Wall Street protests trigger local demonstrations, commentary and concerns

by Bruce A. Smith 

The protests that have been occurring in New York City for the past few weeks, known as “Occupy Wall Street,” have ignited a global surge of demonstrations that include a growing number of communities in the Pacific Northwest.

 Tacoma saw its first organized protest Friday, and a full report from Michael Kagan of the Pierce County Progressive is posted below.

 In addition, a full-fledged occupation of Seattle’s Westlake Park has been ongoing for the past two weeks, according to the Seattle PI.  Sunday, the PI reports that thousands of protestors marched Saturday from the park to a demonstration at Bank of America Plaza in downtown Seattle.)  For the full PI story by their Josh Tujillo: http://blog.seattlepi.com/thebigblog/2011/10/08/photos-occupy-seattle-protest-grows/ .

  Further, Mountain News columnists Tari Parker and Paula Morris are reporting that similar protests are being planned this week in Chehalis and Puyallup, and they also share their commentaries below.

 The reasons for the protests are many, but perhaps they can be summed up by the term “corporate greed.”  Specifically, demonstrators are protesting the massive bailouts of Wall Street banks and financial organizations, but they also point to a loss of power by the average person and the destruction of the middle-class.

 Echoing that dis-empowerment, the Wall Street protesters call themselves “The 99,” a moniker that reflects the notion that 1% of the people in the world own most of the money and assets.  This global elite, composed of the corporate, cultural and political leadership, is coined “the corporatocracy” by John Perkins, the best-selling author in his seminal work Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

 Illustrating the extreme nature of the current economic conditions, over 147,000 people in Pierce County  – out of a total population of 800,000 – now receive federal food stamps or frequent the fifty or so food banks scattered throughout the county.  That’s one-in-five of our neighbors that do not have the means to feed themselves.

 Here are the commentaries from our reporters and associates:

 “Occupy Wall Street” comes to Tacoma

 By Michael Kagan

 On Friday, October 7, over 200 people marched peacefully from Tacoma’s Firemen’s Park to UWT and back to Tollefson Plaza to protest banks and other large corporations being bailed out while individuals are losing services, benefits and jobs.

 This was the first event sponsored by a local grassroots organization, “Occupy Tacoma,” in solidarity with similar movements all around the country.  

 “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out!” were two of the slogans heard expressing frustration with the inequities.  Many drivers honked car horns in support of the sentiments.

 In other cities people have camped out in strategic locations to call attention to the inequities of 1% of the population reaping the benefits of society while the other 99% struggle to make ends meet.  In contrast, the action in Tacoma was brief.  The organizers made clear they were not protestingTacoma – the town they live in, work in, and love – but rather expressing solidarity with the national movement and opposing the corporate takeover of American democracy.

 There will be other events, including, perhaps, a longer ‘occupation’ in the near future.  Anyone who would like to participate in deciding the direction this local movement takes can attend a meeting on Sunday, October 9, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 621 Tacoma Avenue South in Tacoma.  Snacks for sharing are welcome – this is a grassroots movement, after all.

 Further information and photos can be found on the web at http://www.occupytacoma.org, on Twitter at @occupytacoma, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OccupyTacoma.  For a detailed national perspective see the article by Senator Bernie Sanders,U. S. Senator from Vermont.

 Mr. Kagan’s piece originally appeared at: http://www.thepierceprogressive.org/occupytacoma?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThePierceProgressive+%28The+Pierce+Progressive%29

 Tari Parker:

 Bruce, thanks for (sending me) the address by Naomi Klein…

 It must be a unique experience to have to relay messages mouth to mouth.  Since we know that all energy carries information, those spoken words carry multiple messages of unity and power.  Beautiful!

 I sent a message (to Occupy Wall Street) via Nation of Change…”You are loved.  It is beautiful what you are doing!”

 I donated $50.00.  Not much, but I think they’ve met their temporary goal for buying food, sleeping bags, etc.

 I signed up with Moveon.org to attend a rally meeting in Chehalis tomorrow evening at 6:30 pm.  So far only six people are registered.

 It’s a beginning.


 Paula Morris

 Bruce, I sent you a link for meet-ups planned.  There is a call for a meet-up in Puyallup.  I’m thinking about it….

 Commenting on Naomi Klein’s speech:

 NK is a person who has a life long history of trying to change the status quo.  She is a superb writer with a clear vision of what is happening in our world and has realistic ideas about how to change our system for the better.

 I believe we are living in a time of history where human life must make serious choices in order to survive.  Naomi Klein delineated the most serious issues facing us as a people.  Not only our country, which was most responsible for the financial crisis we are in, but the entire world, must now make decisions that are crucial to our survival.

 Going against this building necessity to change, are elite, corporate structures which continue to go full steam ahead with their destruction and raping of our planet.  I would ask myself why?  Why, since they are human beings like the rest of us, do they refuse to open their eyes and see the bigger picture?  I can’t help but have the suspicion that they have a different agenda.  I’m afraid to know what it is.

What I do know is this:  The movement “Occupy Wall Street” is a growing movement that we here in the Pacific Northwest will become involved in eventually…in a big way.  There are small meeting groups right now that are forming to discuss strategies.  We all need to search deep within ourselves and decide whether or not we want to make this big commitment to put ourselves on the line and “occupy” a position whereby we make the statement:  “We have had enough!”  “Now is the time to change our path toward an abundant life for all, not austerity for us and wealth for them.”

 – Paula

 Naomi Klein:

 (Note:  This is her full essay as published October 6, 2011 in The Nation.  http://www.thenation.com/article/163844/occupy-wall-street-most-important-thing-world-now .  Her remarks to the protesters gathered at Occupy Wall Street were drawn from this text.)

 I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street http://occupywallst.org/ on Thursday night.  Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I said had to be repeated by hundreds of people so others could hear (a.k.a. “the human microphone”), what I actually said at Liberty Plaza had to be very short.  With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

 I love you.

 And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone.  Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.  Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.”  That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here.  A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other.  We are so grateful.

 If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis.  When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

 And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent.  And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say: “No.  We will not pay for your crisis.”

 That slogan began in Italy in 2008.  It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

 “Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?  We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.”  And most of all: “Welcome.”

 Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999.  That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power.

 And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”

 But there are important differences, too.  For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8.  Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week.  That made us transient, too.  We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear.  And in the frenzy of the hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

 Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target.  And you have put no end date on your presence here.  This is wise.  Only when you stay put can you grow roots.  This is crucial.  It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off.  It’s because they don’t have roots.  And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves.  So when storms come, they get washed away.

 Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful.  (And) these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead.  I have great faith that this will happen. 

 Something else this movement is doing right:  You have committed yourselves to non-violence.  You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately.  And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality.  Which we saw more of just last night.  Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows.  More wisdom.

 But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom.  Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging.  The media was drunk on easy money.  Back then it was all about start-ups, not shut downs.

 We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price.  It was damaging to labor standards.  It was damaging to environmental standards.  Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies.  But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

 Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries.  Just a whole lot of rich people.  People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

 The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control.  Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy.  

 And it is trashing the natural world as well.  We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands.  And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming.  The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

 These are the facts on the ground.  They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

 We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what are actually finite — fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions.  And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful — the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

 The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity.  To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society – while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

 What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline.  This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events.  This time we have to succeed.  And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.

 I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society.  That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it.  But it is no less urgent for being difficult.

 That is what I see happening in this square.  In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training.  My favorite sign here says “I care about you.”  In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.

 A few final thoughts.  In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.

 What we wear.

 Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.

 Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.

 And here are a few things that do matter.

 Our courage.

 Our moral compass.

 How we treat each other.

 We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet.  That’s frightening.  And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening.  Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets – like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting.  After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.

 Don’t give in to the temptation.  I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit.  But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come.  Because the task before will demand nothing less.

 Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world.  Because it is.  It really is.

 (From The Nation, Editor’s Note: Naomi’s speech also appeared in Saturday’s edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal.)



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13 Responses to Wall Street protests trigger local demonstrations, commentary and concerns

  1. Occupy Wall Street was/is a well planned event, planned by a number of organizations most of whom are communist/socialist groups. Most of the participants are the younger generation that think the world owes them a living and has not comprehension that it is the corporations, business owners, and private enterprise that allows them to have jobs, that is if they have ever worked a day in their lives. Somehow they have the picture of wealth distribution in their brains, not having any knowledge that the Soviet Union battled 60 years to get out from under the Communist rule and adopt and move toward a private enterprise, capitalistis society. Someone with some common sense should tell this mob to go back to school, clean up after themselves and study some history. The instigators that are behind all these protests are out to destroy America, our constitution, and everything that generations have fought to preserve. My advice to them is to move to Cuba, No. Korea or China if they want that type of government. Hard working American’s don’t want it here.

    • Tari Parker says:

      You may be missing something here.
      Work, even hard work, is what the people protesting want.

      • I have watched and listened to two videos featuring organizers of the New York protest. There was no mention of hard work or jobs. Some of their demands were free tuition for everyone, wealth re distribution, open borders for everyone, bring down the rich (the very ones that have worked hard and built big businesses, who support charitable causes and help the poor, create jobs, pay the bulk of all income taxes plus corportate taxes, and other taxes) to their level.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Hi Claudia,

      If the demands you list are in fact what protesters want, I agree, they are offensive.

      Now, you suggest that “someone with common sense should tell this mob to go back to school, clean up..and study some history.” How about you being that “someone,” Claudia? I offer my services to escort you to whatever “mob” gathering you choose: Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup or Chehalis. We can even go to Wall Street if you care to – we can stay with my mom – she’s on LI and would love a visit.

  2. catalina says:

    Your introduction and Kagan’s informative article highlight information crucial to our region. Please let us know if anything will be happening locally.

  3. Paula Morris says:

    In response to Claudia:
    Yes Claudia, your voice is one of that group of people who have not been informed of the bigger picture occurring in our world today. You may listen to the main stream corporate media, that very same media that has nearly monopolized communications now in the world, that spew’s out trite violent scenarios every night of awful things happening in your neighborhood like killings and robberies, accidents and break-ins….all to distract you/us from what is actually going on in this world.

    Corporations are not evil in and of themselves. It is the fact that corporations have procured the favor of government with their money….thereby insuring that the candidates most favorable to them are the ones elected, that is evil. They hide behind the law that says they are a “person” and as such have “rights” to privacy and entitlement the same as any individual; yet they cannot be held accountable for the horrible ecological damage they have wreaked upon the land nor for the economic hardship they have wrought by sending their companies to foreign lands thereby depriving U.S. citizens of much needed jobs. Their goal of course is to render unions ineffective and bring down wages in this country so that people will be willing to work for $2.00 and hour or less…..like they do in those other countries. They do this because resources are becoming depleted and the only way to increase their profit margin is to have less employees and pay cheaper wages (and no benefits).

    Some corporations are innovative and “good.” They donate to their community and charities. They hire locally. Some even make useful, good quality products but unfortunately, many have decided that they want more profit and in order to get it, they sell out and move out of the country. Profit has been put before people. Small business’s are a different thing. We all need to support our small business owners and buy locally from them.

    Claudia….socialism is NOT communism! For heaven’s sake….these are not the days of McCarthy. We need a new way of doing things. We need a new economic model as corporate capitalism has proven itself to be a failure. Many people these days are talking about a democratic socialism which is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Imagine! Medicare is socialism. Congressional health care is socialism. We already have many forms of socialism in this country….we just don’t admit it because the spinners are trying to tell us that socialism is “evil.”

    Occupy Wall Street is a diverse group….yes it was initiated by young people (thank God for them) but has steadily been growing and now incorporates all races, religions, ages and genders. This is a grass roots movement Claudia. Other groups have joined forces in solidarity with them….but it was started by individuals who had enough of our corrupt system.

    This is a time in history when all people are starting to awaken and realize that we have been taken over by money! Our values have been corrupted by money! Money (mammon) has become the god of our nation and of many others.

    Oh, and guess what Claudia? The world DOES owe our young a living. We brought them into it with the hope that they would carry on and make the world even better than what we, their parents made it. Everyone deserves and has the right to clean air, healthy non-poisonous food, clean water, health care, shelter and clothing…..even if they don’t work–just because they are human!!! Your authoritarian preaching Claudia….is just so “Tea Party!” Wake up! Corporatism is a system that is against your best interests….unless you are one of the 1%?

    And Bruce…..bravo to you for printing this info.

    • This is my last contribution as I don’t have the time to argue with those who see things differently than most of us. I am sharing an email that I received that really says it all. I am in the tax paying, (paying for all the free stuff) and we pay every penny that is required of us, plus we contribute heavily to many charities. I volunteered for 21 years at a local organization that feeds, clothes, rehabilitates and finds jobs for those who need it so I resent the innuendos of Paula’s comments.
      Here is the email:
      I have never heard this said as simply or as well. Class war at its best.

      The folks who are getting the free stuff don’t like the folks who are paying for the free stuff,

      because the folks who are paying for the free stuff can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff.

      And, the folks who are paying for the free stuff want the free stuff to stop.

      And the folks who are getting the free stuff want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they are already getting!

      Now… the people who are forcing the people who pay for the free stuff have told the people who are RECEIVING the free stuff that the people who are PAYING for the free stuff are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

      So… the people who are GETTING the free stuff have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their free stuff

      and giving them the free stuff in the first place.

      We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than paying for the free stuff.

      Now understand this. All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded. The reason?

      The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing

      people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

      The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 231 years ago. The number of people now getting free stuff outnumbers the people paying for the free stuff. We have one chance to change that in 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it.

  4. Paula Morris says:

    Even if you don’t reply, I feel obligated to respond to your comment. There are so many differences in the way we think that I cannot even think how I could find enough space to write about all of them.

    You would be surprised to learn, however, that the way you think….truly is NOT in the majority. The U.S. as you “think” you know it, died long ago when the neo-conservative element got a foot-hold on power. Compounding that was a move to “globalize” the economy….which has pretty much happened.

    If you want to talk about “free stuff” and people who pay and people who don’t….look to the charts that show our GNP and how the money is distributed between groups. What you would see is a grossly unbalanced pie chart. The Pentagon/lobbyist bought–congressional-military industrial complex absorbs 65% of our GNP. Who’s getting free stuff?

    If all our taxpayer money stayed here in this country, we would all be so well off there would be no complaints from anyone. We could probably cut taxes on the working class by half and still be well off!

    The demise of the U.S. won’t occur because of poor people getting free stuff. It will implode because it has slowly been sold off to the highest bidder. The money and resources are being filtered outward and people who believe that big business is creating jobs are deluded. The banks, financial institutions, corporations, are sitting on their money. They are continually decreasing the working population. The U.S. is becoming more like a third world country every day.

    The elite, the large corporations (globally financed and operating globally), want you and I dead! They know resources are depleted. They want what remains for themselves. The population must decrease somehow. So how have they worked to that end? Wars, poor health care, decreasing food availability, eliminating jobs….thereby eliminating the number of working people paying into social funds like social security and medicare. Do you feel squeezed? Do you feel like you are working hard and getting nothing in return? That’s the plan….to exhaust the working class and make them angry at the “poor” unworking masses who are soon to be starving. Guess what? We may all be the “unworking class” very soon!

    The powers that be cannot forsee any other economic system besides capitalism which has really become Corporate Fascism. That is what is happening here…..Fascism! All in favor of living in a totalitarian fascist state raise your hands! What capitalism has done as an end result, is what capitalism always does….it destroys from within. Greed is the reason. Mankind has thus far always succumbed to greed. If more profit for me is possible…then I will find the way to get it. That’s the kicker. So, you’re afraid of some form of socialism where all people have enough of what they need? Ok, well enjoy your ride with fascism then!

    What would happen if there was no money at all? What if there were no jobs? Would you care for the person next to you who might be starving or have no clothing? Would you feel any humanitarian responsibility toward others? Would you share? Would you help those around you and let them help you where needed? Would you offer shelter? Or would you just shoot your way through and kill your way into your last days? Think about it.

  5. Sorry, Bruce. I like you but you are wrong on most accounts. The majority of Americans who want this country to return to the constitution spoke at the last election and will continue speaking out through the ballot box.

  6. John Marshall says:

    Money = Power It’s taken 231 years for the fortunate ones to buy enough politicians to influence our government policies. The poor and middle class have no money to buy influence. What I think that I see on TV is the 99% who don’t have the money to influence the lawmakers in DC. They have finally realized that they are left out. (No bonus this year.) Remember the old song, “You load 16 tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” That’s what they are thinking. I applaud the lady who has spent 21 years helping out. I bet that in all of those years, I’m sure that she has seen things get a whole lot worse than when she started helping 21 years before. Have government policies caused those poor souls to become more and more desparate? Have the Grover Norquists, George Sorros, Rupert Murdox, Bill Gates, the Koch Brothers and the gentelman from Omaha influenced policy? (3 “D’s” 3 “R’s”) You darn right! Now combine that with a population that is increasing exponentially, and automation taking jobs away at an exponential rate and then how dare those 99% wanting a living wage—How dare them! We’ll fix them by sending our manufacturing to countries without labor or enviromental laws. The gap between the poor and rich has increased, we frequently see 2 generations living under one roof, soon it will be 3. Does that remind you of anywhere else? The wealthy call it Globalization and say that it’s just going to be that way. It’s all about corporate profits, the bottom line. Some call it corporate greed. Finally after 231 years, “The Haves” own all of the politicians, have crafted laws in their favor and appear to have the upper hand. What’s left for the “Have Nots?” So far what I see on TV seems to be peaceful, I really don’t expect that to last. HOW SAD! Who’s at fault? I suspect that we all are.

  7. Paula Morris says:

    Excellent comments John. I agree wholeheartedly!

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