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Dissatisfaction feeds Occupy Wall Street movement

By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Nov 17, 2011 - 10:41:29 PM

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Photos from Occupy Wall Street movement protests from different U.S. cities as demonstrators are demanding change in America, including more economic equality and decreased corporate power in American politics. Photos: 1)Warren Muhammad 2)Steven Standard 3) MGN Online
NEW YORK ( - A seed was planted when a handful of activists, responding to e-mail, Facebook and Twitter messages descended on a small privately owned park across the street from the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

The group became “Occupy Wall St.,” which has grown into a national and international Occupy movement in the name of the 99 percent of people who suffer as the super-rich enjoy lives of luxury.

“The Occupy Wall St. movement is middle America’s response to the Tea Party movement. Middle America is tired of rhetoric, political bickering, and carrying the burdens of corporate America; they want change. The problem is that what this change is and how it might occur is unclear,” writes Dr. Deana A. Rohlinger, associate professor of Sociology at Florida State University, in a position paper published online.

Her colleague Dr. Jeanette Castillo, PhD., an assistant professor at the School of Communication at Florida State University compared the Occupy Wall St., or OWS movement, to past movements for social change, especially the civil rights movement in an e-mail to The Final Call. “For one thing, both movements are grassroots and multigenerational. Both movements address questions of class struggle and economic justice, themes that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized, understanding the power of economic oppression to create justice,” she noted.

“Like the Civil Rights movement, the OWS movement has a narrative that is at its heart about human dignity, and that is a hard narrative to counter. Unlike anti-war protests, it is hard to frame a narrative on the other side of the argument without demonizing,” she said.

Many analysts, such as Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, professor of African American Studies at Temple University and author of “As I Run Toward Africa,” are calling for more Black involvement in the Occupy Wall St. movement.

In an e-mail, Dr. Asante said Blacks are an important ingredient in OWS.

Blacks have always had a “progressive agenda” that “pushed the boundaries of liberation and freedom in this nation since its inception,” therefore Black people must “rise up and join the peaceful demonstrations” known as Occupy Wall St., he argued.

“The fact that middle class White Americans are upset with the conditions of this country indicate that African Americans have been far more marginalized by the economic system than anyone and that to the extent that we are almost invisible by the ‘Establishment’ we have to make our voices heard and our bodies present,” Dr. Asante said.

“Let Black people know that this is our fight too,” argued Paradise Gray, a longtime activist and co-founder of “Onehood” in Pittsburgh. One thing he has seen coming out of Occupy Pittsburgh is “the conversation has changed.”

“What is this ‘middle-class’ thing’?” he asked. “Whites now see what we have been saying for decades; and now they see how it all connects to the Black community,” Mr. Gray said. Whites understand that in Pittsburgh how foreclosures have whole communities. “They now understand because of the conversation that has been started through ‘Occupy Pittsburgh,’ that the education of Black children is under siege because of all of the school closings. How Section 8 housing programs are used to displace Black families in Pittsburgh,” he said. He added that statistically, Pittsburgh represents the “poorest” Black community in America.

Prof. Alfred Powell, associate Adjunct Clinical professor at the School for Social Welfare and Health Sciences at State University of New York at Stony Brook, told The Final Call “Occupy Wall St.” movements are “motivated by the struggles of people of color” though they have always been seen to be on the fringes of U.S. social change, he said.

On Sept. 17, in Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan, young Whites came together to announce “the sky is falling,” he continued.

“What they were seeing was that capitalism can only work successfully when you can keep the people at the bottom—always on the bottom; and for decades that was Blacks and people of color. Today young Whites, and the middle class, find themselves also “on the bottom,” observed Prof. Powell.

“The American people have been sucked into the vortex of consumption, but now there is a paradigm shift,” Prof. Powell said.

Occupy Wall St. is a response to White supremacy by White people. “The institution of White supremacy has always been the driving force of capitalism,” Prof. Powell said.

“Occupy Wall St. has been initiated by the guilt factor to combat systemic oppression,” he argues. “The Occupy Wall St. movement proves what leaders such as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad have been telling us for years,” added Prof. Powell, author of “Hip Hop Hypocrisy: When Lies Sound Like the Truth,” and CEO/president of the Human Motivation Council.

The OWS protestors’ message that they represent 99 percent, while Wall St. bankers represent the one-percent super-rich and things need change resonates with the teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad in his book “Message to the Black Man in America.”

“Allah taught me that the present percentage of dissatisfaction is 98 percent, near 100 percent, with the present ruling powers. This 100 percent dissatisfied will bring about a 100 percent change,” the Nation of Islam patriarch wrote.

In his next book, “The Fall of America,” the Hon. Elijah Muhammad again wrote about the dissatisfaction: “We are living in the time when dissatisfaction is 100 percent throughout the world of man and mankind. Therefore we are living among the dissatisfied persons, daily and nightly.

“According to radio and television, and according to individual conversation—and according to conversation heard between government officials concerning their problem of trying to find a way to peace for their people—and a way to find stoppage of the fall of their money market and unemployment—and a stoppage to the revolutions between the dissatisfied and the dissatisfied—and to find a way to be able to eat—and to keep the hungry eating from his own labor—pacification is offered but it does not satisfy.”

OWS protestors’ central question: Why does the top one percent of U.S. households receive more income than the bottom 150 million Americans combined? The richest one percent owns nearly half of all investment assets (stocks and mutual funds, financial securities, business equity, trusts, non-home real estate).

Four-hundred individuals at the top have a combined net worth greater than the bottom 60 percent of people in America.

OWS isn’t the first time American cities have been occupied by angry Americans.

In 1873, hundreds of Pennsylvania war veterans from the Continental Army marched on and occupied Philadelphia, then the U.S. capital, demanding their pay. Within weeks the U.S. Army sent the veterans packing.

In 1932, members of what was called the “Bonus Army,” an assemblage of approximately 43,000 marchers, including 17,000 World War I veterans, their families and supporters, gathered in Washington, D.C.

Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression.

The occupiers demanded the soldiers’ bonuses promised eight years earlier. The veterans built their camp from materials found at a rubbish dump. They laid out streets, built sanitation facilities and provided their own security.

In the end, military men such as Douglas MacArthur, Dwight David Eisenhower, and George S. Patton drove the protesters out of Washington by firing tear gas, which burned the encampment. Many were injured and two babies were reported dead.

Historians say then Army Chief of Staff MacArthur believed the march was a communist conspiracy to undermine the government of the United States. The U.S. Senate defeated the “Bonus Bill,” as President Hoover and the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t want to raise taxes to cover the payout.

A second demonstration was organized in 1933, during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who opposed the veterans’ bonus demands. He provided a campsite for them in Virginia, with three meals a day. The Democrats held majorities in both Houses of Congress, and in 1936 authorized $2 billion to be paid to WWI vets, over the president’s veto.

Some called the occupation of Washington, D.C., by veterans the greatest demonstration of Americanism in the nation’s history.

Some are calling the OWS the greatest political movement in the 21st century.

“What makes the Occupy Wall St. Movement unique is its ability to capture the hearts and minds of so many Americans,” said Dr. Rohlinger, in an e-mail to The Final Call. She said it would be a mistake to judge OWS as simply a movement to impact electoral politics.

“In Tampa, Fla., the movement is tackling the issue of homelessness, and in Tallahassee, Fla., activists are taking action against hunger and using food drives to educate local citizens on the needs of their communities. While these actions may not change the face of electoral politics, they are important steps in the movement’s fight against inequality,” Dr. Rohlinger said.

The OWS movement resonated at the recent summit of G-20 leaders in Cannes, France. The International Labour Organization issued a report, welcoming the focus by the world leaders on growth, jobs and social protection given global discontent over unemployment and social problems.

The G-20 is made up of finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 nations and the European Union. It was established in 1999, to bring together industrialized and developing economies to discuss key issues impacting the global economy.