Occupy Wall Street, a movement that began as a small band of protesters in Zuccotti Park, gained endorsements from major unions and progressive leaders as well as prominent politicians.
Within a few short weeks, it has come to resemble a movement with more than 900 meetups in 900 cities across the country. It has even gone international with Occupy sites in Australia and London and other cities saddled with long unemployment lines, gross income disparities, and hapless politicians.
Organizers have erected tent cities in town squares and held rallies in front of city halls. Major marches have been held in Las Vegas and Portland, and there have been strong showings in Chicago and Austin, and plenty of free vegan food served by Occupy Baltimore.
It’s unclear just where all these general assemby meetings, Twitter updates, and teach-ins are heading. Democratic leaders including Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed support for the protesters this week and officials such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have said they sympathize with the protestors’ feelings of anger towards big banks’ role in the financial crisis.
Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Tahrir Square veterans, and notable environmentalists have all made cameo appearances. Organized labor has also backed the protests.
The support has not helped relations with the police. The activists have endured pepper spray, a baton-wielding white-shirt and the mass arrest of more than 700 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge. That incident is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court. These incidents will either come to define the movement or be simply blips onto something more substantial and lasting.
The protesters list of grievances is long, with issues ranging from the foreclosure crisis and work-place discrimination to student loan debt. The protests in New York and other cities focus on income inequality, a theme common in the group’s internet presence, including on a Tumblr that showcases Americans dealing with joblessness and other issues.
Even if the protesters were able to narrow their concerns to one, easily defined goal, some organizers say that would miss the point. So what comes next?