News / USA

Faith Plays Role in Occupy Wall Street Sense of Morality

Occupy Wall Street protest buttons are seen in Zuccotti Park, November 11, 2011, in New York.
Occupy Wall Street protest buttons are seen in Zuccotti Park, November 11, 2011, in New York.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been growing and changing since mid-September.  Their message is simple: Corporations have too much influence in the American government.  Greed has derailed democracy.

But is that all they stand for? Are there deeper motives than redistribution of wealth? Are people protesting for moral or spiritual reasons?

From the streets

We went to the Occupy Baltimore camp in McKeldin Park.  The camp was mostly quiet - most of the protesters were sleeping after being up late the night before demonstrating. A few Occupiers were up, working the media desk, posting to facebook, or even playing video games.

We spoke with Damien Nichols, his friend Samantha Cuff and 21-year-old Army veteran Justin Carson, who was working on the movement’s website. 

Damien, a 29-year-old graduate of the University of Maryland who majored in politics and government, said the Occupy movement wants to “reboot democracy.”

“If City Halls and Washington, D.C. are the gatekeepers for our political representation and we don’t believe that they are currently representing us, then what we’ve done here is we’ve all come out in our major cities, including Washington, D.C., and started a conversation amongst ourselves to see what needs to be done about it,” he said.

Samantha said that she believes people are trying to “get back in touch with their humanity.”

“And I think that, is kind of what this is about for some people, is that ‘You know, yeah, the One Percent, they’re subjugating us,’ and all that, but how many of us would gladly accept a million dollars to do a dirty deed, you know? And it’s about fighting that ‘One Percentism’ within ourselves and not just outside of ourselves,” she said.

The Occupy movement refers to those who hold the most wealth - a group that makes up about one percent of the American population - as “the Once Percent.” The Occupy movement says it represents the “99 percent” - those outside the top one percent of wealth holders.

Civil religion?

Next, we visited Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Christopher Born of the School of Theology and Religious Studies specializes in the sociology and economics of religion.  He said that the Occupy movement is looking to change the American Civil Religion - the basic values of American society.

“But I think they want a general change in the way Americans view America,” he said. “And so they want sort of their version of civil religion to become the paramount version of civil religion - instead of right now you have this - sort of the civil religion of the bankers and the one of everyone else.”

Ancient perspective

Next, we went to Agudas Achim congregation, a conservative synagogue in Alexandria, Virginia. That’s where Rabbi Jack Moline told us that Americans corporations, political leaders, and protesters need to take responsibility for how they treat one another.

“And so all of these questions have to be filtered through the question of ‘what is my responsibility to my fellow human being, to the society in which we live, and to the world with which we have been entrusted by God,’ ” he said.

Voice of one

Next we traveled to Washington’s old Tivoli Theater, to the offices of Sojourners. Tim King, the communications director, visited the original Occupy Wall Street site in New York, and says the movement has changed the way Americans view social justice issues.

“And so all of these issues are being raised and have a priority right now in our national discourse and discussion that it hasn’t had before. So that conversation is already changing,” he said.

From Muslim perspective

We also spoke with resident Imam Talib Shareef from Washington, D.C.’s Masjid Muhammad congregation.  He said though he has not had direct contact with the protesters at Washington’s McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, he is advising his congregation to pursue a peaceful path.

“I have advised my congregation to always seek peaceful means, a peaceful recourse,” he said.

“The cause of peace, the cause of peace and justice is on the side of peacemakers. The bottom line is to seek the path of peace; if you seek the path to peace, then that limits any potential for there to be violence.  And when the violence comes in the movement that you are seeking, in terms of your aspirations, is overshadowed at that point,” Imam Shareef added.

Hope for future?

No one we spoke to would predict whether Occupy Wall Street will influence next year’s presidential election.  The people we spoke to also say the movement needs a clearer mandate than “changing corporate greed.” Demonstrations continue and even a march on Washington is reported in the works.

An Occupy Oakland protester waves a flag next to a bonfire in Oakland, California, November 3, 2011.
An Occupy Oakland protester waves a flag next to a bonfire in Oakland, California, November 3, 2011.

Recently there have been more violent confrontations between Occupiers and police - in Oakland, some protesters fought with riot police, trashed storefronts and started fires. 

Police in Portland, Oregon and Salt Lake City, Utah have also clashed with demonstrators.  There have been arrests and one 35-year-old man fatally shot himself in a tent last week in Vermont.  The cost of protecting protesters - in overtime for police and extra patrols, as well as cleanup and sanitation at campsites - has become an issue.  There have also been deaths and at least one reported rape. 

Winter is also coming in many major cities. But it is an open question whether Occupy Wall Street will make lasting change in America’s values.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid