Economy / Laura Owen

From Wall Street to Europe: The Occupy protests

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On the 17th September 2011 Occupy Wall Street began, with thousands of protestors descending on Manhattan’s financial district. The protestors were objecting to the 2008 Wall Street bailout, which left banks able to claim ridiculous profits while American taxpayers endured job insecurity and high taxes.

The movements quickly spread to other countries, with people worldwide deciding that they too were unhappy with the situation. Occupy protests were set up in most major cities in the UK. The protests quickly became one of the biggest stories of 2011 but the UK government paid relatively little attention, presumably deciding that it was a problem for the banks, not them.

Brussels was hard hit by the financial crisis. The CEO of the nationalised Dexia bank lived at a Brussels hotel three days a week despite living in Brussels and the resulting bailout was estimated to cost 5000 Euros per taxpayer. Yet when asked about the problem, a spokesperson for the European Commission responded “how does that concern us?” Individual MEPs I have spoken to at the European Parliament do not have an opinion on this subject either.

Since the crisis not a single person has been indicted or convicted and faith in financial systems worldwide has not been restored. Occupy protests in the UK and Europe are being shut down and the protestors are being left with a bad name.

ImageIn Bristol, College Green was the site of one of the largest Occupy protests. At the beginning of this month however the protestors were told to leave. Protestors duly packed up their belongings and left, promised to pay for the damage to the site and helped with the clean up. The protests were at times a nuisance to people in the surrounding area but isn’t that the point of a demonstration? Perhaps if action was taken on the reasons behind the camps then people would not have taken to the streets in such high numbers.

I am not condoning all Occupy demonstrations. Some saw violence, criminal damage and sexual assaults. Some were far from peaceable so broke the law. Some went too far and the people responsible should be accountable for their actions. A few uninformed people gave all demonstrations a bad name.

So now Occupy protests worldwide are being shut down and the protestors are no happier and no major legislation has yet been passed to stop these banking practices. Demonstrators have either been peaceful so largely ignored or been violent so been prosecuted. The protests have seemingly accomplished nothing. Talk of “Re-Occupy” protests is spreading. But surely after the unsuccessful first wave of protests it is time to draw the line and reassess the ways in which the general public can ‘fight’ the banks? Of course, such ways may not exist.

Laura Owen 09.02.12

Photo 1 Source: Laura Owen The European Parliament

Photo 2 Source: http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Bailiffs-evict-sole-man-Occupy-Bristol-protest/story-15098002-detail/story.html Site of the Bristol Occupy protest.

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