Occupy Wall Street protesters regroup after tent cities are cleared, consider political demands

December 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protesters around the country are regrouping after several cities evicted them from parks where the movement had set up tents. As AP reported:

For more than two months, they were open-air communes where people came to rebuild society and start a nationwide discussion on how to close the wide gap between the rich and the poor. But as Occupy tent cities fade away, a growing number of protesters are pushing to put a clear message ahead of the movement.

Alan Collinge has his list ready. Return bankruptcy protection to student loans. Bring back banking reform regulations that were removed from the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. End corporate personhood.

Other cities’ movements have held committee meetings with names like “cohesive messaging” to discuss strategy, but haven’t agreed on specifics. The greater purpose isn’t to influence the government or the financial system through classic demands, but to foster broad cultural changes that will gradually empower people to stop depending on big corporations and Wall Street money.

“All the energy has gone into an outcry over economic conditions, with the hope that others will join us and pick up issues they care about,” says Bill Dobbs, Occupy Wall Street’s press liaison in New York. “Our best hope is inspiring other people to take action to bring economic justice.”

Some observers and experts predict Occupy groups may spend the next few months focusing on smaller actions while waiting for the summer, when the Republican and Democratic conventions would give protesters a worldwide audience.

The Associated Press gathered a list of proposals from Occupy protests across the country. Here is a selection:

—Reinstate portions of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that were repealed in 1999. The act had prevented bank holding companies from getting into certain other types of financial ventures, effectively separating investment banking and commercial banking.

— Freeze all property foreclosures; cap interest charges at 6 percent or less.

— Reduce military spending; stop wars that drain financial resources.

— Reparations; make government payments to the descendants of African slaves to reset a broken, unbalanced economy.

— Ban big corporate donations to campaigns and set equal spending limits.

— Instill a fair conscience and a sense of morality into the minds of big decision makers.

— Revamp the tax code to take a higher percentage of multimillionaires’ earnings. Ensure that Wall Street and big companies pay higher business taxes.

— Equalize public education by paying fairly and proportionately for the entire U.S. population, regulating spending by student and not by school district.

Cornel West, an early supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, sat with On Faith’s Sally Quinn to discuss the protests :

1. What got you into Occupy Wall Street ? What first dawned on you?

Cornel West: This is the kind of democratic awakening that I have been calling for and fighting for for 30 years. The idea of witnessing the resurrection of the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Dorothy Day, and Phil Berrigan, and Cesar Chavez is a sublime experience. As soon as I heard about it. I talked about it on the Martin Brashear show, and then traveled to the Midwest. I went straight down to the occupy Wall Street gathering, you know, and gave a speech there in September, went back the next day and did some interviews with television, CNN and so on. Then I traveled to Boston and spoke at Occupy Boston, traveled to L.A. and spoke at Occupy L.A. And of course when I was asked to preach at the Temple of Praise by Bishop Glen Staples in Washington, D.C. I was there with Bootsy Collins, the great fog master and artistic genius, we were there at the morning of the Occupy Washington, D.C. event ... They said that I had gone to the memorial. I actually preached at Bishop Staple’s church that morning.

2. How much of your religion effects what you do and how you do it in this particular movement?

Cornel West: It’s at the core of who I am, it’s at the essence of the life I try to lead. When I got arrested, that was Christian witness for me. Very much so. In the speech that I gave [at the Temple of Praise], I talked about how this is a movement that embraces prophetic Mormons, prophetic Episcopalians, prophetic black Baptists like myself, progressive atheistic and agnostic brothers and sisters, and I think I may have invoked my dear brother Bill Maher.

We all focus on this corporate greed, be it in the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, the corporate media multiplex, or Wall Street. They’re all connected. It’s a fundamentally Christian witness, there’s no doubt about that.

More from The Washington Post:

Fines for 3 Occupy Richmond protesters after arrests

VIDEO: ‘Occupy’ protesters march in Philadelphia

Police begin evicting Occupy Philly

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