Went and spent a couple of hours down there last week – never been to a protest before. It’s a really interesting, well-organised space with the tents and the people who stay in them (not always overnight or so it seems!) and then loads of people milling about – be it tourists or workers on a break. I ended up having a long conversation with a chap who believed the fundamental issue was Fractional Reserve Lending (something I know a little about from the course and from the remarkable film in this earlier post) as well as a Swedish couple, one of whom had done some work with the IMF. So, there are high-calibre people are hanging out down there.
As someone from a communications background, the main thing I took from the experience was a lack of understanding of what they want. You get no clear idea of what ‘success would look like’ (to use that phrase). For example, one banner says ‘Capitalism IS crisis’, another says ‘This is not an anti-capitalism movement’. Perhaps the most frequent thing you see is ‘We are the 99%’ – referring to the fact that the other 1% have all the money. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that? Now, maybe it’s too difficult to compress what the movement is into a soundbite and to do so is to deny the complexity of the situation we find ourselves in. But, I would suggest, if they want to engage more people more fully, some sort of clarity of what they stand for/what they want etc would be of benefit. By doing this, they might be able to garner more support as more of the population will more easily be able to understand that the issues they are protesting about.
As a footnote to this, I stopped by on a couple of days ago and the main banner has changed to ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ Which is kind of better in that they have understood that the protest has a moral edge to it and that they’re right outside St. Paul’s. BUT, given all the press about whether they should move on and the Dean resigning over this, the ‘Jesus’ banner could easily be construed in the context of whether Jesus would let them stay and protest, rather than what would Jesus do in relation to the inequality in the banking system and economy which I would understand to be closer to the point they are trying to make.