Helping you to #QuestionMore: How RT covered Occupy Wall Street protests from Day One
The Occupy Wall Street protests began in the world’s financial capital, New York City, on September 17, 2011. The protests spread to dozens of cities across the United States and later across the world.
On the very first day of the protests, RT’s crews arrived in New York City’s financial district. At first sight, there was little to set this small but passionate group of demonstrators apart from other protesters. No other TV networks bothered to send cameras, and print coverage was scant. Within weeks, this seemingly insignificant event would change the course of US history. The Occupy Wall Street movement had been born.
What began as a small gathering, has since transformed into a nationwide mass protest network with the aim of drawing attention to economic injustice and political corruption.
“Wall Street has ripped off the American people to no end,” said Alexander Higgins, a blogger who participated in the early days of the protest. “Mortgage fraud, foreclosure, income disparity throughout this country is just off the hook.”
Violence that erupted during the original protest brought it onto the international stage. Within weeks of its inception, Occupy Wall Street made headlines across the globe after this cell-phone video of an NYPD officer dousing the faces of three female protesters with pepper spray went viral.
On October 1, 2011, several hundred protesters embarked on an afternoon march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The march ended in confusion, police violence, and more than 700 peaceful marchers arrested en masse, including at least one journalist. The incident spawned similar Occupy encampments across the country. Occupy had gone national.
As the movement grew, TV news coverage remained scant. RT caught up with award-winning actor and director Mark Ruffalo at one of the protests, who noted that the established press felt threatened by the Occupy Wall Street movement’s anti-corporate message.
“It’s business as usual in America,” Ruffalo said. “You crush what speaks out against you. You demonize them… these human beings. They’re struggling, lost their homes, covered in debt, can’t find a job in America.”
Prominent musicians and activists such as Tom Morello, Immortal Technique, and Talib Kweli took to Zuccotti Park to lend their support. Carl Dix, co-founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Dr. Cornel West, author activist and professor, also appeared actively both in the movement and in RT’s studios.
RT also took care to show what the everyday life of a typical OWS protester was like. It also frequently feature profiles of ordinary people who had made a significant difference in the movement, including US Marine Sergeant and Iraqi War Veteran Shamar Thomas, who became a national celebrity after defending demonstrators from police brutality, and Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran who was nearly killed when he was allegedly hit in the head by a police projectile.
RT also thoroughly investigated efforts to thwart the rallies, finding documents showing that only one month into the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, plans had been formulated to identify key figures in the movement and execute them in a coordinated assault using sniper rifles.
The revelation – discussed in a heavily redacted FBI memo unearthed late last month through a Freedom of Information Act request – reveals that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of plans for a violent assault on the peaceful protest movement. It remained silent as to these rumors of an assassination attempt only until now.
Information on the alleged plot to kill off protesters appears on page 61 of the trove of documents obtained recently by a FOIA request filed by the Partnership For Civil Justice Fund. On the page in question, marked “SECRET,” the FBI acknowledges:
“An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles,” the document said.
RT was nominated for the International Emmy Award in the news category for its coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“We are very happy and proud to once again become the only candidate from Russia to be nominated for this major television award,” said RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.