The year of dissent: Keeping America’s 1% Occupied

When the Occupy Wall Street movement set up camp in New York’s financial district in September 2011, few people paid much attention to the self-proclaimed 99 per cent. But the tents in Zuccotti Park were like a spark to America’s social kindling.

Soon, the indignant voice of the people spread across the country. People supported a movement aimed at awakening all to the negative effects of the growing, and strangely seldom-questioned, income and wealth disparities in the country.

Staggering national debt, never-ending job cuts and foreclosures, all amid reports of cushy bonuses for Fortune 500 CEOs, drove the Occupy movement beyond America’s borders. Just a few months after the first tents were pitched in NYC, the movement and its ideology were truly global.

It followed on the footsteps of global unrest. The protesters themselves came up with the slogan "Arab Spring, European Summer, American Fall."

But even though it was non-violent, unlike rallies in the Middle East and Africa, these media-savvy youths couldn’t have picked a better time. Recent studies show that the gap between the rich and the poor is the biggest in 30 years. In addition, the US is gearing up for presidential elections in 2012.

RT’s Marina Portnaya, who covered the protests in New York, says this may be why American mainstream media avoided the Occupy movement for as long as possible.

“They were marginalized in the very beginning. But there was a moment when the mainstream media couldn’t ignore the movement, because it became the biggest story in the United States. There were clearly biases and different points of view given from mainstream media outlets here in the United States, because they are owned by corporations and these Americans are talking about corporate influence on US politics,” Portnaya told RT.

And even though the movement has lost some of its momentum after camps were raided by police nationwide, this is most definitely not the last time the Occupiers will be heard from. In fact the clampdown on the demos, if it was intended to end them, did quite the opposite, says Max Fraad Wolff, a senior analyst at Greencrest Capital.

“Authorities have hoped that the protest will fizzle out or go away. And when it didn’t, it grew and got more and more attention and adherence, there was a bit of heavy-handed over-response by authorities, the use of force…I do think that that’s going to be a problem because what it tends to do is to bring more protesters and bring public sympathies for the protesters. The ham-handed and over-marshaled response to the protest has actually helped to build the Occupy movement,” he told RT.

Politicians and mainstream media outlets may be downplaying their impact on American society, but their influence is evident to most, including historians and collectors.

Internationally known institutions such as the Smithsonian and the New York Historical Society have been busy collecting Occupy artefacts. Having not yet become history, the movement is already seen as worthy of historical preservation and 2011 will always be associated with the rise of the 99 per cent.