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Thursday, Oct 13, 2011, 12:25 pm

The Daily Occupation: Plutocracy Lowers the Hammer

By Allison Kilkenny

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On October 11, a board in Liberty Plaza Park invites Occupy Wall Street participants to sign up for sanitation work. (Photo: Sarah Jaffe of AlterNet - read her latest dispatch from Occupy Wall Street here.)

As Occupy Wall Street enters its twenty-fifth day, the rapid evolution of the movement is undeniable. What began as a ragtag group of a couple hundred occupiers –almost universally dismissed by the establishment media as pot-smoking, drum-circling hippies– has now flourished into a serious force of thousands of individuals in multiple branches peppered across the country.

Unions such as the SEIU and TWU have thrown their support behind the movement, which gave the media cover to grant OWS a degree of gravitas it had withheld previously.

In two weeks, the New York Times went from publishing shameful columns dismissing protesters as borderline lunatics to endorsing the entire movement. The NYT faced a simple dilemma: Acknowledge OWS as a serious movement or become irrelevant.

According to a recent Time magazine poll, OWS is now twice as popular as the Tea Party. On October 15, the “99 Percent Movement,” (an alternative name sometimes used to refer to the occupy movement) plans to go global with hundreds of protests in 71 countries across the globe.

In London, a rally is planned for this Saturday at the Stock Exchange that was inspired by OWS. The activists said the planned event, named OccupyLSX, “aims to highlight the social and economic injustice in the U.K., and beyond.”

This week, I called a friend of mine who is an independent journalist in Egypt with the aim of talking about the horrific slaughter of protesters that just occurred in that country, and he opened the interview by expressing how excited Egyptians are that Americans are fighting back against their own version of neoliberal policies.

Quite literally, the world is abuzz by what began in Liberty Plaza, the original, and now the new, name of Zuccotti Park.

Rather than grant legitimacy to the movement, OWS has demanded respect from institutions ill equipped to understand it. Countless times, I’ve witnessed reporters from respected publications ask protesters, “Who is the leader?” and “What are your demands?” as if they’re interviewing a Congressional representative in the Capitol’s rotunda.

OWS is not the Tea Party or It does not exist to serve either political party. It entirely exists outside the beltway system, and so the beltway system, including the corporate media, does not understand it.

So Mayor Bloomberg faces a grand conundrum. It appeared as though New York’s Mayor For Life was going to do his best to ignore the movement entirely. Then, he chimed in with a stupid comment about how the protesters were unfairly blaming “hard working” Wall Street employees. Then, he said the protesters could stay “indefinitely.” Now, he appears poised to throw out every last protester under the guise of “sanitation,” even though protesters have been cleaning up after themselves.

If sanitation is really Bloomberg’s primary concern, I can take him to a few neighborhoods in a couple boroughs that need a clean up far more than Liberty Plaza. Of course, the problem is that multi-billionaires don’t walk through those neighborhoods.

OWS isn’t the only chapter facing hardship. Boston’s camp was just raided by police, resulting in the arrests of around 100 individuals. Arrests also occurred in Seattle, and in Dallas, protesters were told they’d have to pay a $1 million insurance policy fee in order to protest in a plaza (a threat the group are fighting in federal court). Occupy Chicago doesn’t even have a park to set up camp in, and protesters instead are occupying a sidewalk corner in shifts, grabbing sleep in a nearby church when they can. Gov. Hickenlooper delivered similar bad news to Occupy Denver today when he announced the group will no longer be allowed to camp overnight in downtown Denver.

It appears officials are finally lowering the hammer on a movement they have largely been humoring up until now. The NYPD and BPD have already begun their crackdown with the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge and raid of Occupy Boston, respectively. Now, other chapters are feeling the squeeze from their city’s leadership.

The only question that remains is if local government can squash the uprising, or if it’s too late, and the momentum cannot be stopped.

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.

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