Occupy Wall Street Movement Goes Global

It’s Anti-Poverty Week and, coincidentally, the Occupy Wall Street movement, having mushroomed across North America, has now jumped the Pacific and is set to reach Melbourne this Saturday. Having borrowed the US movement’s ‘We are the 99%’ tag (in the US, 1% of the population owns 42% of the wealth), Occupy Melbourne will begin at 10am at the City Square in Melbourne (on Facebook here), with similar events planned for Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Overseas, similar protests are planned in Italy, Spain and at the site of the London Stock Exchange. Occupy Wall Street’s goals are diffuse but seem united by a single theme: posters and flyers published on the Occupy Melbourne website include such slogans as “End corporate greed”, “End corporate welfare” and “Greed is over”.

Occupy Wall Street (on Facebook here) is a movement that began in New York on 17 September. It has been depicted as a continuation, at least in spirit, of the Arabic Spring movements, particularly the events in Egypt that led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, by way of a wave of protests in Spain that has come to be known as the Spanish Indignants. The Spanish Indignants are so-called because they are said to have been inspired, at least in part, by a book written by a 93-year-old French Resistance hero, Stéphane Hessel, whose pamphlet, Indignez-Vous!, urges young people to give voice to their frustrations (previously covered here).

The rise of the movement has been fascinating. At first, the New York protests slipped under the media radar, but a senior New York policeman who pepper-sprayed protesters seems to have done the movement a favour of sorts. Footage of the pepper-spraying went online and went viral: before long, it was being picked up by media outlets hungry for a drama upon which to pin the story. Suddenly Occupy Wall Street was being dubbed the left-wing equivalent of the Tea Party movement, although, as this chart shows, the Tea Party movement garnered much more initial media attention. Then, enter the celebrities (cue Kanye West, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo). This Al-Jazeera report traces the movement’s short but compelling history, while this film, shot at Zucotti Park in New York where Occupy Wall Street is based, gives viewers a ground-level glimpse into the movement, how it’s organised and, presumably, what to expect in Melbourne beginning Saturday.

A poster promoting Occupy Wall Street created by 'Adbusters' magazine with the question on everybody's lips.

A poster promoting Occupy Wall Street created by 'Adbusters' magazine with the question on everybody's lips.

The Wheeler Centre, in partnership with the Melbourne Festival, presents a series of events dubbed ‘You Say You Want a Revolution’ from 19 to 21 October featuring Emmanuel Jal, a panel discussion on the Arabic Spring and a panel discussion on Indigenous activism, at the George Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre.

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