The revolution will not be televised

03:17, Oct 04 2011

I couldn't believe it in the weekend when the 'breaking news' ticker popped onto the TV screen.

What had happened? Another natural disaster? Major weather warning?

Nah, the status of Dan Carter's groin was apparently considered breaking news.

Don't get me wrong, I care about rugby, it's our national sport. I know the Rugby World Cup means a lot to a lot of people.

I wish Dan and his groin well.

However important it may be to the national psyche, it's just a game.

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What I, and most of my friends, want to know more about in depth has scarcely made the news.

Occupy Wall Street is a peaceful protest that started on September 17 with less than 12 students in Zuccotti Park, a plaza near New York's financial centre.

Thousands have since become involved, mass arrests have followed, including 700 people on Brooklyn Bridge, the NYPD pepper sprayed three young girls in the face in a video you can see on YouTube and now even some members of the US army and marines have signalled they plan to join the protestors to protect them.

Similar demonstrations have sprung up in 21 places in the United States, including Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Chicago and Occupy Boston.

Right now Occupy Auckland, Occupy Christchurch, Occupy Wellington and Occupy Dunedin rallys are being organised through social networks.

My friend Sally has been involved in Occupy Wall Street.

She's not a hippy. She left Christchurch after the February 22 earthquake, looking for a new life in the US.

She's the sort of person who doesn't complain in a restaurant if the food's bad. She'd rather leave and not make a fuss but never go back to the restaurant again.

I can't imagine her in a protest.

She writes: ''There is so much hardship here and what I am witnessing, and part of, is a backlash against all of it. A backlash against that feeling of helplessness.

The focus seems splayed because people here have so much to be despondent about but I feel it too. I'm sick of corporations getting bailed out and CEO's getting a $10 million handshake but the little people are squashed and the ones who are left with nothing.

The worm has turned.''

One of her peace-loving friends was arrested over the weekend, not for disorderly behaviour, but for wearing a mask.
New York has a law dating back over 150 years that forbids people from wearing a mask, if two or more people are gathered, unless they are attending a masquerade party.

Another of Sally's friends was arrested for using chalk on the street.

And while New York police said that protestors were arrested for blocking Brooklyn Bridge. Sally says they were fenced in by police so they had nowhere to go.

''This is a peaceful protest, remember. They were telling us to go on there and then they arrested people.''

Most news stories on the subject I have read, coming out of the United States, are critical of the protestors, claiming they lack focus and an actionable agenda.

They're being ''written off'' in a smug way as a bunch of worthless students with nothing better to do with their time.

But in the footage I've seen doing the rounds on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, protestors are young, old, middle-aged, short, bald, hairy - all creeds, races, colours, sexes, political parties.

The protesters chose Wall Street as their physical rallying point, speaking against corporate greed, social inequality, global climate change and other concerns.

To me it seems obvious that a) this is an incredible story and b) this ''99%'' are joining together in their own way to offer a peaceful protest against greed, corruption and the lack of financial security for the everyday man.

It's been described as a ''democratic awakening'' and I think that's an accurate description.

American political commentator and writer Keith Olbermann has criticised mainstream media for failing to cover Occupy Wall Street adequately, saying, ''If that's a Tea Party protest in front of Wall Street ..., it's the lead story on every network newscast.''

And New Zealanders are saying much the same thing on Facebook and Twitter.

The London riots made front page news. Occupy Wall Street is now in its third week and has had a third of the coverage.

Protestors are dressing as zombies and eating Monopoly money to let financial workers see them ''reflecting the metaphor of their actions''.

Celebrities are climbing onboard - rapper Lupe Fiasco donated tents and a mobile sound system for the occupation and wrote a poem to help inspire the protesters.

Roseanne Barr spoke to protesters during the first day of the demonstration, and described Wall Street financiers as ''the people who decimated our economy and caused all the problems in the world'', Susan Sarandon spoke at the demonstration saying, ''I came down here to educate myself...There's a huge void between the rich and the poor in this country.''

And other celebrities reportedly lending their support include Salman Rushdie, Michael Moore, Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, and Radiohead.

Actor Alec Baldwin has posted videos on his Twitter page that had already been widely circulated. One appeared to show police using pepper spray on a group of women, another a young man being tackled to the ground by an officer.

''This is unsettling,'' Baldwin wrote. ''I think the NYPD has a PR problem.''

Another supporter, William Stack, sent an email to city officials urging that all charges be dropped against those arrested.

''It is not a crime to demand that our money be spent on meeting people's needs, not for massive corporate bailouts,'' he wrote. ''The real criminals are in the boardrooms and executive offices on Wall Street, not the people marching for jobs, health care, and a moratorium on foreclosures.''

This protest may be happening in the US but it's something many people around the world can identify with.

And, as Gil Scott-Heron said:

''The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.

The revolution will be no re-run brothers;

The revolution will be live.''

www.occupytogether.org

The Press