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On Saturday, New York City Police arrested more than 700 demonstrators of a group calling itself “Occupy Wall Street,” when they stormed the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge, holding up traffic for more than four hours. In Boston, a crowd of more than 3,000 gathered in Dewey Square, while another demonstration, Take Back the Block, was attended by at least 1,500 people. An Occupy Chicago demonstration of 100 took place in front of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, while Occupy Los Angeles demonstrators marched from Pershing Square downtown to City Hall. In San Francisco, six protesters were arrested for a sit-in at Chase Bank. The common thread? Anti-capitalist-inspired class warfare, courtesy of a progressive movement facing electoral Armageddon in 2012.
Much like the protests that took place in the Middle East, these demonstrations have been organized through social media. Occupy Together, a website calling itself “an unofficial hub for all of the events springing up across the country in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street,” is dedicated to providing people “with information about events that are organizing, ongoing, and building across the U.S. as we, the 99%, take action against the greed and corruption of the 1%.” The site contains a listing of states, regions and even countries where demonstrations have either taken place, or are scheduled to take place in the near future. The individual postings of each event contain a website, a Facebook event, a web IRC chat facility and an email program, all designed to provide potential protesters with details and feedback from other demonstrators and demonstrations.
“We are targeting Wall Street, in particular the big banks and corporations,” Rachel Laforest, the executive director of the Right to the City Alliance, which organized the Boston protest, told ABC News. “The goal is to create a national narrative and have it be known how the states are taking state revenues that are being funneled to banks and corporations and then you layer on top of that the fact that they’re not obligated to pay their fair share of taxes, and so that’s billions and billions of dollars that could be put toward job creation and creating solutions to the housing crisis.”
If such a narrative sounds familiar, it’s because president Obama, who can’t possibly run on his economic record, has decided to make class warfare the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. And he has made it clear that it is Republicans in particular–whose worldview he characterized as one in which “corporations write their own rules, and we dismantle environmental regulations and we dismantle labor regulations, and we cut taxes for folks who don’t need it and weren’t even asking for it, and then we say to you, you’re on your own, good luck, because you’re not going to get any help”–who are making life miserable for Americans.
But he also takes on wealthier Americans in general. “If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that,” Obama proclaimed last Tuesday at Denver’s Abraham Lincoln High School. “I will wear that charge as a badge of honor.”
It’s a brand new badge. During the 2008 election campaign, the president was more than willing to take substantial sums of money from the very organizations being targeted today. The list of the top 20 campaign contributors to Obama and Democrats includes Goldman Sachs (whose contributions to the president were exceeded only by the University of California), JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley, all of whom contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause. Furthermore, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, since January 1, 2009, Democrats have received nearly two-thirds of the $34.7 million donated by the entire securities and investment industry. This is even more than the 57 percent of Wall Street’s donations in the 2008 campaign and 52 percent during the 2006 midterm elections that also went to Democrats. Thus, the president’s attempts to brand Republicans as the “party of big business” and Democrats as the “party of the people” amount to nothing more than outright lying.
As for the truth, there is more than a little bit of irony in the fact that these protests are taking place even as Wall Street has suffered through its worst quarter since the financial meltdown of 2008. The S&P declined 14.3 percent, and the Dow was down 10.6 percent. The “evil” banks? They took an even worse beating. JPMorgan was down 45 percent, Morgan Stanley 42 percent, Citigroup 40 percent, Goldman Sachs 39 percent, and Bank of America 37 percent.
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