The Occupy story is now growing beyond a domestic American narrative and becoming a global tale of protest.
Last week, EA we noted how Occupy Wall Street was inspiring hopes that the country could witness an "American Autumn", with the protests in New York,and other U.S. cities paving the way for a global movement. The question was also emphasised in a piece by Reuters, Wall Street action part of global 'Arab Spring'?
If the 580,000 comments and counting sent to avaaz.org from around the world are an accurate indication, then the potential for a global Arab Spring is there. A series of meet-ups and Occupy gatherings scheduled for this Saturday across countries will provide the opportunity for this expression of discontent to take root.
In Britain, the first General Assembly of the occupylondon movement was held on Sunday, and it acknowledged: “The General Assembly is the main decision-making forum for #occupylsx (Occupy London Stock Exchange), as it has been for other international occupations, drawing on the model pioneered in Spain earlier this year.”
Unsurprisingly, the London protests will garner the most attention of the British media this Saturday. And if this piece from the Daily Mail --- usually a staunchly law-and-order conservative paper --- is a precursor of the coverage, it may prove to be even-handed. Behind that headline story, local Occupy gatherings will be held nationwide in support of the main London meeting, from Andover, via the larger Nottingham, Newcastle, and Norwich groups, to Worcester.
Occupations have already began in the Peace Gardens, Manchester, and Dame Street, Dublin, with the Manchester group posting footage of an initial meeting between organisers and the police on youtube to illustrate the cooperation that is possible with the law and civic authorities.
And for those who like the details of what goes on day-to-day at an Occupy site, the Occupy Manchester group also write a daily blog of their experiences.
Meanwful, alongside useful --- if hopefully unnecessary --- advice about how to use an onion and vinegar to counteract the effects of tear gas, participants in the recent protests in the Middle East have passed on some organisational tips to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The main message is, as Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim, explains, “To have a clear set of demands. And have those demands, which can be in a list, have to be made very public. Over 18 days, Egyptian protesters eventually put up large posters with our demands for the entire square to see. "
This emphasis on a stated manifesto of reform demands has so far been resisted by the Occupy movement, with this opinion piece by Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post summing up the widely- held view among US commentators that, for now, the moral attack on the ethics of the so-called 1% is sufficient:
Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.
I love every little thing about these gloriously amateurish sit-ins. I love that they are spontaneous, leaderless and open-ended. I love that the protesters refuse to issue specific demands beyond a forceful call for economic justice.
This dilemma of specific demands v. uncoordinated energy will only increase in importance as global dissent against economic, financial, and political institutions gathers pace. But, and perhaps it is the most significant point to note at this early stage of the Occupy movement, what we are witnessing now in the US may well be just the vanguard of an international desire to change the "corporate" structure.
Currently, Occupy Wall Street, and the earlier Arab Spring, have inspired citizens in 662 cities in 79 countries to declare they will take to the streets on October 15, UNITED FOR #GLOBAL CHANGE. For example, Occupy London issued a press release early Wednesday morning announcing details of Saturday's events, and acknowledging their indebtedness to earlier movements by noting:
Londoners set to launch occupation in the heart of the city’s financial centre on Saturday 15th October, as part of a global movement for real democracy … As protests on Wall Street capture the imagination of the world, with people taking to the streets to hold the global financial system to task, a diverse group of Londoners is coming together to launch a peaceful occupation near the London Stock Exchange (LSX) at Paternoster Square.
It is doubtful you would have seen that level of interest provoked by a protest movement, based in Manhattan's financial district, calling for:
1. An end to the present advantageous tax rates on income enjoyed by hedge fund managers
Occupy Wall Street has become the symbol of a larger worldwide dissatisfaction with global economic trends. Until that changes, and each country that can establishes its own Occupy presence with its own particular emphasis, the protesters in Wall Street and other American cities are doing the rest of the world a favour by refusing to issue a list of specific demands. There is plenty of time ahead for them to call for Demand 1. And then etc. But there are only three days left until Saturday, and we find out whether the Occupy movement is here to stay as a global phenomenon.