Arrests at Occupy Wall Street action
On Saturday, a several-hundred strong group attempted to march to the United Nations building, sparking violent scenes as the marchers clashed with police. At least 96 people were arrested, according to protest organisers, and at least five were sprayed with mace by police.
As always there is claim and counter-claim about exactly what happened, but some of the footage you can see on the Occupy Wall Street website which is linbked at the bottom of this piece shows some pretty disturbing tactics, especially the pepper-spraying of penned-in women protestors.
AdbustersThat site also provides some indication of the demands of the movement which sprang up after anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters called for a 'people's assembly' seen earlier this year in Spain to take to the streets in order to protest about economic policy.
There has been some criticism that the demands of the loose 'movement' are not focussed enough to be effective, but the protestors do have staying power, are attracting support and are inspiring similar movements in other US cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver.
The protestors themselves say the range of demands illustrates the range of problems, and the phrase that is beginning to emerge as something of a theme is that the actions are intended to 'start a conversation'. Writing on The Guardian's US website, anthropologist and activist David Graeber describes the actions as a "rediscovery of the radical imagination".
He said he found most of the protestors were "of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates".
Tahrir SquareThe protests have yet to tip into being a genuinely mass, popular movement such as Tahrir Square in Egypt – another reference point for many taking part – was. But it is evidence of a growing acknowledgement that the solutions we were told there was no alternative too are not working.
Most of all, it is evidence of a political system that is not working. Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg provided more proof of this last week, when he said that "you don't play politics with the economy". When politicians say they have no business running the economy, how can they convince people they have a purpose?
This extreme form of neoliberalism argues that the markets are best left to themselves. But the results of trusting everything to the market are all too clear. So people are beginning to forge a new set of alternatives. That process is going to be chaotic, and the events on the streets of New York are evidence of that.