
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has been winning support from many quarters, but the latest comes from the world of transportation.
On Tuesday, the Amalgamated Transit Union, with more than 190,000 members in the United States and Canada, pledged its support.
Union officials said members of three New York City locals were at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan Monday and plan to attend a march on Wednesday. The union and locals plan to donate food and other supplies and to participate in protests in New York and across the country, officials said.
The union is the parent of Local 689, which represents most Metro employees in the Washington region.
“While we battle it out day after day, month after month, the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street sit by – untouched – and lecture us on the level of our sacrifice,” Larry Hanley, ATU’s president, said in a statement.
The Washington D.C. iteration of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has begun to coalesce around the message of the inappropriate influence corporations wield in politics. As Suzy Khimm reported:
Occupy Wall Street is still a nascent, amorphous protest movement without a specific policy agenda. But in the movement’s DC offshoot, one target has begun to come into focus: the outsized role of corporate money in politics.
On Monday, about 20 people gathered to join Occupy DC’s midday meeting in Washington’s McPherson Square, some of whom have been camped out since early Saturday morning. The group ranged from white-collar professionals on their lunch break to unemployed workers and students, one of whom was changing clothes beneath a tree in the park. Occupy DC has no defined policy agenda or demands. But when asked why they showed up, many participants could agree on one thing: corporations have too much influence over the political system
“Corporatism has become the standard, and people forget they’re part of government....it’s power that’s come for sale,” said Brian, a 24-year-old unemployed Maryland resident, who arrived with a backpack to camp out.“Our government has allowed policy, laws and justice to be for sale to the highest bidder.”
A tall, bearded man wearing a black leather vest, Brian declined to give his last name for fear of hurting his employment prospects. But he’s vocal about his desire to fight crony capitalism in the government, arguing that it has allowed deep-pocketed donors to profit from private government and military contracts. He suggested a cap on contributions and campaign spending as one solution. “There needs to be a limit on the amount of money you can spend on elections, or can contribute,” Brian said, accusing politicians of then using the money to host lavish “filet mignon dinners” for other contributors.
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