posted 2011-11-30 14:33:49

Protests and Progress

Opportunities for change in the Occupy Movement and abroad

ALEXANDRA HEIDLER

Contributing Writer

Our country stands heated and ready to organize. Protestors across the nation are organizing and engaging in the Occupy movement to fight what they view as unfair financial, educational, and political structures, yet many people still claim that today’s protests are ineffective and will not lead to change. But our history says otherwise. Non-violent demonstrations from our nation’s past, including the Civil Rights movement, seem to say that yes, change is tangible. On the international stage, the protests in Libya and Egypt are modern showcases of how popular organization can implement political change. There is no doubt that the recent surge of international protest movements have helped to ignite domestic protests. They’ve spread the word that we the people can come together and publicly display our frustrations, and affect the progress of our nation.

Although today’s problems differ from their historical precedents, that doesn’t mean that actions we’ve used in the past won’t effectively challenge and change today’s standards. Protests are meant to agitate and engage the public in organized displays of grievances. The Occupy movement agitates in part against the manipulation of large financial monopolies like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Through organization, people are becoming educated about our system and how one can promote positive choices and change. November 5th was deemed “Move Your Money” day, and an estimated $50 million was moved out of large private banks and into the hands of Federal Credit Unions.

Protests for Libya and Egypt meant the replacement of longstanding inefficient political leaders. When the country

needed to generate more exposure, the protesters used social media as a tool of empowerment to show what they were thinking—not just to the local community, but to the entire world. Other countries in the region watched the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions and were inspired by the way local communities were banding together. In New York, it was the crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge and the NYPD pepper spray incidents that flooded our nation with video, from cell phones and cameras, as the crowd began to chant, “The whole world is watching!”

With enough public turmoil and awareness, the protestors themselves have the chance to demand a response from their targets. New political platforms can emerge to address new issues. First there was the Tea Party, which came together to protest government involvement in business. The Occupy movement’s fight lies in rallying against our financial crisis and the loss of jobs and public funding for things like libraries, parks, and schools. The organization of new voices—our voices—can help piggyback the movement’s new leaders into the City Council, the House of Representatives, the Senate and other policymaking positions in our nation.

A rally isn’t just a chance to shout angry words for a few hours. It’s about making a public statement, talking to the people around you and sharing stories. It’s an opportunity to learn what you can do to implement real action. The fact that the protests are not pre-existing political organizations is what is so inspiring. These acts of large public organization will inspire citizens and highlight frictions in society in a way that can produce change. It can give people the courage and materials necessary to learn and understand how our system works, and to make progress.