The Voices of Occupy Oakland
Should the voices of the majority of a country fall on deaf ears of said country’s one percent? The one percent of America has too much money, too much power, and is making decisions contradicting the beliefs of the country’s ninety-nine percent. The voices of most American people are not being heard. In order to get America listening, a Canadian magazine, Adbusters, started a protest against the unbalanced power that belongs to and benefits the leading corporates of the United States. The protest soon became known as Occupy, and the corporate elite were soon referred to as the one percent. The protest had now become a movement, spreading all throughout America and even reaching the corners of the world. Oakland was no exception to the influence of this movement. Occupy Oakland began and along came the controversy. The protest of Occupy Oakland consisted of marches, general strikes, shutting down ports, and, most importantly, occupying space by setting up camps in downtown Oakland. The mayor of the city of Oakland, with the intention of shutting the movement down, ordered police officers to clear camp sites in which Occupiers inhabited. Police and protestors clashed, and the protestors were ultimately removed, on November 2011. This removal of protestors from their encampment by police should not have occurred, because the protestors were there to speak out to bring change, and their voices must be heard in order for change to happen.
There is a reason as to why this change must be brought to America. Economic inequality currently plagues the United States. The Occupy movement, including Occupy Oakland, is not only protesting against this disproportion, but is also speaking out for the greatly unheard of ninety-nine percent. Because the city of Oakland needs to hear what Occupiers and the majority of America have to say about the imbalanced condition of the United States, Occupy protestors should not have been removed. What the protestors have to say gives the reason as to why America needs to change for the better. While the majority of America is in desperate need of money, one percent of the United States has a higher income and is making more money than the ninety-nine percent combined. An article on MarketWatch.com states, “Unemployment is between thirteen percent and twenty-five percent for people under the age of twenty-five. Young people have no alternative but to borrow to pay for school. Meanwhile, Wall Street bonuses continue to be paid at close to all-time highs,” (Weidner 2). This evidence illustrates that in spite of the young people, the next generation of America, who are struggling in this economy, Wall Street is getting away with copious amounts of money. The same evidence demonstrates the economic inequality the United States of America is going through. The imbalanced condition of America does not stop here: the one percent also has more power than the rest of America. Time magazine states, “The people who come to claim to represent the vast majority of the country, which has been languishing economically while the wealthiest flourish. Corporations, they say, have too much influence in Washington,” (Scherer 22). A poll taken by Time magazine published along with the previously quoted article found that, “68% want the wealthy to pay more taxes; and 86% believe Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence,” (Scherer 24). This poll proves both Occupiers and the people of America acknowledge that the one percent holds too much power, and are asking for the disproportionate balance of influence to change. The protestors of Occupy Oakland, representing the majority of America, are speaking out against the disproportionate economic and political conditions in the United States. What they are saying is important and must be heard by the city of Oakland, and therefore the Occupiers should not have been evicted.
Having the voices of protestors and the ninety-nine percent of America heard is considered a basic human right. By removing the protestors from their encampment in November 2011, the protestors’ rights, such as the freedom of expression, were imposed upon. Thusly, they should not have been driven out. This freedom of expression is a right recognized by all Americans and is reflected in the First Amendment. This First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a readdress of grievances,” (Madison 2). The right to assemble, along with the freedom of speech and press, is clearly stated in the First Amendment, and Occupiers are merely exercising their right to do so. The protestors were peaceably assembling by means of occupying; that is, until the police removed them. The protestors’ purpose in assembling is to call for a readdress of the rights for the ninety-nine percent of America, since their money and power is being taken away by the over-reigning one percent. Even after their removal, the First Amendment allows to the Occupiers to camp out again in downtown Oakland, for there can be no law against the freedom of expression. If the Occupy protest reach such heights so as to a new law must be brought upon them, the First Amendment will disallow such laws. But Occupy Oakland has not reached such heights, and it is currently at a level of conflict between protestors and police. Nonetheless, the removal is unjustified and imposing on the rights of the protestors, hence the eviction of Occupiers from their encampment in downtown Oakland should not have happened.
Contrary to this belief that protestors should hold onto their rights and have a voice to speak out against the economic peril that this country is in, others perceive a different perspective and believe that protestors should have been removed. Under what circumstances should Occupiers have been removed? Others who oppose the Occupy movement may say that in spite of the influence of the movement, no higher authority has tried to do anything for the movement, meaning that no significant person is for the movement, and consequently the movement itself must be insignificant. In fact, the mayor of Oakland ordered police officers to remove them. It is true that Mayor Jean Quan has worked to remove Occupy Oakland protestors. But it is not true that important people do not support the movement or are effected by Occupy. Those who have worked closely with the Oakland mayor support the movement, not the one percent: “Dan Siegel, Mayor Jean Quan’s city hall Legal Adviser, resigned in protest, announcing, via Facebook: ‘No longer Mayor Quan’s legal adviser. Resigned at 2am. Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators.’ That same day, Oakland Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu resigned her post as well,” (Author 7). Even President Obama has tried to tax the rich as the Occupy protestors are urging now: “President Obama, struggling to get the country’s attention, during his September pivot to a class-based counteroffensive, a call for the wealthy to pay their ‘fair share’ in taxes a new $447 billion jobs bill,” (Scherer 22). Mayor Quan’s own Legal Adviser and Oakland Deputy Mayor have taken action by resigning, indicating that they are for the movement. The President of the United States, in similarity to the ninety-nine percent, wants the rich to be taxed, and has even tried to get the one percent to do so. If such prominent people are asking for a change—the same change the Occupy Oakland is asking for–‒should the one percent avoid listening to the Occupy movement?
Occupiers at downtown Oakland were there to speak out for the ninety-nine and their voices need to be heard for better change to be brought to the majority of America, and thus it is evident that these protestors should not have been removed from their encampment in November 2011. Occupiers are there to protest the economic inequality occurring currently in the United States. They are there to support the majority of America that has too little money and too little power. Why should the Occupy Oakland protestors be removed? They are exercising their freedom of expression with the right to assemble. They are voicing the concerns of the people of America and these concerns must be addressed. The current economic inequality in America needs to change. The one percent has more money than the ninety-nine percent of America. What does that mean? Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central says, “Money equals speech, in America.” He may be a comedian but he makes a strong point. The Occupy movement, including Occupy Oakland, is here to prove the statement wrong. Money should not equate to speech; not in Oakland, and not in America.
(image from interoccupy.org)