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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid