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Friday, October 21, 2011

Is Occupy Wall Street Endangering Our Rights?

During Week Four of Occupy Wall Street, as participation spread worldwide, the Senate and House of Representatives were, uncharacteristically as of late, hard at work on bills like the environmentally harmful EPA Regulatory Relief Act[1] and the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act.[2] The Protect Life Act[3] and Three Free Trade Agreements,[4]that endanger human and civil rights and a bill that endangers public safety nationally, the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, which would make it easier to conceal weapons and transport them across state lines.

All of this happening as the news is attempting to uncover the mystery of Occupy Wall Street, but our version of an ‘Arab Spring’ is more like an American Fall. The issues of political involvement and economic instability are not as close to those in Egypt and Tunisia as some would like to think.[5] Americans have a hand in law and elections (lest we mention the lack of outrage over certain obvious voting issues during a certain Bush election). In 2008 in Egypt there were riots over bread; people were starving, while in America Michelle Obama leads Let’s Move, an initiative dedicated to ending obesity. On almost every issue, down to how we consume food, the American issue is not the same as the issues surrounding the revolutions of 2011. In America, there is not the lack of opportunity to participate; it is simply the lack of participation.

The George Mason University United States Elections Project estimates that only 41% of the eligible population voted in the 2010 General elections.[6] It is this most recent congress that has knowingly passed bills that could kill thousands of people with pollution,[7] going so far as to deny waiting on enacting the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act so that adverse affects on ‘vulnerable populations’ could be assessed.[8] It is this congress that, instead of working on passing a National jobs bill, has opted to enact free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

From a poll the Wall Street Journal conducted of
Occupy Wall Street
, Douglas Schoen identified the protesters being bound by “opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.”[9] This is a fair assessment from an outside perspective, the perspective sought to be reconfigured, yet Wall Street is not where these decisions are made and as these protests continue, bills are being passed that go against some of the occupiers’ fundamental positions and organizing points.

The truth is, Wall Street is open for business, and they certainly don’t take the actions at Zuccotti Park seriously (just take a look at the front page of any recent Wall Street Journal). Certainly this isn’t a call to un-occupy Wall Street, but instead is a question- Are Americans endangering their own rights by not occupying the places where our voice counts equally and where laws are made?

It was the 16th Amendment, voted into law in 1913, that ended the American tradition of voting on taxation and placed tax burdens on everyone.[10] It is the elected officials that continue to deregulate private business. Yet the movement that claims to represent 99% of Americans is the voice of a few thousand and closer to .01%.[11] How can they claim to represent such a large portion of the population when much of that population is unable to access or have their voice heard within the Occupy Wall Street movement? They are people able to make it to particular locations at certain times and have yet to decipher whether or not to even ask for demands, let alone agree on a few concrete goals to move towards.[12]

Participants in Occupy Wall Street and the New York City General Assembly, authors of the Declaration of the Occupation of New York and subsequent demands, have been reported to say they maintain equality of the masses and a ‘horizontal’ governing system without a hierarchy. Some of those interviewed from the NYCGA for a Mother Jones article seem, unfortunately, to constitute a kind of hierarchy of professors and seasoned activists from America and abroad.[13] (with full disclosure I know some of the people interviewed from the NYCGA for the Mother Jones Article and consider them personal friends) There are talks amongst the factions outside of the NYCGA conducting votes with a 2/3 majority and factions of general assemblies venturing to create lists of demands, or rejecting any demands.[14] This is not more effective or representative than the, even when turnout is surprisingly low, American election system.

“Who isn’t angry that Washington bailed out the big banks?”[15] wrote Will Marshall in The New Republic, but it is difficult to gauge exactly what Occupy Wall Street intends to do with that anger, if anything. For now they are a divisive few, the largest estimates of the total amount of protestors does not even exceed 1% of the National population[16] [17] [18], and a distraction enabling the current American congress to go even further with restricting rights and deregulating businesses, even when they know it could kill some of the population they have been elected to represent.[19] [20] [21]

The Declaration of the Occupation of New York[22] says the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members” and who could disagree? It also says that “corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth” which is not true, they have gained, and continue to gain, the consent of the American government through the action, and inaction, of the American population. The Declaration also states: “We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.” Rights to assemble that are already law in America, from the very First Constitutional Amendment to zoning decisions about private property in the middle of New York City.[23] With the offshoot Occupy Museums[24]claiming museums are ‘pyramid schemes’[25], Occupy Wall Street is still unable to even consider petitioning Congress to create more equal law, why should we continue to pay attention to Occupy Wall Street and its declarations?

[11] percentage based on 2010 US  Census population records of 308,745,538 and the largest estimates found of participants at one time in
Occupy Wall Street
at 50,000
[16] percentage based on 2010 US  Census population records of 308,745,538 and calculating 1% of that total to be 3,087,455 where no statistics on the total number of participants in Occupy Wall Street Protests Nation wide ever exceeded the number that would constitute 1%

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