Occupy Wall Street

I’ve been watching the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrations with a great deal of interest. Last time I covered protest marches, commenter InfoHedon posed a prescient hypothetical:

[I]magine a protest over the banks being bailed out and being rewarded for their lending practices. A protest could provide information on how to change banks and provide protesters with signs showing the local bank or credit union they’re choosing instead. This says that not only are the protesters angry and in number, but they’re also pissed off enough to take meaningful action.

Over a year later, this situation is a lot less hypothetical.  However, for the most part, OWS is being portrayed as having few clear demands and leading to little concrete action outside of the protests themselves.  So, are these protests effective?  Previously, I suggested a number of ways in which protests could have an effect:

  1. bring isolated people together so that they can then organize to take further action,
  2. energize and galvanize people to take that further action…,
  3. provide publicity for a cause,
  4. cause embarrassment and PR headaches for organizations on the other side of the issue, thus pressuring them to change,
  5. and/or publicize alternatives to the current model of doing things.

I also discussed the danger that protesters may feel like attending the demonstration is, in itself, sufficient action.

I will be revisiting the issue of effective protests with OWS in mind, and trying to assess what the demonstrations are actually achieving.  I plan to post on (at least) two topics: raising public awareness of the issues and initiating further action.  If you have any specific thoughts or questions about OWS, I’d love to hear them.

Edit: See also: Part 2 and Part 3 in the series.

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