Another day, another protest?

By Anya Schiffrin
October 3, 2011

By Anya Schiffrin
The opinions expressed are her own.

Things have come to a pretty pass when the right to assembly is respected more in Egypt and Spain than it is in the US of A. I am of course referring to last week’s  pepper spraying of a group of women who were enclosed in a police pen and the Saturday arrest of 700 people who strayed into traffic as police ushered them on to the Brooklyn Bridge. The police responded by saying they had warned the protestors away from traffic lanes.

The fact that it took the New York Times more than a week before they started treating the protestors seriously was also shameful.

Having read the press reports my husband and I decided it was time to see the protests for ourselves so we went down to Wall Street yesterday and found about 1,000 slightly-drenched but enthusiastic people carrying signs, making music and being careful not to step on the flowers in the middle of the square. The protestors were clustered in groups listening to several speakers. One of the speakers was from the 15-M protest movement in Spain and another was Jeff Madrick, the lefty economist who has written extensively on the financial crisis.

Unlike  the Madrid protests, electrical amplification is forbidden at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, so the protestors formed a human microphone which had hilariously unintended results, making the 6pm teach-in on economics resemble children in a one-room schoolhouse dutifully repeating their lessons.

As Jeff Madrick was introduced, a group of about 100 people in the audience repeated the introduction and his speech so the conversation went something like this: “Jeff Madrick is an editor at Challenge Magazine” and the crowd chorused “Editor at Challenge Magazine.” “He was fired from NBC for his radical views” was repeated by this human amplification system. “The ban on bullhorns even on a quiet Sunday afternoon when Wall Street offices were empty was commented on by my husband, Joseph Stiglitz“:

The fact that that you are not allowed to use a bullhorn on Sunday is outrageous. There are too many regulations stopping  Democracy and not enough regulations stopping bankers from misbehaving. You should have the right to walk down the street and express your views without being sprayed with pepper spray.

In many cities around the world, we’ve heard people say the protestors are young and have no proper plan for how to get us out of the world economic crisis. The coverage on September 25th by Gina Bellafante was an example of the dismissive way the protestors are regarded.

But the crowd yesterday was not particularly young and many there had reasonable concerns — about healthcare, economics, and social justice. They asked some flakey questions (abolishing the Federal Reserve and the use of the dollar) but for the most part they were thoughtful and engaged.

Given the high levels of unemployment in Europe and the US,  the threats to government spending and planned cut backs on budgets for government health care and education while bankers and corporate executives continue to receive large bonuses and report record profits, it’s not surprising that regular people are outraged. It’s taken a while for angry citizens to take to the streets. But whether they are ignored by the mainstream media or not, the protests will surely grow and spread.

33 comments

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Thanks, Anya, for bringing more attention to this important movement. If the American people really had representation in our government there would be no need for these protests. Thus, the protests.

Posted by doggydaddy | Report as abusive

I love how abolishing the Federal Reserve is dismissed out of hand as “flakey”.
The one and only real action to fix all the problems.
Seriously, what do you have to do to make some people wake up?
Closed minds won’t see the light even if you hold open their eyelids and shine a spotlight into their tiny brains.

Posted by RandomName2nd | Report as abusive

Very well put. Somw of the same people in charge now were protesting in the 60′s.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

This is a great window of opportunity that has been created. Democracy and fairness have been dying and we have all been a silent witness. It is time to wake up and support what is right! Thank you for the report Anya.

Posted by nanda33 | Report as abusive

Protesters should be shouting out against the cornering of the oil market by investment bankers and their clients. That’s what’s causing problems with the economy. That location would be the NYMEX and the investment bank houses in NY. In DC, that would the Capitol and the CFTC.

Posted by sorestloser | Report as abusive

You should have the right to walk down the street and express your views without being sprayed with pepper spray.

What you don’t seem to appreciate is that we live in a police state that is becoming increasingly so. The protesters were peaceful. None of what they were doing justified a violent response and, yet, like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, they were met with violence at times. Tony Bologna will pay no price for what can only be described as excessive force. That is also part of what is wrong with our society.

I’m also a bit confused by the “they don’t have a proper plan” or “they’re not well organized”. You don’t need to know what the correct answer is to know that the current one is wrong.

Posted by majkmushrm | Report as abusive

The Federal Reserve (fractional reserve banking) is what killed our economy. They are the problem. Alan Greenspan’s puppet masters had him purposely increase the money supply and keep interest rates artificially low for over a decade, while real inflation skyrocketed to the moon. Anyone that’s ever taken an Econ101 class can tell you it was a recipe for disaster. The Fed has manufactured every commodity and asset bubble we’ve ever had, and they are the ones who pull the plug and pop them by increasing or decreasing the money supply (credit).

The Fed has never been audited once in their entire 100 years of existence, ever! They are a group of private anonymous bankers who are under the authority of nobody, not even Congress. End the Fed and end fractional reserve banking and everything will change…even Wall Street.

Posted by gruven137 | Report as abusive

Abolish the Fed is flakey? It’s an arm of the banksters – which needs to amputated – along with the arms of bribe-seeking politicians – I mean campaign contribution seeking – of course. Let the surgery begin!

Posted by Peej | Report as abusive

Most of us who don’t work in the financial industry are ignorant about money. i’ve been watching Part I of the Money Masters documentary–available FREE on youtube. I’m starting to understand the opposition to the “Federal Reserve” Bank.

Posted by sophiej | Report as abusive

What killed your economy, is mindless wars and mindless support to certain nations.

Posted by kordo | Report as abusive

You folks who constantly rant against the Federal Reserve obviously don’t have significant assets. If you did, you wouldn’t want our banking system, for all its warts, to behave like it did before we had a Federal Reserve.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

You folks who constantly rant against the Federal Reserve obviously don’t have significant assets. If you did, you wouldn’t want our banking system, for all its warts, to behave like it did before we had a Federal Reserve.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

Since when does the so-called “right to assembly” include depriving fellow citizens their right to move freely in public places, without due process, e.g. a parade permit to close down a public street?

There is something seriously wrong with anyone who thinks that freedom only exists where you have large swarms going crazy, with no regard for the law.

Posted by DHead | Report as abusive

Mr. PCScipio considers existence of FED necessary to take care of our banking system. It is maybe so, but such FED has to be in control of American representatives not a private banker’ cartel. If they belong to us, they should not borrow money to us, our government should not pay to them anything.

Posted by Pred | Report as abusive

Alas there is no respect for protesters in the USA, the “rebel” is a Hollywood myth propagated by the Culture Industry. Asfor democracy, there is none in the USA. We had a chance at getting a real democracy in the 80s, but a society of intolerant, blut-und-boden ex-hippies voted for Reagan after they felt embarrassed at their behaviour a decade earlier. As for the NYT, as a journalist let me tell you: a waste of ink. I only crack it open if Krugman is in there, but even he is quite tedious by now. Our society is obsessed with entertainment, with “positive thinking,” with saying yes to the system.

Posted by Talleyrand | Report as abusive

There were a lot of young people without a “proper plan” in Chicago at the Democratic Convention too, but they knew right from wrong and they called out on the corruption. The “Grown-ups” called them the same names that these people are being called. But it does not mean that those demonstrators are wrong either.

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive

“The fact that it took the New York Times more than a week before they started treating the protestors seriously was also shameful.”
Why do you think there is so much ignorance on media (not only NY Times but most of the newspapers and news sites , only CNN and Reuters paid attention) about protesters?

Posted by True_Value | Report as abusive

We used to pretend that ‘all men are created equal’. Now we don’t even pretend anymore. Welcome to the third world.

Posted by lhathaway | Report as abusive

Oh what a corny article – classic for a leftist who has little experience of the world outside the US and Western Europe.

Most other places they will shoot first at protesters and ask question afterwards. What a silly conflation equating the US protests with those in most crazy third world countries. (Try this in China for example).

Typical liberal thinking – all emotion and no objectivity.

Posted by eleno | Report as abusive

What I would add is that economics professors should indeed transfer their lecturing from university halls to the streets but they should also give up their tenure and the hundreds of thousands of dollars they receive in wages and benefits each year. This would not only help them get reconnected to the real world and come up with something that actually makes sense but also help reduce tuition costs.

Posted by Tseko | Report as abusive

America needs protesters now because this country is falling apart. They are camping in the rain, being harassed by the police and all because they want to improve our country. There are protestors camped out in Boston right now as well, near the Federal Reserve building. Our own Government is trying to squelch the news and make people think nothing is really wrong…I am happy Reuters is telling it like it is. Thank You Reuters!

Posted by ineeditbad | Report as abusive

America’s people petitioning government of their grievances. Very healthful in a Constitutional democracy.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

Wow, I’ve hardly seen any footage of those poor women being pepper sprayed while in custody. Where is our press? They have all been co opted by our political class.

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

Abolishing the Federal Reserve is by no means “flakey.” Having a private corporation in charge of setting interest rates, deciding how much money to print, and making private (even secret) loans to corporations and foreign banks is a major part of why this country is in the dangerous financial position it is in.

Posted by B_Dubya | Report as abusive

Currently social networking is organizing the protests that have been a decade in the making. The groups are supposedly willing to fully discard our current governmental personnel and restructure from the ground up with fresh blood and no corruption under a modified system, as Capitalism has proven that it only works on a small scale and fails to an epic extent on a global scale.

Posted by Xeraphim | Report as abusive

I was right with you, Anya, when you began with the decaying right to assembly. You started to lose me with the notion that protesters should be treated seriously by the press, no matter how vaporous their protests may be. You lost me completely when you described abolishing the Federal Reserve as a flakey idea.

Posted by heartburn | Report as abusive

And they say the Tea Party is weird? Look out the window-leftist zombies, union thugs and progressive freaks! They’re screaming: ask what your country can do for you! JFK must be rolling in his grave! When we invite hell into our country, don’t be suprised when all hell breaks loose!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive

Note: you had a good idea until the zombies, unions and other freaks stepped in!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive

Goodness gracious, zotdoc, I’ve seen it a million times, just not on Fox.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

‘Things have come to a pretty pass when the right to assembly is respected more in Egypt and Spain than it is in the US of A.’ Wow. It takes bold ignorance to compare pepper-spraying a few people to the killing of over 800 protesters the Egypt and the injuring of over 6000 more.

Posted by databacon | Report as abusive

This movement will grow, organize and spread. I’ll join them.

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

This movement will grow, organize and spread. I’ll join them.

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

I appreciate speaking out against the pepper spray incident but “Things have come to a pretty pass when the right to assembly is respected more in Egypt and Spain than it is in the US of A. ” is hyperbole. Were 900 egyptians not killed in those protests, thousands tortured and arrested
a week later, christian protesters literally plowed over by the army? Egyptians made their revolution from scratch, no one gave them the right to assemble.

Posted by ath_thowra | Report as abusive