The 99 Percent

Spinnaker

By Lauren McDaniel
Junior, English Major

“This is the eighth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street. On September 24, 2011, the lie revealed itself. We live in a world where only 1 percent of us is protected and served. The following is graphic.” – OccupyWallSt.org

I watched the video flickering on my computer screen, a scene captured on some unknown camera phone: police officers using orange mesh netting to fence in peaceful protesters occupying Wall Street in New York City. I watch as some of the protesters break free and start to run, only to be pushed to the ground and handcuffed. The camera’s focus returns to the crudely barricaded crowd. Anthony Bologna, a New York Police Department deputy inspector, reaches into the pit and pepper-sprays several protesters. Their screams ring through the crowd. Those who are not hit by the spray frantically call for water. The video stops.

You can find this video and others like it on YouTube, and elsewhere on the Internet are photos of one officer pulling on a woman’s hair as he tries to forcibly remove her camera-phone, a shirtless man being held down by the knee of another officer and yet another officer with his hand inside the shirt of a young woman as he and three others wrangle her into handcuffs.

Viewing these photos, I felt sick to my stomach. Please, tell me that this is a nightmare.

Sadly, it is the nightmarish reality of what these peaceful protesters endured on Wall Street Saturday, Sept. 24. Approximately 80 people were arrested that day. Some of those who were injured during their arrests were denied medical attention until after they were processed at the police station.

These people were the catalysts who caused the crowd of one hundred to multiply into thousands of protesters now marching through the streets of New York City. But who are these people? Where have they come from? Why are they protesting on Wall Street?

They are the “99 percent” — men and women from all walks of life, of all ages and races, who are feeling the impact of “corporatocracy.”

They are college students and graduates who racked up thousands of dollars in loan debt pursuing a piece of paper meant to help them find careers, who now face an economy in which there are no jobs. They are blue-collar workers who labor more than 80 hours a week and still do not make enough money to pay their bills and feed or clothe their children. They are the children of these workers, worried about whether they should continue school or seek employment to keep their families from going under.

Meanwhile, banks and conglomerates receive federal government bail outs, viable job options are outsourced because it is more cost effective than paying for American labor, and mom-and-pop stores are closed down in the face of retail giants. Additionally, budgets for education and grants and scholarships are being cut, unemployment and veterans’ pensions are being slashed and homes are being foreclosed, forcing 99 percent of the population further into poverty, while the remaining one percent controls almost half of the financial wealth of the United States.

Is it any wonder that these protesters have gathered on Wall Street to publicly and peacefully protest corporate greed? To rally against social inequality?

It seems these days, we have a right to an assembly so long as that right doesn’t threaten corporations that fund campaigns for our elected officials and presidential candidates that will feed back into the system in the form of laws which grant corporate personhood and tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.

The system is broken and badly in need of restructuring. However, it doesn’t need restructuring by the people who ruined it. The government needs a complete overhaul and some new blood. Government needs members of the next generation, Generation Y, who understand the needs of our diverse society.

But how long will it take for people from this generation to make it onto a ballot for anything? The average age for a senator is 50. We cannot wait another 20 or 30 years to be the change we wish to see in the world. By then, it will be too late. The time is now.

Let’s stop being apathetic and complacent about our lot in life and work together for change. Let’s make our future a secure one. Let’s make our future the one we deserve. We are the 99 percent.