Amidst growing unrest over the state of the economy, Americans took to the streets to protest in a movement known as “Occupy Wall Street.”
The first demonstration was on Sept. 17 at Zucotti Park in the Financial District of Manhattan. Since then, protests have sprung up across the nation and in other parts of the world, such as London and Spain.
“There is a growing social angst over the income disparity,” Dr. Nicholas Gerlich, department head of Management, Marketing, and Business at WTAMU, said.According to CNN Money, the latest census report reveals that about 15 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty. The average income of middle-class Americans dropped 7 percent to $49,445 in 2010. In 1990, that number was slightly above $48,000.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are mainly rallying against the top one percent of American taxpayers behind the battle cry of “We Are the 99%”. This group makes about $344,000 or more in gross adjusted income, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
“It’s stuff that needs to be addressed,” Emily Irvin, a sophomore Music Education major, said. “However, [protestors] aren’t going about it the right way.”
According to the Occupy Wall Street website, the movement is “a leader-less resistance movement” which is “against corporate greed, excessive corporate spending, and low wages.”
“What is all of that?” Dr. Gerlich asked. “My big complaint is that they aren’t being specific. They are complaining about things they can’t control.”
The movement has been criticized by some for not having a clear agenda.
“Half of those people out there [protesting] don’t have a clue what they’re talking about,” Lisa Ennenga, a senior Psychology and Social Work major, said. “They have a right to protest, but know what you’re talking about.”
The lack of a clear agenda has resulted in a mix of supporters and critics of the movement, and in some cases, a lack of awareness about the movement as well. Out of a random sampling of 26 WT students, only 7 were aware of Occupy Wall Street.
“I know about it because of Tumblr,” said Irvin. “There were videos posted of police tasing and pepper spraying people.”
“I think it’s dumb,” Colten Cowart, a freshman Music Education major, said. “Some things are good and some things are bad [about Occupy Wall Street], but nothing will change. It’s a waste of time.”
Although it remains to be seen as to how long the protests will last, people like Dr. Gerlich are watching with a cautious eye.
“It’s similar to the 1960’s unrest: civil rights, civil disobedience and rioting. It was scary. I grew up around it in Chicago. This is history repeating itself and I hope it doesn’t get out of control,” Dr. Gerlich said. “I respect their right to protest peacefully, but I respectfully protest the peace of mind they’re giving me.”