Can the Occupy Wall Street Movement Keep the Peace?

from the bridge, thousands marching

While the Occupy Wall Street movement officially discourages violence at protests, there have been some clashes between the protesters and local police in highly populated areas.


Protests have been popping up around the world, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, since demonstrations began in New York City on September 17th.


An estimated 4,500 people joined a General Strike in Oakland on November 2nd, with perhaps a few hundred thousand people elsewhere who skipped work to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.


Demonstrations saw an influx of military veterans that day, in response to police actions at Occupy Oakland which sent Marine veteran, Scott Olsen, to a hospital with a severe head injury days before.


The young man may still need brain surgery, but his condition has become more stable. He is responding with gestures when spoken to, but is reportedly unable to speak. The heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement is with Scott and his loved ones.


Messages to Scott Olsen


When there is a large number of protesters, city officials seem to feel more pressure to clear them out and keep business-as-usual flowing. This requires an aggressive approach by police and, feeling their own power-in-numbers, protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement are less likely to comply with orders.


In fact, it rather empowers them. If someone attends a peaceful demonstration without having a good understanding of their specific grievances and they see police interfering with their right to free expression and assembly, it gives them a clearer reason to protest and support the Occupy Wall Street movement.


What kind of demonstration would it be if the protesters just moved along when instructed to? Of course, this has been happening with many protest attempts in smaller cities with fewer people showing up to protest.


When protesters refuse to follow orders and leave, the police approach becomes more aggressive. The longer a protest continues, the more nervous city officials tend to get.


Rising Tensions at Protests


People who are under stress don’t make the best decisions. This can apply to protesters as well as the authorities responding to the Occupy Wall Street movement.


Violence, once initiated, can change the nature of a local Occupy Wall Street movement entirely. People give in to fear and anger, it gets progressively more difficult to keep the protest peaceful. City officials and law enforcement can become more resentful of protesters and vice versa.


At protests where the city takes an aggressive approach, friction builds up faster. People can get agitated more quickly and violence is more easily instigated.


In extreme cases, like Occupy Oakland where tear gas canisters have been shot into crowds of people, the protest takes on an atmosphere of war. It makes enemies of the police and the Occupy Wall Street movement.


One policeman was photographed in uniform and in plain clothes at Occupy Oakland. The pictures were spread online to expose him as an infiltrator or a spy.


[youtube LEUVA9WhIgY]


The officer was interviewed and denied being at the protest with ulterior motives. He seems to be genuine about his personal interest in the Occupy Wall Street movement and he made some insightful points.


Keeping the 99% Real


If protesters want to truly declare “We are the 99 percent!”, the Occupy Wall Street movement can’t single-out or exclude anyone who isn’t among the economic elite.


Those who work for the government, for corporations, for banks, or even for Wall Street aren’t the enemies. If they were all turned away for being hypocrites, how many would remain?


The website Business Insider published an article, with many straight-forward and simple graphs, detailing the economic situation that’s fueling the Occupy Wall Street movement.


We’re all in the same sinking ship. Whatever labels we use to describe our political views, economic ideologies, social philosophies, professional positions, cultural or religious beliefs, we are statistically included in the 99%.


Focusing less on our personal differences and more on the problems that affect and unite all of us can only strengthen the Occupy Wall Street movement.