Occupy Wall Street

2011 protest in New York against wealth inequality

Occupy Wall Street was an ongoing series of demonstrations in New York City based in Zuccotti Park (formerly "Liberty Plaza Park"), originally called for by the Canadian activist group Adbusters. The action has been compared to the Arab Spring movement (particularly the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo, which initiated the 2011 Egyptian revolution) and the Spanish Movimiento 15M. The participants of the event, who have called themselves the "99 percenters", are mainly protesting against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government, among other concerns. By October 9, similar demonstrations had been held or were ongoing in 70 major cities and more than 600 communities.

Organizers described Occupy Wall Street as “a way of being,” of “sharing your life together in assembly.” ~ Michael Greenberg
The Occupy Wall Street movement was not only about battling back against the rise of a corporate oligarchy. It was also about out right to peaceful protest. ~ Chris Hedges


Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. ~ Paul Krugman
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the globe on Saturday to denounce bankers, politicians and businessmen for ruining the world's economies… ~ Philip Pullella
  • The Occupy movement may have burned out, but it injected economic inequality into the American political debate.
  • I went to the first day of Occupy, and then I went away for a few days, and when I came back, it had formed into a mini-city, with like a kitchen and a library and a place that gave out free clothing, and they had veterinarians, and the infrastructure of it was amazing. And that was the first thing that hit me. And the second thing was, this is for everyone — it was the first time where I felt like, this was a political space that I could stand in.
  • I think the influence of Occupy will continue even though the encampment could only exist for a very defined period of time. One can see the influence of Occupy in the Ferguson demonstrations now, in the sense that they recognize that it's not only about demanding that this one individual cop be convicted, but it's also about recognizing the connection between racist violence and the profit machine. That's what we're fighting against.
    • 2014 interview in Conversations with Angela Davis Edited by Sharon Lynette Jones (2021)
  • This is why the Occupy movement erupted as it did: it was an indication that we need to find a new vocabulary talk about capitalism publicly. It is now possible to talk about, to criticize capitalism in a way that may not have been possible even five years ago.
    • 2012 interview in Conversations with Angela Davis Edited by Sharon Lynette Jones (2021)
  • September 2011 shattered the ideology of an invincible Wall Street much as September 2001 shattered the illusion of an invulnerable United States. All of a sudden and seemingly out of the blue, people outraged by the fact that "banks got bailed out" and "we got sold out" installed themselves in the financial heart of New York City. Occupying the symbol of capitalist class power, they ruptured it. The ostensible controllers of the global capitalist system, still reeling from the crash of 2008, appeared to have lost control over their own cement neighborhood. Hippies with tents and cops with barricades had turned Lower Manhattan into a chaotic mess. Those seeking to combine the people's work, debts, hopes, and futures into speculative instruments for private profit confronted a visible and actual collective counterforce. There in the power of the people where investment banks and hedge funds had already identified an enormous social surplus, a cadre of the newly active located an inexhaustible political potential. It was like a giant hole had been opened up in the steel and glass citadel of the financial class. Through it, traders, brokers, and market-makers – as well as everybody else – could see the possibility of a world without capitalism. Wall Street was occupied.
    • Jodi Dean, The Communist Horizon, pp. 211-212
  • The corporate media came late to Occupy Wall Street, offered superficial, often derogatory coverage, and, with a few exceptions, still haven't gotten it right...At the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the critique that wealth and opportunity are not equitably distributed, and our media system, largely controlled by corporations, contributes to that status quo.
    • Amy Goodman The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope with Denis Moynihan (2012)
  • When I asked Amin [Husain] and Katie [Davison] what Occupy Wall Street’s ultimate goal was, they said, “A government accountable to the people, freed up from corporate influence.” … Organizers described Occupy Wall Street as “a way of being,” of “sharing your life together in assembly.” … The ambitions of the core group of activists were more cultural than political, in the sense that they sought to influence the way people think about their lives. “Ours is a transformational movement,” Amin told me with a solemn air. Transformation had to occur face to face; what it offered, especially to the young, was an antidote to the empty gaze of the screen.
In meetings and elsewhere, this Tolstoyan experience of undergoing a personal crisis of meaning, both political and of the soul, seemed deeply shared. Apart from Amin, I’ve met an architect, a film editor, an advertising consultant, an unemployed stock trader, a spattering of lawyers, and people with various other jobs who, after joining OWS, found themselves psychologically unable to go about their lives as before. … Michael Ellick, the minister at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, said that when he first visited Zuccotti Park he was reminded of his years at a monastery. “When people enter a monastery, they don’t know why they’ve come,” said Ellick. “They are there to find out why they are there, why they were compelled to leave the other world.”
  • Michael Greenberg, “What Future for Occupy Wall Street?” The New York Review of Books, vol. 59, no. 2, February 9, 2012
  • The Occupy Wall Street movement was not only about battling back against the rise of a corporate oligarchy. It was also about out right to peaceful protest. The police in cities across the country were deployed to short-circuit this right. I watched New York City police during the Occupy protests yank people from sidewalks into the street, where they would be arrested. I saw police routinely shove protesters and beat them with batons. I saw activists slammed against police cars. I saw groups of protesters suddenly herded like sheep to be confined within police barricades. I saw, and was caught up in, mass arrests in which those around me were handcuffed and then thrown violently onto the sidewalk. The police often blasted pepper spray into faces from inches away, temporarily blinding the victims.
  • The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.
    Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
    • Paul Krugman, in "Panic of the Plutocrats" in The New York Times (9 October 20011)
  • Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
    Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
    This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage.
    • Paul Krugman, in "Panic of the Plutocrats" in The New York Times (9 October 20011)
  • Occupy is a real place for people to talk, to blossom. How beautiful, how exciting!...I’m excited some people of color are participating, but we should be the majority. Occupy should be led by people of color. We’re the ones suffering from unemployment, from the recession, and from banks being bailed out.
  • Ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs. I can't think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it – they've certainly not been punished in any way because they're too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who's too big to fail. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people whose lives this is actually affecting.
  • In response to the federal government's "bailout" betrayal of its citizens, the Occupy Movement and its slogan of "we are the 99%" spilled onto Wall Street and onto the Main Streets of this country, spreading the dirtiest five-letter word in "America": C-L-A-S-S. The Emperor's nakedness had been revealed: the United States is a class-based society, with an absolutely unconscionable unequal distribution of wealth and resources upheld by our government. For that revelation alone, in that it inspired a critical view of class inequity in this country, I am beholden to the Occupy movement, misnomered as it is. Although women of color and workingclass people were not represented there in large numbers, these activists, of some social privilege, publicly (and en masse) acknowledged that they were being bamboozled by their own government. Just like us. This is what the "Occupy" movement proffered, the possibility of a one day aligned oppositional movement.
  • The banks have said, leave us deregulated, we know how to run things, don't put government in to meddle. Then with that freedom of maneuver they took huge gambles, and even made illegal actions, and then broke the world system. As soon as that happened then they rushed out to say 'bail us out, bail us out, if you don't bail us out, we're too big to fail, you have to save us'. As soon as that happened, they said 'oh, don't regulate us, we know what to do'.
    And... the public is standing there, amazed, because we just bailed you out how can you be paying yourself billions of dollars of bonuses again? And the bankers say, 'well we deserve it, what's your problem'? And the problem that the Occupy Wall Street and other protesters have is: you don't deserve it, you nearly broke the system, you gamed the economy, you're paying mega fines, yet you're still in the White House you're going to the state dinners, you're paying yourself huge bonuses, what kind of system is this?

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  1. Flood, Alison (7 December 2011). Alan Moore attacks Frank Miller in comic book war of words. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 November 2013. Retrieved on 12 December 2011.