Friday, November 04, 2011

OWS and the WTO Riots

When the Occupy Wall Street protest began it was fairly popular. It had a strong message with the "I am the 99%" campaign. It looked quirky with the human microphones, jazz hands, communal dining and charging stations.

Things took a darker turn with the Oakland protests. The movement closed down the nation's fifth largest port. The protest quickly degenerated into a riot. Even Men's Warehouse which had a sign in their window announcing their support for the movement had their window broken and anti-capitalism graffiti scrawled on their building.

OWS is beginning to look like the protest movement of 1999-2001. This started in Seattle in 1999 when the World Trade Organization met there. At least 40,000 anti-globalism and anti-capitalism protestors showed up and trashed the city. Over the next year and a half meetings of the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the G8 were met with similar protests. The leaders of the movement made it clear that they were against these entities and intended to trash any city that allowed them to meet.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 brought this movement to an end.

Now the seem to be back in a new form. OWS has its own set of issues but there is a strong overlap with the Seattle issues. Both are protests against world trade and capitalism with environmental and pro-union groups thrown in. In the wake of the 2007 economic crisis and bail-outs, OWS has different priorities but that is inevitable after a decade.

Public support for OWS has fallen. When they started they were twice as popular as the Tea Party. To put this in perspective, when the Tea Party was that new it had similar poll numbers but it took a couple of years for these to drop. In New York, public support for OWS is down to 44% with 50% wanting the government to end the protests now.

If OWS continues to degenerate into violence then it will totally discredit itself before it has time to become a political force.

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