November 01, 2011

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 82, Issue 4

Occupy Wall Street reaches NU

A participant in Occupy Wall Street expresses his views. (Photo by Dr. Doug Tewksbury)

A participant in Occupy Wall Street expresses his views. (Photo by Dr. Doug Tewksbury)

On Sept. 17, the Occupy Wall Street protests began and have since grown to thousands of people participating, hundreds living in New York City's Zuccotti Park, and hundreds more being arrested. This growing movement has spurred similar protests in cities across the world.

As such, Dr. Doug Tewksbury, along with Dr. David Reilly, Dr. Alexander Bertland and Dr. Edward Hutton, professors of communication studies, political science, philosophy and finance, respectively, have organized a discussion panel about the movement. The discussion will be held Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. in Bisgrove 350/351.

Tewksbury was recently in New York City and was able to see the protestors first hand.

I think they're being very responsible in saying that they have voices that want to be heard, but they're not being unreasonable. They understand that it's inconvenient to a lot of people in the city and they're trying to minimize that inconvenience while still having their voices heard, Tewksbury said.

Bertland will have gone to Zuccotti Park to see the protests before the discussion panel, and Hutton was in Denver and was able to see some of the Occupy Denver protests.

A common criticism of the protests is that there is no specific goal, but Tewksbury said, Whether or not any concrete, tangible changes come out of this global movement, if nothing else, it sends a message that there are a lot of people out there that are upset with the way that money and politics works, with the way that wealth inequality works, the way that the middle class is being asked to bear the burden of people with a lot of money and power.

Reilly commented on the movement lacking specific goals.

It makes real progress pretty unlikely, because unless you have leaders step forward in the very near future, it's hard to imagine that they'll get some sort of cohesive message out. ¦ There has to be someone to step up and say this is what it's about. Which I think is possible, he said.

Reilly also added an idea as to why people are protesting.

The kind of thing, I imagine these people are really upset about, is that government has no imagination anymore. It's about getting re-elected, it's not about addressing fundamental problems, and it's not about connecting with the community.

Tewksbury stressed the campus panel is meant to be a conversation to get people talking about the movement.

This conversation has no formal goal or direction; it's a chance just to talk to several different people from several different perspectives about different ways to think about not only the protests, but the things that have caused the protects. ¦ We're trying to understand the different ways of looking at this thing.

Bertland intends to discuss if the free market was designed to handle people making millions of dollars just trading currencies back and forth as opposed to making and selling objects, as well as how to set up an ethical business system to control corruption.

Hutton, having worked for several Wall Street firms, will give a bit of the industry perspective on the subject.

A lot of the people who work in the offices around there (the Zuccotti Park area) have been some of the hardest hit by what's happened with the financial crisis he said, adding that many current and former Wall Street professionals have empathy for the movement.

The protest's success in sustaining itself on Wall Street has led to similar peaceful protests in major cities around the world.

There have been protests in the past that have been large, but for a day or two days or three days. ... There's not been a long, sustained protest against a larger systemic issue. ¦ It's very exciting, to see that it has spread around the globe, Tewksbury said.

This includes an Occupy Buffalo movement, which now has people camping out in Niagara Square.

The Occupy Buffalo group has just gotten started; it's much smaller, but their complaints are the same. In a way, one of the nice things about this movement, is because there's no hierarchy and no formal organization, anyone that wants to be a part of it can be a part of it, Tewksbury said.

He cites this unique aspect of the protests as their biggest strength.

It's a very innovative and flexible model for social justice organizing. ¦ It's completely decentralized; there's no leader; there's no hierarchy of command; there's no organization to join or to quit; It's a group of many different people from many different perspectives trying to get their voices heard, Tewksbury said.

The Occupy Wall Street movement started as a one-day protest organized by Adbusters magazine and escalated into a long-term, leader-less movement, which uses a lot of communications media and a lot of different tactics, especially the internet, Tewksbury said.

The NU panel will include discussion about the causes and effects of Occupy Wall Street, its strengths and weaknesses as a political movement, its sustainability and the problems it faces “ especially what will happen as the weather changes.

All of the panelists encourage students to attend.

No matter where you stand on the issue, there's interesting stuff to be discussed and I hope students come and really think about it Bertland said.

Click here to view a photo album of additional Occupy Wall Street photos taken by Dr. Doug Tewksbury.

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