To veterans of past social movements, the Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York and spread nationwide have been a welcome response to corporate greed and the enfeebled economy. But whether the energy of protesters can be tapped to transform the political climate remains to be seen.
“There’s a difference between an emotional outcry and a movement,” said Andrew Young, who worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a strategist during the civil rights movement and served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “This is an emotional outcry. The difference is organization and articulation.
The nearly four-week-old protest that began in a lower Manhattan park has taken on a semblance of organization and a coherent message has largely emerged: That “the 99 percent” who struggle daily as the economy shudders, employment stagnates and medical costs rise are suffering as the 1 percent who control the vast majority of the economy’s wealth continues to prosper.
Labor unions and students joined the protest on Wednesday, swelling the ranks for a day into the thousands, and lending the occupation a surge of political clout and legitimacy. President Barack Obama said Thursday that the protesters were “giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works;” some Republicans have been seeking to cast Occupy Wall Street as class warfare.