The Temple News continues its coverage of Occupy Philly.
Their cries reverberated off the west wall of City Hall, through Dilworth Plaza and down through the subway station late into Friday evening. “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” chanted the crowd of approximately 200 attendees as the rally stretched into its second night.
Today marks the sixth day of Occupy Philly, a protest in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York City, which began on Sept. 17 and moves in to its 25th day of rallying. Occupy rallies are now stretching beyond New York City and Philadelphia into Miami, Chicago, Richmond, Va., Indianapolis, Ind. and beyond, and new locations are being planned, according to Occupy Together.
Adbusters, the organization that spearheaded the Occupy Wall Street rally, states that the OWS demonstration is a “people powered movement for democracy.” The demands of the masses are varied, yet one unifying factor exists: ending corruption at the hands of the moneyed federal government.
“There’s no demands, which I think is a good thing,” attendee Ian Smith said. “This system is complicated.”
Smith, a 2008 anthropology alumnus, said he thinks it is a crime for there to be so much poverty embedded in the U.S., a country where there is so much wealth.
According to a graph compiled by Berkley in 2008, the top .01 percent of families in the U.S. earned an average of $27 million per household, the top one percent earned approximately 1.1 million and the bottom 90 percent–comprised of the majority of Americans–earned approximately $31,244.
“I’m here because I think there’s too much of a discrepancy of wealth in this country. I think that we spend too many of our resources on war instead of on actual social needs,” James Kennedy, a 2009 history alumnus said while the sounds of chanting and cheers for the Phillies, which were playing on a projector during the rally, was heard in the background.
Indeed, while some attendees took a break from the rally to crowd around a live stream of the game Friday night, many others kept fueling the fire with dance-and-drum circles, spreading and digesting literature and preaching to the masses.
Much of the energy behind this movement and OWS can be attributed to its long-awaited arrival. For nearly four years, Americans have been facing the fringe effects of the dot-com and housing bubble bursts, this year is the first the nation seen any widespread uprisings.
“I’ve got some ideas that are kind of from a Luddite,” attendee Rachel Playe said in regards to why she thinks it took so long for an event like this to occur.
“I think sometimes technology pacified us. We got caught up in Hulu and free Netflix, and while we had tons of free information out there that really did say what was happening, we were too busy looking at our TV screens,” Playe, a 2008 film alumna said. “And then the economy went down and it took a few years for people of our generation to realize what we had growing up and what we lost.”
Playe and Kennedy both attended OWS on Monday, Oct. 3 and said they found the same scene there as they did in Philly.
“We sang with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary,” Kennedy said.
“We really like the movement that was going on down there. When we came out of it, we were really excited to have something here. We were pumped,” Playe added.
There is no singular underlying cause to the rising rates of unemployment, home foreclosure or debt. Economists contend it is due to the combined force of several successive events: The housing bubble burst in 2007, the 2008 auto-industry fallout, the current credit and mortgage panic, government bailouts and wealth disparity.
An Oct. 7 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 14 million unemployed Americans–approximately 9.1 percent of the population–a figure that has only marginally changed since April of this year.
Yet, wealth disparity and unemployment aren’t the only grievances against the White House. Students from Philadelphia schools including Drexel, Lafayette, St. Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova gathered to protest the rising rates of tuition and the speculated higher education bubble.
In a May 12 post published on Democracy in America, The Economist’s blog [“Blowing up grad school”], higher education is presented as possibly becoming the next bubble to burst in the economy. The amount of money pumped into the industry does not correlate to the normative value of the return: college students are leaving school without jobs, but with a rising rate of student loans and debt.
Smith said while he is employed and no longer a student, he is lucky. Recent and upcoming graduates are not only facing competition amongst each other and abroad, but also against experienced workers who were laid off.
And, according to an article published by USA Today in May 2010 [“Toughest test comes after graduation: getting a job”], there are more than five job seekers for every job opening in the country.
For those who do find job placement after graduation, it is often in the service industry with a salary lower than what was once dictated by having a college degree, according to a May article by The New York Times [“Many with new college degree find the job market humbling”].
Occupy movement participants have been rallying around these issues and others against the U.S. government. Whether success will come, however, remains an ongoing debate.
“I think [success] is dependent on making sure we don’t get co-opted,” Kennedy said. “As this starts to grow and politicians are paying attention to it, they’re gonna wanna throw us some nice words. We need to make sure that we’re careful when they say they’re our ally, it’s because they’ve actually done concrete things to move toward our goals and not simply pacifying us.”
“It’s great to see people coming together like this, because they think, ‘oh, I’m not the only person with massive amounts of debt, I’m not the only one whose house was just foreclosed, or unemployed,’” Smith added. “There’s definitely a level of solidarity and camaraderie here.”
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.