If one had turned on the news in early August, one would have seen videos of riot police, cars on fire, stores looted and people justifying stealing as repayment for what the government owed them. What started out as a simple protest on Aug. 6, evolved into a series of riots in London and the surrounding cities.
The amount of violence, looting and death that took place from Aug. 6 to 10 was unbelievable. According to BBC news, more than 3,000 people were arrested, and more than 130 million American dollars were lost in damages.
Fortunately, in the United States, most protests do not dissolve into five days of looting and violence. Instead, a history of peaceful marching and demonstrating permeates throughout American history.
This trend of peaceful protests has shown up in every part of American history, and the First Amendment has always served to protect the right to peacefully protest, no matter how unpopular a demonstration or protest is.
This is a history that Occupy Wall Street seems glad to be a part of. Their message is simple enough: The demonstrators feel that they are the 99 percent of the population that is taken advantage of, while the one percent of the richest bank owners, oil tycoons and land owners are able to ignore all of the problems of unemployment, recession and stock market crashes.
Despite the message’s simplicity, it is rather controversial.
Consequently, the media attention Occupy Wall Street has received has been a mixed bag, from the president and congressional representatives to Facebook users all willing to give their two cents of whether or not the protestors are right.
In a recent interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, Congressman Peter King stated his thoughts on the protest: “They have no sense of purpose, other than a basically anti-American tone and anti-capitalist. It’s a ragtag mob, basically.”
Clearly, King believes that these protests should not change policy and that politicians should just ignore them. How he can call protestors anti-American is beyond me, but he isn’t alone.
Many people have worked to circulate their opinions around Facebook with messages claiming that the Occupy Wall Street protestors are lazy and living off welfare while the “real” Americans work.
However, in a recent speech, President Barack Obama stated that Occupy Wall Street “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel,” seeming to sympathize and agree with their protesting philosophy. Despite reaching the ears of politicians, though, it isn’t clear what will be done about the situation.
Looking at the larger picture, it seems that this public reaction is a result of everything that has happened from the housing market meltdown to the stock market crashes. These protests are a symptom of many Americans’ growing frustrations with the financial meltdown.
While many may try to dismiss this as just another cause for the youth, there is a legitimate concern echoed in their protests. Current American society cannot function as it is with growing economic disparity increasing, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and jobs keep disappearing.
As a result of this, The Wall Street Journal pointed out in September that the “in distress” middle class shrinks.
I hope that a solution can be found, but until then, I hope that lawmakers seriously consider the Occupy Wall Street movement as one of the many symptoms of a growing economic problem in America before we get London riots of our own.