At a distance, the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York appears to be simply people milling around. A closer look reveals a dazzling array of individuals; the clean-cut and earnest, the disheveled and unconventional; the gyrating and the restless; the musicians and drummers, the bane of neighborhood residents; the cleaners and the cart-pushers; the loungers, the sleepers, the masked, the sign-carriers, and those who gather petitions.
News cameras beam the images around the globe. Joel Goldentyer of North Carolina says the media focuses on the cranks and ignores the protest message.
“I would rather hear more from ordinary people. If you listen to what they’re saying, each one expresses their view in a slightly different way, which is a sign they’re not just parroting an ideology. They’re speaking from their heart," he said.
No single issue unites protesters.
Union members denounce alleged unfair labor practices by a large corporation. This man wants to arrest bankers in the name of Jesus. This one accuses politicians of selling out to corporations. Another wants people to fulfill their dreams. These women are protesting the death penalty and what one of them calls corporate control of education. This youngster displays wisdom by Confucius about misuse of wealth.
Focusing their ire on Wall Street, protesters raise the issue of wealth. They say too much of it is controlled, unfairly, by the richest one percent of Americans. Economist Laurence Brahm accuses corporations of using campaign contributions to buy favors from politicians at the expense of the remaining 99 percent.
“Our whole politics has been a shouting match between people who say, ‘Oh, he’s socialist, he’s capitalist, he’s Republican, he’s Democrat.’ I’m an American. I want to see my country doing better, and it doesn’t matter if you’re left or right, both have lost jobs. People here don’t have jobs. That’s why they’re out here," he said.
The American flag, and one rendered with the symbols of multinational corporations fly alongside the black flag of anarchy, the flags of Puerto Rico, of China, and whatever. It lends meaning to this man’s sign, “Why are you here?”
“What’s common about it is, we all want a fairer society; less racism, less war, less of a disparity between the rich and the poor," he said.
Wall Street has so far ignored the protest and Washington has not acted directly to address the protesters’ many grievances. The movement has no leaders and no program, so outsiders project their hopes or fears onto the gathering as they wish. For some, it represents anarchy; for others democracy.